Some of his neighbors have perhaps thought he was a nut case when Doug Decker has knocked on their door- just to share with them a historic picture of their home. Alameda has an amazing history and Decker, resident of twenty years has uncovered a trove of it. He has looked up census information, permits pulled, and hunted down previous owners of many homes. He's researched microfilm, old Oregonian ads, and has conducted countless interviews with now and past residents. And he has a day job with the Department of Forestry.
Today in a packed presentation at the AHC, Doug brought Alameda alive. Starting with a plat map showing Alameda before it's existence, the site of trees and a dairy farm at the city limits of Portland (then at NE 33rd St), he presented a pictoral history with the developers first buying the property in 1909 and bringing in the streetcar line and infrastructure. By 1934, most of it's homes had been constructed, with some prominent builders such as Frank Read, Harry Phillips and Ken Birkemeier involved in multiple homes in the neighborhood. Several of those homes including the pictured Keller House are on the National Historic Register.
Decker's information gleaned from early census materials showed the neighborhood's inhabitants changing fortunes. While many homes in the 1920's had live in servants such as Irish maids and nannies, the 1930's ousted much of the paid help and brought in boarders and older relatives into their homes. Oregonian ads revealed more information- when the area was first being developed, there were was no Broadway Bridge, roads, or streetcar to get to the site, so the developers offered potential buyers "a ride in our autos" and writing enticingly about Alameda- as if it had already been built. Later, the neighborhood having been designated as strictly residential got up in arms when a church tried to build within the neighborhood boundaries. The Alameda Park Community Church was forced to move just beyond the outskirts but eventually won over the neighborhood by running youth summer camps popular with Alameda's children. The church is now known as the Subud House, still on Regents Drive.
Visit Decker's comprehensive website, Alameda History. He hopes to write a book on the history of the neighborhood, and accepts research projects on behalf of homeowners looking to their home's past.