Ladds Addition Historic District

Portland City, Multnomah County, OR

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The Ladd's Addition Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]

Ladd's Addition is a cohesive neighborhood of early twentieth century buildings, primarily residential, platted in a distinctive formal geometric pattern which differentiates it from any of its contemporaries on the West Coast The 126 acre rectangular district, located on the east side of Portland's Willamette River, has a hierarchical series of intersecting diagonal and right-angle streets, creating thirty-two polygonal blocks of varying sizes and shapes organized around a circular central park and four secondary diamond-shaped parks.

Ladd's Addition has two periods of historic significance: the first period spans the years from the time of its platting, in 1891, to 1918, about the time when, due to the first world war, construction in the City of Portland generally ceased. In Ladd's Addition, no major buildings were constructed in 1918. The second period begins in 1919, and continues to 1939, the eve of the second world war. The district's buildings are a microcosmic summary of the succession of residential architectural styles built throughout the city during these two periods, reflecting changes in popular taste and shifting demographics and economics.

Ladd's Addition is a streetcar era district with a street and park plan that is unique among urban neighborhoods of comparable age elsewhere in the western states, and perhaps nationally. [see: Streetcar Suburbs, 1888 to 1928] It is an important contribution to the development of community planning in the United States through its introduction of an alternative formal design model for residential districts, concurrent with the popularity of curvilinear romantic suburbs and preceding the recognized start of the City Beautiful movement in urban planning. Its instantly identifiable and spatially focused plan has been protected and preserved without significant change as part of a viable residential neighborhood since its platting in 1891.

Ladd's Addition epitomizes the growth of early twentieth century streetcar era neighborhoods in Portland and in other western cities of comparable age. Its evolution is typical of the cycles of residential construction in the city and throughout the nation. The median year of construction for the 643 residential commercial, and public buildings now standing is 1924, near the peak of national urban development during the first automobile era. Its evolving residential architecture, streetscape, and public spaces embody and express middle class tastes in urban neighborhood living. The neighborhood allows us to trace changing family types and lifestyles in the shift from large houses to smaller. The evolution of stylistic choices is also typical for the west coast, moving from late nineteenth century remnants, such as Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts, to bungalows and period revivals popular during the 1920s and 1930s.

Ladd's Addition also represents broad patterns in the social and political evolution of Portland's residential communities. It has played key roles in the adoption of land use zoning, the adaptation of settled districts to the automobile, the accommodation of upwardly mobile immigrants, the defense of residential areas against commercial intrusion, and, most recently, the conservation of older neighborhoods. Throughout adaptability to new technologies such as automobiles have directly supported the cohesion of the neighborhood as a social as well as a physical environment Ladd's Addition has been directly influenced by several individuals important in the development of Portland and the Pacific Northwest. The design was devised by William S. Ladd, a Portland merchant, banker, and land developer who was one of the half-dozen most influential figures in the growth of Portland and the Columbia Basin during the second half of the nineteenth century. The neighborhood's public spaces were designed and developed by E. T. Mische, an associate of the firm of Olmsted and Sons, who brought the profession of landscape architecture to Portland as the city's Ladd's Addition to 1893.

William S. Ladd, the new owner of the undeveloped property that would become Ladd's Addition, was one of the most important figures in the history of nineteenth century Portland. He was a classic example of what business historian Arthur Cole has called the "community-focused entrepreneur." His career was inextricably intertwined with the growth of Portland from 1851 to 1893.

Ladd was born in Holland, Vermont, in 1826, attended public schools, and began to teach in a local academy at age 19. Attracted to the west coast by the California gold rush, Ladd came to Portland in 1851 to set up a business as importer and dealer in liquor and spirits. In 1853, he built the city's first brick building to house a business that had expanded into a broader line of groceries and dry goods as well as liquor. In 1854 he also found time to serve as the city's fifth mayor. By the end of the decade, Ladd's mercantile business had provided the capital to open a private bank in partnership with Charles E. Tilton, a fellow Vermonter who had become a merchant in San Francisco. The Ladd and Tilton Bank grew into the city's second largest by the early twentieth century.

