On Aug. 2, 2021, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability filed nominations for three properties to be considered for listing in the National Register of Historic Places: Golden West Hotel, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, and Dean’s Barber Shop and Beauty Salon. Each of the properties represents a different historic period and context in Portland’s African American experience. If listed in the National Register, they would join a growing group of landmarks designated for their association with Black history.
Listing in the National Register not only commemorates a property for its historic significance, but also makes the owner and tenant(s) eligible for certain grants and tax incentives. Additionally, in Oregon, National Register listing results in the application of land use regulations that protect against demolition.
“Far too often, spaces representing African American experiences are trivialized or overlooked entirely in efforts to preserve America's historical landscape,” noted Zachary Stocks, executive director of the nonprofit Oregon Black Pioneers.
In 2020, the National Park Service approved a framework for nominating properties associated with Portland’s African American heritage to the National Register. That framework—and the significant volunteer contributions that supported it—paved the way for the three nominations now under consideration for listing.
The nominations were authored by historians Kimberly Moreland, Caitlyn Ewers and Matt Davis, who documented the buildings and recorded extensive input from people personally affiliated with them.
“These three institutions have long been landmarks of Portland's Black community, and their recognition as national historical treasures is long past due,” said Stocks. “Collectively, they span nearly 130 years of history, and each is well deserving of recognition on the National Register of Historic Places in its own right.”
The nominations will be considered at two public hearings before being forwarded to the National Park Service for a final decision on listing. A hearing before the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission will occur on September 13; A second hearing before the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation is scheduled for October 21-22. The public is invited and encouraged to testify at either of the hearings, both of which will be conducted virtually. If approved by the National Park Service, the formal National Register listings will occur in early 2022.
Golden West Hotel
Located at 707 NW Everett St, the Golden West was built in 1892 as a French Renaissance Revival Style hotel to serve a white clientele. Although architecturally interesting, the building is most significant for the period in which the hotel was managed by African American businessman William Duncan Allen. From 1906 to 1930, when Allen served as proprietor, the Golden West became the only major hotel in Portland that was operated by an African American and that welcomed Black guests. The Golden West’s ground floor also served as an incubator for a variety of Black-owned businesses that served a predominately, if not exclusively, African American clientele during the 1910s and 20s. According to the nomination, “The Golden West Hotel was one of the most prominent Black-owned businesses in early twentieth century Portland and one of the most important community spaces available to African American Portlanders at this time.” Today, the Golden West is owned and operated by local nonprofit Central City Concern.
The Golden West nomination is available as a PDF.
Mt. Olivet Baptist Church
Located at 1734 NE 1st Ave, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church was built in 1923 for one of Portland’s first Black congregations and today stands as the oldest extant African American worship space in Lower Albina. Since the time of its construction, the church building has served as a venue for cultural, social, and political events of importance to the local Black community. During its early years, Mt. Olivet’s renowned music ministry program fostered Black artistic expression and cultural pride through its public performances of traditional African American spirituals and gospel music. And, perhaps most importantly, the church provided critical meeting space for local civil rights organizations and hosted many leading civil rights leaders, labor activists, politicians, and other activists from 1923 to 1973.
The Mt. Olivet nomination is available as a PDF.
Dean’s Barber Shop and Beauty Salon
Located at 213-215 NE Hancock Street, Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop was built in 1956 for Benjamin and Mary Rose Dean and today stands as the oldest continuously operating Black-owned barber shop or salon in Portland. The shop significantly illustrates the important role of barbering and beauty culture in African American life, both as a means to build wealth through entrepreneurship and as an important expression of pride and solidarity with other members of the Black community. Dean’s has been an enduring presence in Lower Albina despite government-sponsored clearance, redevelopment, disinvestment, and gentrification, which have displaced a large percentage of the area’s Black residents and businesses over the past half century.
The Dean’s nomination is available as a PDF.
More information on Portland’s African American historic properties and the history of displacement in Albina can be found in the National Register document “African American Resources in Portland, Oregon, from 1851 to 1973,” the report “History of Racist Planning in Portland,” and the recently published zine “A Dream Rezoned.”