Buckman Community Association

The History of Buckman

The History of Buckman; from the Buckman Neighborhood Plan 1991

Vancouver and Oregon City were the first settlements in the Portland metropolitan area. Fort Vancouver preceded Portland by about 40 years and Oregon City preceded it by about 10 years. A number of small communities were established between these two settlements, each trying to be the center of commerce. Among these was East Portland. Established on land settled by James B. Stephens in 1845 it suffered from large areas of marshy slough similar to today's Oaks Bottom. Portland won out over the other communities because of its natural deep water close to a broad flat bank and its direct access to the rich farmlands of the Tualatin Valley.
It was at this time in 1854 that several victims of a Steamboat accident were buried on the Colburn Burrell farm close to the grave of Emmor Stephens. This became Lone Fir Cemetery in 1866. Many early Portland pioneers rest here such as: James Stephens, Asa Lovejoy, D. H. Lownsdale, Dr. J. C. Hawthorne, and Governor George Curry.
Two railroad companies, one on each side of the Willamette River, competed to establish the first connection with California. Ben Holladay won this race in 1869 with a track along the current right of way on the east side of the Willamette. With this railroad came the access and economic growth needed for the development of the City of East Portland.
Dr. James C. Hawthorne built a private hospital for the mentally ill in 1862 which soon became known as the Oregon Asylum for the Insane. The Oregonian reported, "There are few places in the state, and none near Portland, that afford a more beautiful retreat: where one may spend a pleasant and profitable afternoon, near its magnificent crystal spring surrounded by fine landscape scenery." After the institution was moved to Salem in 1883, this 20 acre parcel became Hawthorne Park in the City of East Portland. It was located between what is now SE 9th, 12th, Taylor, and Asylum Blvd.(Hawthorne Blvd.).
St. Francis Catholic Church was established on its current site in 1875. The two block site was purchased from James Stephens for $10.00. This was the first parish on the east side. It extended from the Willamette River to the Sandy River and from the Columbia River to the Clackamas County line. Its twin spires towered over the small community which, along with the single spire of Centenary Wilbur Church, were landmarks for a one and two story town.
The A. H. and Cyrus Buckman family were early settlers on a farm just north of Burnside between 15th and 20th. Their early political activity in support of public education was a factor leading to their name being selected for the public grade school and the neighborhood association.
In 1883 the arrival of the transcontinental railroad created the impetus for new growth in the region, and especially for East Portland. Both commercial and residential development expanded with the national economy.
Connections to the west side were by ferry until 1887 when the 1st Morrison Bridge was built. The Railroad(Steel), Madison(Hawthorne), and Burnside bridges soon followed. Street cars were making the countryside accessible to the city and the new bridges helped east side real estate develop quickly.
MAJOR GROWTH - 1890-1930
The city limits of East Portland extended to SE 24th when it consolidated with Portland in 1891. However most contiguous residential areas ended at about 10th Avenue. The street cars encouraged development of small groups of homes near its stops. The country life was preferred even at this early date.
The gradual infilling of what is today Buckman took about 40 years. Development ebbed and flowed with the economic climate of the nation and the region. All of it occurred with an efficient street car network providing good transit service. Few vehicles of any kind appeared on the streets.
1924 saw the first zoning applied to Portland. All of Buckmans residential land was placed in the Zone II, apartments, with no other regulation. An article in the December 1, 1929 edition of the Oregonian read: "Apartment house construction is proceeding so rapidly and so illy-planned that it is time to put out the "stop, look, and listen" sign, according to the findings of the Portland Realty Board."
Most businesses were local with the owners living at or near there store. Many fruits and vegetables were grown on nearby vacant land or small truck farms. There was always a need for extra labor, especially in the summer. Without the automobile the distribution system was not as centralized. Stores were smaller and closer to residential areas. More peddlers, service people, and delivery people gave the housewife the option of shopping at home. The doctor, the teacher, the banker, were much more likely to live in the neighborhood.

