African American Historic Sites Initiative

Photo of the exterior of the historic Golden West building.
Historic places associated with African American individuals, institutions, and events have long been underrepresented in Portland’s Historic Resource Inventory. The African American Historic Sites Initiative seeks to document and protect landmarks associated with the Black experience in Portland.

Portland’s Historic Resource Inventory, including more than 700 designated landmarks and 25 designated districts, reflects a diversity of places with architectural, cultural, and historical significance. However, the inventory has long failed to recognize historic resources associated with under-represented histories. This inequity means entire communities lack protections for their important cultural landmarks and exclude owners and tenants from the financial benefits of historic preservation.

As one response to this inequity, the Historic Resources Program launched the African American Historic Sites Initiative in 2017 to support the documentation, designation, and protection of historic resources associated with the Black experience in Portland.

Building on primary research conducted by historians Kimberly Moreland, Cathy Galbraith, Raymond Burell III, and many others, the African American Historic Sites Initiative has engaged volunteers and professionals in the documentation of historic places associated with Black history, including nominating individual sites for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

City-Sponsored National Register Listings

The following historic resources have been nominated to — and are now listed in — the National Register of Historic Places as a result of the African American Historic Sites Initiative:

One of the buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the initiative.

African American Resources in Portland, Oregon (1851-1973)
Citywide Multiple Property Document

The 191-page umbrella Multiple Property Document (MPD) elevates the eligibility of individual historic sites associated with Portland’s Black history for listing in the National Register. The document details seven thematic areas of history — settlement patterns, business, journalism, entertainment, fraternal organizations, religion, and civil rights — for which historically Black-owned and Black-occupied buildings can be considered for listing. It also explains how the African American community’s historical exclusion from white-dominant systems of real estate, financing, construction, and employment resulted in alterations to buildings that — without the MPD framework — would render many of Portland’s culturally important structures ineligible for listing in the National Register.

Access the MPD National Register listing.

Photo of the Billy Webb Elks Lodge located at 6 North Tillamook Street

Billy Webb Elks Lodge
6 N Tillamook Street

Constructed in 1926 when Portland’s Black population numbered less than 2,000 people, the Colonial Revival Style building at Tillamook Street and Williams Avenue was originally home to the segregated, African American branch of Portland’s YWCA. It served as an important community space for Black women’s groups and for numerous civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Urban League of Portland. During World War II, space in the building was loaned to the United Service Organization for use as a recreation center for Black servicemen. Following the integration of the YWCA in 1959, the building was purchased by the Billy Webb Elks, a longstanding Portland chapter of the Black fraternal organization the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World (IBPOEW). The building remains owned, operated, and occupied by the Billy Webb Elks and their women’s auxiliary, the Dahlia Temple, to this day.

Access the Billy Webb National Register listing.

Photo of the Mt Olivet Baptist Church located at 1734 NE 1st Avenue

Mt. Olivet Baptist Church
1734 NE 1st Avenue

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 numerous 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. Perhaps most importantly, the church provided critical meeting space for local civil rights organizations and hosted leading civil rights leaders, labor activists, politicians, and other activists including Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) president Marcus Garvey, labor union leader Asa Philip Randolph, and various representatives from the national NAACP.

Access the Mt. Olivet National Register listing.

Photo of the Golden West Hotel located at 707 NW Everett Street

Golden West Hotel
707 NW Everett Street

The Golden West Hotel is a French Renaissance Revival Style hotel constructed in 1892, initially to serve a white clientele. Although architecturally interesting, the building is most significant for the twenty-four-year period during which the hotel was managed by Black businessman William Duncan “W.D.” Allen. From 1906 to 1930, Allen served as the hotel’s proprietor, and during this period the Golden West became the only major lodging house in Portland that was operated by an African American and welcomed Black guests. The Golden West’s ground floor also served as an incubator for a diverse collection of Black-owned small businesses serving a predominately, if not exclusively, African American clientele during the 1910s and 1920s. These included a social and athletic club, a barbershop, a candy shop, and a restaurant.

Access the Golden West National Register listing.

Photo of Dean's Beauty Salon and Barber Shop

Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop
213-215 NE Hancock Street

Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop was built in 1956 for Benjamin and Mary Rose Dean and is 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 generational 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 many of the area’s Black residents and businesses over the past half century. The building and business remain under ownership of the Dean family to this day.

Access the Dean’s National Register listing.

Photo of the exterior of the historic Skanner News building, associated with the City's African American Historic Sites Initiative

Dr. John D. Marshall Building
2337 N Williams Avenue

Dr. John D. Marshall was one of very few Black doctors practicing in Portland in 1952, when he commissioned the construction of the building at 2337 N Williams Avenue for use as a medical clinic. Over the next several years, Dr. Marshall worked from the building’s main suite and leased smaller offices to other Black professionals including dentist Dr. Samuel J. Brown, pharmacist Dr. Richard Neal, and lawyer Aaron Brown. From 1970 to 1979, the Portland branch of the Black Panther Party used the building to provide critical medical and dental services to Black Portlanders who were underserved by the city’s white-dominated medical systems. The building was subsequently purchased by the Skanner News, a Black-owned newsgroup who produced the Skanner newspaper from this location for more than two decades. Today, the building maintains its legacy within Portland’s Black business community as the Terry Family Funeral Home.

