Is Portland More “Historic” Than Boston Or Philly?

Portland, OR, founded in 1851, may not appear on lists of the nation’s “most historic cities.” But it’s not for lack of trying.

Tony Jordan | August 5, 2018 | |
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Portland, OR, founded in 1851, may not appear on lists of the nation’s “most historic cities.” But it’s not for lack of trying. Ever since the city government proposed to moderately upzone many Portland neighborhoods, allowing more ADUs, duplexes, and corner triplexes, several of the more affluent communities have turned to Historic Districts to keep the riff-raff out.  The city’s 15 current historic districts include the Irvington Historic District, one of the largest in the nation, containing 2,800 homes, the Ladd’s Addition Historic District, with more than 600 homes, and the Alphabet Historic District, which encompasses 670 properties. Currently, neighbors are working to form the Eastmoreland Historic District, with 1,025 properties, and the Laurelhurst Historic District, which would include more than 1,800 households. By all rights, if the NIMBYs are successful, Portland will have a strong claim to join Boston (9 historic districts), Philadelphia (14 historic districts), and Charleston (only 3 historic districts) in any conversation about America’s most historic cities. The only problem is that Portland does not, by any common sense interpretation, have their level of “historic” character or significance. Clearly, this is about something else.

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