Ladd's Addition is located on land originally claimed by James B. Stephens, the first Portland settler to make a systematic effort to promote urban development along the east side of the Willamette River.

Ladd's mercantile operations and bank provided the capital for investment in a wide range of developmental businesses. In 1862, for example, Ladd helped to establish the Oregon Telegraph Company, which connected Portland to San Francisco two years later. He invested in the Oregon Central Railway Company, which worked to extend rail connections south from Portland and eventually was absorbed into the Southern Pacific Railroad system. Perhaps most important was Ladd's involvement in the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, the state's first "millionaire making machine" in the words of one employee. The OSNC, organized in 1860, provided the only effective transportation up the Columbia River corridor into the growing "Inland Empire" of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and Idaho. It also controlled transportation around two natural bottlenecks: a six-mile railroad which carried traffic around the rapids at what is now the town of Cascade Locks, and a fourteen-mile toll road which by-passed Celilo Falls at The Dalles. Ladd and the other OSNC investors plowed their profits back into the business, extending service as far as the Snake River, Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, and the headwaters of the Missouri. Through the OSNC, settlers and prospectors in the great interior of the Northwest indirectly paid for the growth of Portland by generating the fortunes of W. S. Ladd, Simeon Reed, John C. Ainsworth and other business leaders in the new city. Ladd invested the profits in such successful enterprises as the Portland Flouring Mills and the Oregon Iron and Steel Company.

Ladd also used his personal wealth and position as a private banker to acquire extensive real estate holdings. The foreclosure that brought Ladd the 126 acres out of the Stephens properties was far from unusual. By the end of the 1880s, Ladd controlled an additional 1700 acres on the east side of Portland-the future sites of the Brooklyn, Laurelhurst, Eastmoreland, and Westmorland neighborhoods. His holdings on the west side were even more extensive, including the future neighborhoods of Burlingame, Highlands and Dunthorpe, the suburban town of Lake Oswego, Tryon Creek State Park, and sections of the present Northwest Industrial District. His estate in 1893 was valued at $10 million, including $4 million for approximately 4,000 acres of undeveloped land.

It was a small fraction of these extensive real estate holdings that Ladd decided to develop as Ladd's Addition in 1891. At the time that he platted the neighborhood, the east side of Portland was in the midst of its first major development boom. The first bridge across the Willamette River was opened in 1887 at Morrison Street. A railroad bridge (Steel Bridge) followed in 1888; it opened to wagons and pedestrians a year later. Private investors built the rickety wooden Madison Street Bridge in 1891 and sold it to the city a year later. In 1894 the city erected the Burnside Bridge.

New bridges were accompanied by a rapid expansion of public transportation. The first east side streetcar line crossed the Morrison Bridge in 1887. More important for William Ladd's real estate plans was the institution of steam-powered street railway service along Hawthorne Street—the northern edge of the Ladd's Addition property—from Grand to 55th. With the opening of the Madison Street (later Hawthorne) Bridge on January 11,1891, this line could connect directly to the center of the city rather than jogging north to use the Morrison Bridge. Several east side lines were consolidated in 1892 into the East Side Railway Company, which built a line running south on 11th, just west of the Ladd's Addition area. The Hawthorne line was electrified in 1893.

The response to the opening of the east side was a substantial real estate boom. Between 1887 and 1893, promoters laid out an entire ring of new neighborhoods on the east side, including Irvington, Sunnyside, Central Albina, Woodlawn, Woodstock, Kenilworth, Tabor Heights, Richmond, Arbor Lodge, Piedmont, and University Park. Until the onset of the boom, most of the development in what is now southeast Portland was confined to Stephens Addition—the area between the river and SE 12th that James Stephens had laid out decades earlier. With the new activity in real estate, residents of the separate cities of Portland, East Portland, and Albina (covering much of what is now north and northeast Portland) voted in voted in 1891 to consolidate into a single city of Portland, bringing the Ladd's Addition acreage into the expanded city.