DECLINE - 1930-1965
The depression hit Buckman hard. Buckman actually lost population. The resulting sag of real estate demand led to abandoned housing and tax delinquency. Most of the housing was 30-55 years old by 1940. As single family units gave way to apartments and rooming houses the population became more transient and the character of Buckman began to change. With the replacement of the streetcars by the automobile, streets were widened and street trees removed making these commercial areas less viable and inviting to the pedestrian.
World War II brought work and many new shipyard workers, but it also brought shortages of all kinds including housing shortages. A common solution in the inner neighborhoods was to divide the large old Victorian homes into many units. Codes were lax and unevenly enforced allowing less than desirable circumstances to exist.
The boom period after the war continued the housing shortage. Now the automobile became the vehicle that allowed country living. With the modern fashion the Victorian style became the classic "haunted house"; a decadent relic of another age. The oldest neighborhoods of Portland were systematically removed for economic expansion. In Buckman the fine Victorian homes between SE 7th and SE 12th were removed for new industrial land.
The new zoning ordinance of 1959 was a great improvement, but it did not take away an owners development rights. It therefore zoned the residential areas in Buckman at the A-1 apartment zone. This allowed forty apartments per 40,000 square foot block. In 1924 the transportation system was the street car and most businesses were local. In 1959 the transit system had been replaced by automobiles and national corporations were acquiring more and more of the best the local commerce. The new apartment buildings, when built to minimum standards, became known as "barracks in asphalt". Almost every residential block in Buckman east of SE 12th has its 1950/60's apartment building. The number of owner occupied dwellings decreased from 2,826 in 1950 to 632 in 1980.
With this expansion, urban problems characteristic of central cities increased. In the 1960's national attention shifted to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods such as Buckman.

RE-BIRTH - 1965-1990
Buckman resident's learned in 1965 that their neighborhood had been declared an official "Pocket of Poverty" along with inner northeast and southeast Portland. Buckman formed the Buckman Community Action Committee and joined the Portland Metropolitan Steering Committee. The "War on Poverty" had begun and community organization was its cornerstone.
The 1970's brought an increased environmental awareness and the recognition that planning was needed to encourage growth sensitive to human values. With available federal monies much planning was done and much of Buckman was downzoned to single family residential. The late 1970's and the middle 1980's brought the comprehensive plan and the central city plan. These documents set the tone for what follows in this document. The ideas expressed here are a logical continuation of the long record of planning and accomplishment to improve the Buckman community over the last 25 years.

