History of Portland Oregon’s Street Names

History of Portland Oregon’s Street Names

One of Portland’s neighborhoods, the Northwest District, contains the “Alphabet District.” Added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 16, 2000, this area is home to many of Portland’s finest historic homes, shopping, dining, and the alphabetically named streets running south to north that are most famous these days for contributing to the popular TV show, “The Simpsons.”

Formerly the streets were single letter names, ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ etc. But when Portland, East Portland, and Albina combined into the City of Portland on July 6, 1891, a council of citizens (I have not been able to identify them yet,) renamed the streets for prominent founding citizens of the new, larger city.

History of Portland Oregon's Street Names

Just over thirty years later, the Oregonian ran a series of articles from October 5th, 1921 to November 26, 1921 exploring the history of thirty of Portland’s streets, and the influence of the citizens they were named after. The list of names is incomplete however, Shaver, Kearney, and somewhat surprising, Ankeny, are all missing from this list. In addition the list of names quickly expanded past the Alphabet Historical District, leaving one to wonder what the criteria the Newspaper used for this list of articles were.

October 5th, Burnside – named after Davis W. Burnside, businessman, city council member, and member of the city’s volunteer fire department.

October 06, Couch – named after Captain John H. Couch, sea captain, businessman, territorial treasurer.

October 07, Davis – named after Anthony L. Davis, first justice of the peace.

October 11, Glisan – named after Dr. Rodney Glisan, doctor, and noted author

October 12, Everett – named after Colonel Edward Everett, commander of the 3rd Oregon infantry regiment, and insurance man.

October 14, Lovejoy – named after Amos Lawrence Lovejoy, one half of the men involved in the famous coin toss that settled Portland’s name.

October 15, Irving – named after Captain William Irving, captain of the first steamship to serve Portland.

October 21, Quimby – named for L.P.W. Quimby, first Oregon state game warden, trucker, and member of the state legislature.

October 25, Raleigh – Named for Patrick Raleigh, general store owner.

October 26, Marshall – named for John Marshall, a river navigator and business partner of Lovejoy.

October 27, Savier – named for Thomas A. Savier, merchant and business partner of Burnside.

October 28, Thurman – likely named after saloon keeper, Nathan Thurman.

October 29, Vaughn – named for George Washington Vaughn, sixth mayor of Portland, hardware store owner, and business partner of Alexander Ankeny.

October 31, Wilson – named for Dr. R. B. Wilson, recognized as Portland’s best physician.

November 1, York – named for John W. York, circuit preacher.

November 2, Upshur – possibly named for Rear-Admiral John Henry Upshur, commander of the US Navy Pacific Fleet, or his son, Custis Parke Upshur, a well known steamboat porter.

November 4, Morrison – named for John L. Morrison, house builder in Oregon City.

November 5th, Hawthorne – named for Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, known for his work with the insane.

November 9th, Failing – named for Josiah Failing, and this son, Henry Failing, merchants and politicians.

November 11, Oatman – named for Harrison B. Oatman, miner, soldier, and grocer.

November 14, Chapman – named for Colonel W. W. Chapman, lawyer and politician.

November 15, Corbett – named for Henry Winslow Corbett, Senator and merchant.

November 16, Himes – named for George Henry Himes, printer and founding member of the Oregon Historical Society.

November 18, Brazee – named for engineer J.W. Brazee.

November 19, Terwilliger – In honor of James Terwilliger, Portland’s first business owner.

November 22, Russell – named for Edwin Russell, banker and founder of Albina.

November 23, Montgomery – named after James Boyce Montgomery, railroad builder and politician.

November 24, Caruthers – named after Finice Caruthers and his mother, Elizabeth Caruthers. Finice helped established Portland’s first public water supply.

November 25, Whiteaker – named for John Whiteaker, politician, and first state Govenor at beginning of Civil War.

November 26, Curry – named for George Law Curry, editor and politician.

I hope you enjoyed this series of articles! Please let me know in the comments below.

Portland Street Names – November 26, 1921 – Curry

Portland Street Names – November 26, 1921 – Curry

As well as being remembered as one of the territorial governors of Oregon, George Law Curry, for whom Curry street is named, was one of the pioneers of the newspaper and publishing business in the state.

Born July 2, 1820, in Philadelphia, the first 26 years of his life made of him a widely traveled man and a poet and journalist of reputation and ability. In 1846 he arrived in Oregon City and immediately assumed editorial charge of the Oregon Spectator.

Portland Street Names - November 26, 1921 - Curry

An editorial restriction placed on him by the publisher in a matter he considered pertinent caused him to resign from his editorship in 1848 and commence publication of the Oregon Free Press, the first weekly newspaper on the Pacific coast. A framed copy of it in the museum of the Oregon Historical society shows it to have been a quaint sort of an institution.

