Here is a link to a podcast of a very nice interview I did with host Dmae Roberts last week on KBOO.
If you had walked this same three blocks just over one hundred years ago, you’d have found yourself in the heart of Portland’s fledgling African-American community.
In 1900, the US Census said there were 1105 African-Americans living in the state of Oregon. Most were in Portland, and most of those lived in an area on the west side between SW Montgomery and NW Kearney, bounded by the Willamette River and 12th Avenue. The North Burnside District, as it was known, was one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland.
As you walked down 10th Avenue, you would have passed a pillar of that black community, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, which had moved from its original meeting place on SW 6th and Stark to 68 N. Tenth (near Davis Street). The Reverend Davis and his wife had purchased an old Japanese Mission Building with the profits from a boarding house they operated for the black men working on the railroad. They held services in this location until 1916, when they, like many of Portland’s black community, migrated across the new Broadway Bridge to the east side in search of better housing stock and less discrimination. There they build a new church, which stood until urban renewal created the Memorial Coliseum, but that is another story for another time…
Back in1910 you could look just across 10th Avenue from Bethel A.M.E and see a new three-story building going up. The Oregon Buddhist Temple, heartbeat of the city’s Japanese community was just coming on line. You can still see a little sign there today.
If you had walked three blocks east on Everett in those years, when you reached 7th Avenue (now Broadway) you would have arrived at the communication hub of the African- American community for almost 30 years- The Golden West Hotel, the largest African-American owned hotel west of the Mississippi.
Built in 1906 by black entrepreneur W.D. Allen, The Golden West served the Black railway porters, cooks, barbers and waiters recruited by the major railroads. It provided “all the conveniences of home” for Black workers denied accommodation in Portland’s white owned hotels, and was a center of African American social life until it closed in 1931, another victim of the Great Depression.
You could get a shave and a haircut in Waldo Bogle’s Barbershop, feed your sweet tooth at A.G. Green’s ice cream parlor and candy shop, and relax in George Moore’s Golden West Athletic Club featuring a Turkish bath and gymnasium, and word has it, other enjoyable entertainments.
Freddie Keppard’s Creole Jazz Band played there in 1920. Black entertainers, athletes, and civic leaders all found a welcome at the Golden West.
The building is still there, as are the echos of the era…
The Territory Mvt. 7: Sunday’s At The Golden West
Just step around the corner.
One block from Union Station’s sign.
There’s more than a hundred rooms to choose, and no color line
to give you the blues
The best accommodations-
that’s why our reputation grows-
a place where the darker hues
Sunday dinners, fifty cents
Shoeshine, haircut, short-term rents.
Kick your feet up take a rest
Step in to The Golden West.
Fine dining in the parlor
Turkish sauna and a good cigar.
a seat in our own saloon, or get a
trim and a shine and hear all the news
You’ll find the city fathers
round Mister Moore’s Athletic club.
Finest game on the coast, so you just…
Have a gin and ease on back.
Leave your bizness cross the tracks.
Portland’s only black and tan
Choc’late kiddies bring your man.
On Everett and Broadway.
there’s nothing like it anywhere
The heart of the social scene
A place to mingle and mix, dress up and be clean.
We’re open to all comers’
Pullman porter or celebrity
This joint is always jumpin’
Come in and see…