The first accomplishments of the fledgling 1965 Buckman Community Action Committee were the establishment of a community multi-service center and the Buckman Dental Clinic. The dental clinic was taken over and expanded by Multnomah County while the service center became Portland Action Committees Together(P.A.C.T.; todays IMPACT) in 1966.
This organizing in low income neighborhoods was not without criticism. Much of local political establishment was not included. Were low income neighborhoods really able to organize and solve their own problems?
In 1968 the Model Cities program arrived in Portland however southeast Portland was excluded. Snubbed by the City, southeast neighborhoods applied directly to the federal government. The City then asked Governor McCall to veto the independent planning grant, which he did.
The B.C.A.C. involved itself in opposing the expansion of the Washington High School campus. This threatened to take out some fine older homes and included those of several members of the group. The school property was expanded, but significantly less than the original proposal.
The winter of 1968/69 saw the organization of the Poor Peoples Alliance and the formation of the Buckman Development Corporation (BDC). These were formed to help address the issues of emergency needs, employment, housing, childcare, etc. The needs exceeded the resources and the BDC ceased activity in 1971.
1969 also saw the initiation of St. Francis Park on a vacant lot at SE 12th & Stark. After much community effort and the formation of a non-profit organization to build and maintain the Park, it opened in 1972?
It was at this time the City of Portland began plans to create the Southeast Uplift Program which anticipated monies that would be made available through Housing and Urban Development. With the successful formation of S.E. Uplift in 1971 under the Portland Development Commission, the Buckman Community Association was created.
The first federal money available to Buckman was for a neighborhood plan. John Perry, a local architect, with extensive neighborhood input and support documented the need for physical improvements. It was completed in January 1973 just as the money needed for implementation was "frozen" by the Nixon administration.
1974 was the first year of Housing and Community Development (HCD) funds. It has been a major source of funding ever since and has helped with housing rehabilitation, street trees planting, street improvements, additions to Col. Summers Park, and other special projects.
The Office of Neighborhood Associations was established in 1973 to assist and coordinate neighborhood activities. Buckman and southeast Portland continued with S.E. Uplift and the Portland Development Commission until 1980.
The neighborhood newsletter "The Buckman Voice" was first published in February 1975 and has been distributed to about 600 residences on an as needed basis since.
The pressure of land speculation caused by the apartment zoning became the primary cause of Buckman's physical decline as said in the John Perry neighborhood plan. In the mid 1970's it was not unusual for a single family residence to have a land value of four times the building value. With the help of the City of Portland, Buckman was able to down zone the areas of the neighborhood that still had the best single family homes to a compatible zone. Also included was a list of performance standards which allowed the developer to build at the old A-1 density.
With the promise of potential redevelopment the City of Portland helped organize the Central Eastside Industrial Council in 1977. Neighborhood associations are always nervous about business interests and it was not clear if this group would be friend or foe. However, it soon became clear that we agreed on many issues and a co-operative relationship was developed.
August of 1977 saw the completion of the improvements to Col. Summers Park and the Buckman Community Association inaugurated its first annual "Buckman Flea Festival". It included a hot air balloon, beer garden, food sales, music, theater, dancing, a lively flea market and local dignitaries. It continued for as an annual event for eleven consecutive years.
Buckman also provided a model for crime prevention in Portland. The Buckman Safety Network developed block homes to help youngsters on there way to and from school. It went on to examine and plan activities which would reduce crime and the fear of crime. The Buckman model was used for a $250,000 grant to the Center for Urban Education for the Neighborhoods Against Crime program. This program became the basis for the Crime Prevention Program under the Office of Neighborhood Associations.
Another Buckman success story involves the development of a half block at SE 13th and Oak Street. The neighborhood wanted it developed as a park but was turned down by the City. The owner wanted to build apartments, but was unable to obtain an appropriate design. Several active members of the B.C.A. formed a partnership and developed 12 row-houses which were responsive to the character of the neighborhood. The Oak St. Rowhouses became an award winning project; so much so that President Jimmy Carter visited in the fall of 1980.
The first Buckman Community Congress was held in the spring of 1980. Many issues were discussed and many proposals were adopted. Few however guessed that the proposed Buckman Housing Coop would grow into the first successful community development corporation in Portland. Known as Recreation, Education Access, Commerce, and Housing (REACH) it was founded in the fall of 1980 around the proposed closure of Washington/Monroe High School. If the school must be closed why couldn't the neighborhood acquire it and develop it for community use? This effort was not successful, but REACH was successful in acquiring and rehabilitating a residential block in Buckman bounded by 19th, 20th, Washington, and Alder. Reach went on to acquire and redevelop over 250 housing units valued at about seven million dollars.
Saving Buckman grade school from demolition was major project in the early 1980's. Preventing a 400 bed minimum security prison from being placed in Buckman worried a few of us. The desire of the west side business interests to move the homeless and social service agencies to the east side has also concerned many. Locating a "Helioport in the shadow of the Hawthorne Bridge was another of the City's unpopular ideas. In the last few years we even gave a good try(along with many others) at moving the Eastbank (I-5) Freeway to make room for a Willamette River Park similar to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We participated actively in the development of the Portland Comprehensive Plan and the Central City Plan. Historic building research and inventory work was carried out in the mid 1970's and early 1980's. We have had ex-presidents of the association run for Mayor of Portland and for the School Board. A past Buckman board member is currently President of the Portland Planning Commission.
Much more could be said about our plans for current and future projects. The document that follows will effectively do that.
A statement in the future section of the 1973 Buckman Community Plan prepared by John Perry give this plan a good beginning:
"The principal future role and responsibility for Buckman is to provide an environment for living for a diverse population. In order to accomplish this Buckman must be attractive, not only in a visual sense but in a social and physical sense as well. Its streets and homes and schools must suggest stability, convenience, and security. Its residents must establish the formal and informal mechanisms that can provide for community attention and care to community problems and opportunities."

Posted by buck on 02/25/2007
Sponsored Links
Advertise Here!

Promote Your Business or Product for $10/mo


For just $10/mo you can promote your business or product directly to nearby residents. Buy 12 months and save 50%!


Zip Code Profiler

97214 Zip Code Details

Neighborhoods, Home Values, Schools, City & State Data, Sex Offender Lists, more.