Exterior photo of the historic Beatrice Morrow Cannady House

Beatrice Morrow Cannady House
2516 NE 26th Avenue

Constructed in 1911, this Craftsman Style house in the Irvington Historic District was home to civil rights activist, lawyer, and newspaper owner/editor Beatrice Morrow Cannady from approximately 1913 through 1933. Cannady was a prominent leader within Portland’s early twentieth-century Black community, serving as the founding secretary of the local NAACP chapter and organizing a Race Conference in 1929. Following her marriage to E.D. Cannady in 1912, she became assistant editor of his newspaper, the Advocate, founded in 1903; after their divorce in 1930, she continued on as the paper’s lead editor until 1936. In the midst of these activities and raising her two sons, Cannady also attended night classes at the Northwestern School of Law and in 1922 became the first Black woman to earn a law degree in Oregon. Today, she is remembered as one of the foremost civil rights leaders in early twentieth-century Portland.

Community-sponsored National Register Listings

The following historic resources have been nominated to — and are now listed in — the National Register of Historic Places as a result of complementary efforts outside of the African American Historic Sites Initiative:

Photo of the Otto and Verdell Rutherford House located at 833 NE Shaver Street

Otto and Verdell Rutherford House
833 NE Shaver Street

The 1904 Rutherford House in Portland’s King Neighborhood was both the private home of civil rights activists Otto and Verdell Rutherford and an important site of community organizing. The house was initially purchased in 1923 by Otto Rutherford’s father, William Rutherford, with the help of Black real estate agent Walter Green. Green, a light-skinned African American, used his ability to “pass” for white to secure properties for Black Portlanders in a time when racist covenants and discriminatory real estate and lending practices effectively barred many Black families from purchasing land. Otto and Verdell Rutherford, who lived in the house after their marriage in 1936, were deeply involved in the Portland chapter of the NAACP and effectively operated the chapter’s offices and credit union from their dining room. During Otto Rutherford’s 1953 term as president of the NAACP, the Rutherfords were integral in securing the passage of Oregon’s first Public Accommodations Act.

Access the Rutherford House National Register listing.

Photo of interior of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church

Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church
3138 N Vancouver Avenue

Built in 1909, the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church is a contemporary Gothic Revival church originally constructed for the Norwegian congregation of the Central Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1951, the building was purchased by one of Portland’s oldest African American congregations and became the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, Reverend Oliver Booker Williams, and his wife, Willia Ida Williams, were influential in growing its congregation and advancing the civil rights movement in Portland over the following years. The church building itself quickly emerged as an important meeting place for the Black community and hosted various important local events, including public addresses from visiting NAACP leaders and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Access the First Baptist Church National Register listing.

Photo of the Mallory Avenue Christian Church located at 126 NE Alberta Street

Mallory Avenue Christian Church
126 NE Alberta Street

Mallory Avenue Christian Church is an early postwar modern church completed in 1949. It is significant as an outstanding example of its architectural style and as an important center for community-based social programs that emphasized racial integration. With the support of Robert E. “Bob” Cochran as the Director of Community Ministry, the church developed multiple programs providing afterschool activities, meals, clothing, and other support for children in the surrounding Albina neighborhoods during the late 1960s. Over the next two decades, the church also became involved with the Church-Community Action Program (C-CAP) and the home for the Northeast Portland YWCA. In 1976, it initiated “People Are Beautiful,” a summer program for children dedicated to eliminating racism and helping participants reach their full potential.

Access the Christian Church National Register listing.

Photo of the Rinehart Building located at 3037 N Williams Avenue

Rinehart Building
3037 N Williams Avenue

Completed in 1910, the Rinehart Building is a streetcar-era commercial building associated with Portland’s postwar Black business community. Located at the corner of N Monroe Street and N Williams Avenue in Lower Albina, the Rinehart Building is one of few remaining commercial buildings reflecting N Williams Avenue’s importance as a social and cultural hub for Black Portlanders. Various Black-owned businesses have operated out of the space since the postwar period, beginning with Cleo’s Tavern and Rudy’s Billiards in 1957. In 1958, sisters Cleo Hampton and Lilliann Krebs opened the Cleo-Lilliann Social Club in the building’s south storefront. The club served as an important social and entertainment venue for Portland’s Black community for over forty years, and at the time of its closure in 2001 it was considered to be one of Oregon’s oldest Black social organizations.

Access the Rinehart Building National Register listing.

Exterior photo of the historic Lewis & Elizabeth Van Vleet House

Lewis & Elizabeth Van Vleet House
202 NE Graham Street

Built in 1894, the Lewis and Elizabeth Van Vleet House is one of few remaining Queen Anne style houses of its era in Albina. The house is significant as the residence of Rozelle Jackson Yee and Loy Sing Yee, an interracial couple who purchased the house in 1956. At the time of their marriage in 1952, Oregon’s restrictions on interracial marriages forced the Yees to travel to Vancouver, Washington, to obtain a marriage license. Both Rozelle and Loy Yee were entrepreneurs: Loy Yee owned a popular restaurant, The Chinese Kitchen, at 2600 North Williams Avenue, while Rozelle Yee operated the Personality Beauty Bar at 2529 North Williams Avenue and later managed the couple’s portfolio of rental properties. Rozelle Yee was also a prominent advocate for affordable housing and neighborhood investment, serving as a member of the Citizens Planning Board of the new Model Cities program and a founding member of the Eliot Neighborhood Development Project.

Access the Van Vleet House National Register listing.