The political consolidation, the establishment of streetcar service along the edge of the district, the opening of a direct bridge connection to central Portland, and the ambient boom in real estate were all preconditions to Ladd's decision to plat and market Ladd's Addition. It was, as any careful developer could see, the most convenient to downtown Portland of Ladd's many land holdings and the closest to already developing areas.

William S. Ladd and his wife Caroline Ladd filed the plat of Ladd's Addition to the City of Portland on October 26,1891, dividing the land into thirty-two blocks containing a total of 716 lots. Their shapes were determined by a unique street layout that includes two through streets that bisect the neighborhood on lines orthogonal to the general city street grid, two through diagonal streets, and sixteen shorter streets. There is a clear hierarchy of circulation with the two major diagonals fixed at 80 feet wide, the other streets fixed at 60 feet, and the blocks split by service alleys. By moving deliveries to the back of the houses, the alleys were intended to assist the development of Ladd's Addition as an upper status area. The plat defined five park spaces that interrupt the street pattern. A central circle with a 100 foot radius intercepts the four through streets. Four smaller symmetrically placed diamond-shaped parks interrupt the bisecting north/south and east/west streets.

If Ladd's Addition was typical as a real estate development, it is unique within the history of American city planning and urban design. The street plan was Ladd's own idea. His surveyor, Arthur Hedley, in fact argued in favor of a standard grid, but Ladd insisted on the strongly centered design. There is an informal tradition in Portland that Ladd conceived the plan after a visit to Washington, DC. However, the plan in fact shows no particular resemblance to Washington. In the national capital, a set of long distance diagonals are laid across a standard grid, providing for through circulation and creating somewhat randomly located multi-street intersections which have been treated in a variety of ways that include both central circular parks and triangular parks. The Ladd's Addition plan, in contrast, substitutes a complex geometrically balanced set of diagonal streets for any traditional grid. Nor does the plan appear to draw significantly on the occasional American experiments with circular cities. The plan places only partial emphasis on the central circle, and twelve streets are intercepted by the secondary parks before they reach the circle. In addition, the circular plans described by planning historian John Reps in The Making of Urban America tend to place special emphasis on the radiating diagonals. Ladd's Addition places equal emphasis on the radiating orthogonal streets as the locations for the secondary parks. Ladd was certainly aware of other examples of real estate development and planning. His daughter Caroline married Frederic B. Pratt of Brooklyn, who was the son of oil magnate Charles Pratt. The elder Pratt, whose Brooklyn oil refinery was absorbed by John D. Rockefeller in 1874, was very much interested in issues of architecture and planning. He built the Astral Flats as model worker housing adjacent to his refinery and houses for each of his children when they married. He also founded Pratt Institute as a scientific and technical school in 1887. Through contacts with the Pratt family, Ladd would have had an opportunity to be made aware of current trends in architecture and neighborhood development However, there is nothing in the major projects in which the Pratts had been involved that would have provided direct precedent for Ladd's Addition.

In its strong formal symmetry, the plan bears some resemblance to products of the City Beautiful planning movement around the turn of the 20th century. However, its 1891 date anticipates the traditionally-accepted beginning of the City Beautiful movement in the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and its vigorous development after 1900. The plan is also substantially different from the romantic curvilinear neighborhoods and suburban communities that had been developed since the 1860s by such landscape planners as Frederick Law Olmsted. Without the availability of direct evidence in Ladd's surviving papers, we are left with the circumstantial conclusion that the Ladd's Addition plan was William S. Ladd's own, essentially unprecedented idea.

