Introduction

In 1904, the category “apartment houses” first appeared in the Portland City Directory. While only four buildings were listed, the new term signified the emergence of a new building type, one that differed from the boarding houses, hotels, and other multi-dwelling units of the time.  Within a few years, Portland’s explosive growth pushed this new form of housing to be an integral part of the city’s urban landscape. By 1910, ninety apartment houses were advertised in the directory, and by 1930 there were 750 apartment houses. Even so, the rise of the apartment house remains a less studied part of Portland’s architectural history. 

This electronic resource surveys the history of the apartment house in Portland, Oregon, from its emergence in the early 20th century to the early years of the Great Depression.  Key buildings and their creators are described in this introductory history which provides the essential foundation for further research. Further explorations can research more deeply into such topics as the influence of changes in building technologies, building and zoning codes, household appliances and furnishings, and social customs and cultures.  An interesting undercurrent that emerges in this survey is the role of women as owners and proprietors of early apartment houses.  

 A fundamental resource in developing this history is an original interactive map of apartment houses which identifies approximately 860 apartment houses, extant and destroyed, that were listed in Portland city directories up to the mid-1930s.  Each work in the map is cataloged to the extent possible and includes data such as multiple names of the buildings, the architects and builders, date opened, directory listing, address, and historic address. In the early 1930s, most street addresses in Portland were changed, and the mapping of many buildings required required correlating historic addresses with current ones.  The map graphically displays the changing urban character of Portland.  The website's sections listing extant and destroyed apartment houses is a compilation of the works identified in the map. 

This electronic resource is organized as follows:  The apartment house as a building type as treated in this research is first defined.  Then follows an historical survey in chronological order of selected apartment houses and their creators divided into two sections: the first section covers developments from the beginning of the building type in Portland to World War I, and second section surveys the history from after World War I to the early years of the Great Depression.  These sections will branch into parts as more content as added.  The foundational interactive map then come next.  Other content includes the compilation of existing or destroyed apartment houses, a list of known architects and builders and their works, a list of apartment houses on the National Register of Historic places linked to full-text documents, and a bibliography.

The use of the website as the publishing platform for The Apartment House in Portland, Oregon: An Introductory History enables continuous expansion of content and makes easier the revisions or enhancements of the historical record. 
Russell Apartments
Russell Apartments, 1905. Photo: 1920s.  
City of Portland Archives (Vintage Portland)