The press on which it was printed was made on the coast and the type seems to have been very limited. In the collection there apparently were no Ws and the ingenious Curry substituted for them two Vs, for instance, vvorry for worry.

In the same year that he established this paper he married Miss Chloe Donnelly Boone, a great-great granddaughter of Daniel Boone.

From 1853 on Curry was largely occupied with politics. In that year the president appointed his secretary of the territory of Oregon and a few days later, upon the resignation of General Joseph Lane he became acting governor. The same thing happened during the administration of Governor Davis and later Mr. Curry was appointed governor. He remained in office until establishment of the state government in 1859. Afterwards he served as state land commissioner.

His death occurred July 28, 1878

Portland Street Names – November 25, 1921 – Whiteaker

Portland Street Names – November 25, 1921 – Whiteaker

Whiteaker street is named for John Whiteaker, the first governor of the state of Oregon. He was born in Dearborn county, Indiana, May 4, 1820. He went to California in 1849 and after two years returned to Missouri.

Portland Street Names - November 25, 1921 - Whiteaker

With his family he crossed the plains in 1852, settling in Lane county, where he served as judge, was a member of the territorial legislature, served three terms in the Oregon house of representatives and one term as state senator. During these terms he was speaker in the house in 1868 and president in the senate in 1876 and again in 1878. He is the only govenor who served in the legislature after having been chief executive.

Portland Street Names - November 25, 1921 - Whiteaker

Supposing the new constitution adopted by the people of Oregon had been accepted by congress and the stated admitted to the union, the state election was held in 1858, but the state was not admitted until February 4, 1859. Governor Whiteaker assumed office immediately and was in the gubernatorial chair when Fort Sumpter was fired on and the civil war begun.

His term expired September 10, 1862, and he retired to his farm in Lane county. In his later political life, besides his terms in the state legislature, he served in the lower house of congress in 1878, and was collector of internal revenue in Portland.

He died in Eugene in 1902.

Portland Street Names – November 24, 1921 – Caruthers

Portland Street Names – November 24, 1921 – Caruthers

Romance and mystery surround the name of Caruthers more than fame and history do. The street is named for Finice Caruthers, but more properly speaking for the Caruthers family, which in Portland consisted of Finice and his mother, Elizabeth Caruthers.

Portland Street Names - November 24, 1921 - Caruthers

They came to Portland in 1850. There was some sort of mystery about their former life, and Finice lived very much alone, never marrying. The two, upon arriving here, bought the land belonging to William Johnson, who lived south of town. On the sidehill amid the fir trees, they built a cabin, putting one part of the structure on the claim that the mother decided to take, while the other extended upon the land of Finice.

The old lady was peculiar and pleasant stories of her sayings and doings went around the neighborhood. One day she pensively informed a caller that there would be a war, because her old hen had laid and egg with letters on it: W. O. R.

She died within a few years after coming to Portland and legal troubles about the land claim began to harass Finice, but little ever came of them. He was known as an honorable, upright man and had the respect of the community. He laid of 20 blocks on the north end of his claim and this was known as Caruthers addition.

Upon his death no heirs appeared and the various parties seeing the value of the land formed a company sent east for an heir. Counter claims arose and the case became notorious and involved. It was finally settled; the stock of the Caruthers company being bought for the O. R. & N. railroad.

Finice Caruthers was business partners with Stephen Coffin, establishing the City of Portland’s first public water supply. This was created by piping water (via log pipes,) from Caruthers Creek to the damned up Balch Creek.

The court case involving the Caruthers land claim eventually ended up in the Supreme Court in the 1868 case of D. P. Thompson v. Andrew Woolf. It established that women have the same property rights as men.

Portland Street Names – November 23, 1921 – Montgomery

Portland Street Names – November 23, 1921 – Montgomery

While not one of the early settlers of Portland or one of the men instrumental in giving the city its first impetus, James Boyce Montgomery, for whom Montgomery street and Montgomery drive are named, was a vital factor when Portland was just beginning her larger growth.

Portland Street Names - November 23, 1921 - Montgomery

Born in Pennsylvania December 6, 1832, he went to school until the age of 16 and then took up the topographical art. This pursuit was short lived however and he became a builder of railroads and bridges, constructing several important routes in the east and also as far west as Denver.

In 1870 he came to the Pacific coast and in 1871 to Oregon. Upon his arrival he offered to build the first portion of the Pacific division of the Northern Pacific railroad and secured the contract. He built over 100 miles of this road and also erected the drawbridge over the Willamette river at Harrisburg for the Oregon & California railroad. Another of his projects was the building of 78 miles of railroad in the Willamette valley, and he constructed for himself on the water front in Albina large docks and warehouses.

From his earliest days J. B. Montgomery had been actively interested in politics, although he never held any office until elected to the Oregon state legislature in 1890. He was married twice, his first wife being Miss Rachel Anthony and his second Miss Mary Phelps, only daughter of Governor John S. Phelps of Missouri.