It was also an idea that Ladd himself was never able to develop. Ladd died on January 6, 1893, at the age of 67. His real estate and other residual holdings were divided among his wife (1/5 share), his sons William M. Ladd, Charles E. Ladd, and John Wesley Ladd (1/5 shares), and his daughters Helen Ladd Corbett and Caroline Ladd Pratt (1/10 shares). An appraisal of the estate, filed July 27, 1893, found the estate worth $7.5 million with $4,127,000 for real property including $1 million for Ladd's Addition. Before the heirs of William S. Ladd could begin to market Ladd's Addition, the onset of the 1893 economic depression brought an abrupt halt to the Portland boom. Land sales plummeted and the annual volume of business as measured by Portland bank clearings fell by half from 1892 to 1894. The only major improvement for Ladd's Addition was to tap into the new trunk water line that ran into the city from the Mount Tabor reservoir under Division Street and went into operation in January 1895. Significantly, William S. Ladd had been a member of the Portland water committee that had selected the Bull Run River on Mount Hood as the source for the city's water supply in 1886 and had overseen the construction of the city's new water system. Otherwise, the neighborhood essentially went on hold for a dozen years after Ladd's death, with much of the land made available for truck farming and grazing for dairy cattle.

The first substantial development of Ladd's Addition as a residential neighborhood reflected both the dynamics of the Portland real estate market in the early twentieth century and the more specific promotional efforts of the Ladd Estate Company. Development decisions that shaped the community as it exists today were made by the City of Portland, the Ladd interests, and private builders and residents. The City, for example, began systematically to develop the park spaces in 1909 and 1910, helping to solidify one of the essential features of the design. The Ladd Estate Company worked to promote development within middle class standards. Individual property owners and speculative builders responded to the Portland real estate market with housing that expressed the variety of taste prevalent in the city in the early twentieth century. Residential development confirmed the importance of the streetscape and the role of alleys in helping to maintain a neighborhood ambiance.

After the economic doldrums of the middle and later 1890s, the Portland economy began to revive in the early years of the twentieth century. The key event was the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and Oriental Fair of 1905, which brought 400,000 visitors from outside the Northwest and helped to trigger an eight-year boom that remade the city and its region. The years after the Fair were followed by substantial development of the Northwest interior through major construction by the Great Northern and Union Pacific railroads. New trunk and branch lines helped to open eastern Oregon and Washington to sheep and cattle ranchers, wheat farmers, and orchardists. Most of the new products reached national and international markets through Portland, creating jobs for factory workers, insurance agents, railroad hands, draymen, longshoremen, bankers, wholesalers, and a host of others.

A growing economic base meant rapid growth of Portland's population (from 90,000 in 1900 to approximately 225,000 in 1915) and a consequent demand for housing. Streetcar service expanded on the east side, reaching a high point in 1910s under the consolidated Portland Railway Light and Power Company. Lines served the Ladd's Addition district along Hawthorne, along 11th and 12th, along 20th from Hawthorne to Harrison, and along Clinton (parallel to Division but two blocks south of the neighborhood itself). A notable addition to the district's transit system was the Portland and Oregon City Railway, built in 1914 by Stephen Carver, who bought a house in Ladd's Addition in the same year. This line ran from southeast Portland into Clackamas County, cutting the corner of the neighborhood's southwestern block. Smaller gasoline-powered engines hauled commuters within Portland, excursionists on weekends, and loads of timber from the Clackamas County hills. The line ceased operation around 1924 and lost its Portland franchise in 1925, at the same time that a new public school was built on the Ladd's Addition block that it had crossed.

Prosperity in combination with new or improved streetcar lines provided the impetus for a residential real estate boom that surpassed even the mania of the late 1880s and early 1890s. The list of new developments between 1904 and 1910 included such east side neighborhoods as Overlook, Montavilla, Rose City Park, Gregory Heights, Kenton, Beaumont, Alameda, Eastmoreland, Westmoreland, and Laurelhurst. New residential construction east of the Willamette tipped the balance of population within Portland to the east side as early as 1906.

Ladd's Addition, which had gone undeveloped since its platting in 1891, was obviously well positioned to benefit from the real estate boom. Its first residential construction came in 1905, the year of the Lewis and Clark Fair. Three new houses were built on the same facing block along Poplar Avenue in the northeast corner of the neighborhood, within a two-minute walk of the streetcar. Two additional new houses were built about two hundred yards to the west on Holly Street. The next two years added another twelve houses, all on five blocks at the northern edge of the district. When the several Ladd heirs transferred their individual interests in Ladd's Addition to the new Ladd Estate Company in August 1908, the quitclaim deed indicated that a total of 23 lots had been sold, all along Holly Street, Poplar Street, and Elliott Avenue on six northern blocks. There appears to have been little secondary speculation in Ladd's Addition property in these early years.

The year 1908 brought an important change in the marketing of the neighborhood. The Ladd and Tilton Bank, now under the management of one of Ladd's sons, William M. Ladd, required an infusion of capital from Frederic B. Pratt. As one condition for buying into the bank, Pratt required that the Ladd family real estate investments be spun off to a separate corporation and more aggressively liquidated. The result was the joint decision by the heirs of William S. Ladd to transfer their interests in their inherited real estate to a new Ladd Estate Company, one of whose purposes as defined in its articles of incorporation was "to purchase or otherwise acquire all or any property, real personal or mixed, now or at any time forming a part of the estate of W. S. Ladd, deceased, late of the city of Portland, Oregon, and to own, hold, use, improve, operate, rent, lease, sell, convey, mortgage, pledge, hypothecate or otherwise dispose of such property." William M. Ladd served as President of the new corporation and Frederick H. Strong as its secretary and active manager.

Frederick Strong, who was to play a key role in the development of Ladd's Addition in the following years, was part of what could be called an interlocking directorate in Portland real estate. His brother Robert H. Strong, in partnership with E. B. MacNaughton, operated the Strong and MacNaughton Trust Company after 1911 as a property management and commercial real estate firm. Strong and MacNaughton's most important client was the estate of Henry W. Corbett, a contemporary of William S. Ladd, one of his few equals in economic and political influence in Portland, a frequent business partner, and an in-law through the marriage of daughter Helen Ladd to son Henry S. Corbett. In 1909, when the Ladd Estate Company in turn created the Laurelhurst Company to develop and manage a second neighborhood real estate development on Portland's east side, Frederick H. Strong served as one of the officers and Robert Strong as a member of the board of directors.

The Ladd Estate Company attempted to promote the neighborhood in a variety of ways. In addition to advertising its advantages as a high class community, the company planted street trees in the completely undeveloped southern half after 1910. Strong built two houses on his own in 1909 and a third in 1911. More commonly, the Ladd Estate Company promoted the neighborhood by helping to finance small builders, working with F. W. Torgler and Strong and Company real estate agencies to sell the lots. The company followed a policy of selling multiple lots to developers, contractors, and carpenters who built houses on speculation.

Efforts to market the Ladd's Addition lots were accompanied by city efforts to implement the original design through development of the five park spaces. Park planning and development in Portland had come of age in 1903, when the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm was engaged by a new city Park Commission to prepare a comprehensive plan for the city. Their report, largely the work of John Olmsted, suggested a full system of neighborhood parks, parkways and boulevards, with larger suburban parks and scenic reservations on hilltops, ridges, and flood plains. In relation to Ladd's Addition itself, their report suggested the retention intact of the north, west, and south parks. It also suggested that the central circle be the starting point for a 200 foot boulevard extending 2.5 miles eastward to Mount Tabor, a volcanic cone that provided fine views of the city. "The circle in the middle of Ladd's Addition," they commented, "would form at the cityward end a dignified and attractive terminus" for such a Mount Tabor Boulevard. Portland voters approved a $1 million bond issues for park development in 1907 but legal challenges tied up the money until 1909. In the meantime, the Park Board hired E. T. Mische from the Olmsted firm as the city's first professional parks superintendent The proceeds of the bond issue were finally used in 1909-1910 to double the city's park acreage through the purchase of several large tracts, but no funds remained for development of the proposed east side boulevards and parkways. Indeed, the Olmsteds themselves advised in 1907 that "local or neighborhood parks would in general be likely to give more satisfaction to the largest number of citizens than the broad park-ways which are so comparatively expensive." As a consequence, Mische turned his attention directly to transforming the "Ladd's Squares" into rose gardens. The four smaller squares had been planted to roses in 1910. In 1910, he spent $419.97 on floral displays, $241.25 on lawns, and $532.46 on grading and other improvements of the central circle. In 1911, the total bill for constructing and maintaining the floral displays was $3527.52. It 1912, with the heaviest work completed, the floral display in the circle cost only $689.34, although sidewalks and ornamental lights were still needed. Mische planned "that so rapidly as the newly introduced varieties [of roses] first planted at Peninsula Park may propagate in sufficient quantities that they will find a location here in representative mass... In conjunction with the Peninsula garden these squares are to be devoted to educational and display purposes and it is hoped that the general public will avail itself of the opportunity to study roses in a fashion to warrant the name of the city being justified by more than the quantitative plantings and the floral excellence of the rose.

The last sentence referred to Portland's self-definition as the Rose City, a nickname that dated to the beginnings of the century. Along with an annual Rose Festival, the systematic cultivation of roses in several city parks helped to secure the city's reputation. After an automobile tour of the east side of the city that undoubtedly included Ladd's Addition, for example, one visitor in 1915 wrote to her family on Long Island that Portland not only deserved its name but even had more roses than Pasadena E.T. Mische's work to transform bare land into rose gardens and Frederick Strong's simultaneous efforts at beautification and promotion coincided with the first surge of neighborhood growth. Residential development progressed from north to south, starting from the edge of the neighborhood most convenient to streetcar transportation and closest to the downtown business district The thirty two blocks can be divided into four eight-block tiers from north to south. During 1905-1908, all construction was confined to the northern tier. In 1909, construction extended into the second tier south from Hawthorne Boulevard. By 1910, the year after the Ladd Estate Company began active improvements in the half south of Harrison Street, houses also began to appear in the southern half of the neighborhood.

Ladd's Addition, during the years through 1918, was a solidly middle class neighborhood with a sprinkling of the Portland elite. The most prominent of the early residents was Franklin T. Griffith, who moved to a new house on Elliott Avenue in 1910, the same year that he bought his first automobile. Griffith was appointed President of the Portland Railway Light and Power Company (the predecessor of the Portland General Electric Company) in 1913. He ran the city's largest electric utility for several decades, served as director or officer of ten other corporations, and remained active in Portland business until his death in 1952 at age 82. Another notable resident after 1912 was Paul Kelty, editor of the Oregonian, the city's most important daily newspaper. Most other residents, however, were members of the everyday middle class—business proprietors, managers, professionals, white collar employees, and skilled workers with steady jobs.

The neighborhood's middle class character was preserved in the first two decades of the twentieth century by a series of deed restrictions. The manufacture and sale of liquor was forbidden, as were commercial uses of any sort. Houses were required to have a minimum value of $2500 and no more than one dwelling was allowed per lot.

The ethnic composition of the neighborhood in its first decades was representative of Portland as a whole. The names of first builders and owners are heavily English, German, and Scandinavian. There are only two identifiably Italian names among first builders or residents for the same period, although the neighborhood would develop an Italian presence by the 1920s. Two church buildings were erected during the period. Mizpah Presbyterian Church was built elsewhere in 1891 and moved into the neighborhood in 1911. The United Evangelical Church was built in 1909. In addition, St. Philip Neri Church was erected on the southern edge of the neighborhood in 1912 to serve the large Italian-American community that was developing south of Division Street.

‡ Patricia Ferguson, consultant with Carl Abbott, Judith Rees and Catherine Galbraith, Ladds Addition Historic District, Multnomah County, OR, nomination document, 1988, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
12th Avenue SE • 16th Avenue SE • 20th Avenue SE • Birch Street SE • Clay Street SE • Cypress Avenue SE • Division Street SE • Elliott Avenue SE • Harrison Street SE • Hawthorne Boulevard SE • Hazel Street SE • Hemlock Avenue SE • Hickory Street SE • Holly Street SE • Ladd Avenue SE • Larch Avenue SE • Lavender Street SE • Locust Avenue SE • Maple Avenue SE • Mulberry Avenue SE • Orange Avenue SE • Palm Street SE • Poplar Avenue SE • Spruce Avenue SE • Tamarack Avenue SE

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