Mid-Century Modest: Postwar Housing and the Growth of Southeast Portland  

Opens October 29

Home on SE Lincoln St. in Cherry Blossom Park, built in 1953 and featured on that year’s annual “Parade of Homes.” AHC collections.

In the first half of the 1950s, Portland witnessed explosive growth in new house construction. New neighborhoods popped up across the metropolitan area, particularly on the edges of town and often beyond the city limits. With financing secured through the Federal Housing Administration or the GI Bill, many white working-class families found that for the first time they had the opportunity to own their own homes. At the same time, however, African Americans were all but excluded from this system.

Mid-Century Modest gives a glimpse at some of these new houses constructed in Southeast Portland during this boom period. Each of the twelve featured houses had a different builder and they represent eleven different subdivision developments. These new houses were distinctively modern and featured some of the latest amenities, like built-in dishwashers and attached garages. However, most were otherwise modest in appearance, size, and affordability.

The house photos are from a collection of more than 400 photographs taken between 1952 and 1955, by or on behalf of Robert Johnstone, who was a realtor in Portland from the 1940s until his death in 1986. Johnstone worked with two major Portland real estate firms during this period, Henry F. English and the City Realty Co. Both companies regularly advertised homes for sale in local newspapers, including several featured in this exhibit.

The collection was donated to the Architectural Heritage Center by Ken Hawkins in 2022.

Unbuilt: Portland that Never Was

Opens October 29 

1950s concept rendering for an apartment addition to the Masonic Temple, now the Mark Building, a part of the Portland Art Museum. AHC collections.

There are a number of reasons why buildings and other development projects never get beyond the concept or planning phase. This exhibit explores a variety of never-built Portland-area projects, from a massive housing and marina project in St. Johns, to a 15-story addition to the Masonic Temple – now better known as the Portland Art Museum’s Mark Building. Other unbuilt projects include a would-be shopping mall in Linnton or a variety of plans that would have forever altered downtown or dissected the city through road construction and other public works projects. As the exhibit shows, some of the city’s most prominent architects including A. E. Doyle and Will Martin, had projects that never made it beyond the drafting table. Through architectural drawings, plans, reports, and promotional materials from the Architectural Heritage Center library, the exhibit shows a Portland that  might have been.


Old Friends, New Acquaintances: Artifacts from the AHC Collections 

Opens November 19

Cast-iron ornament with wreath and shell motif from the Sherlock Building that stood at SW 2nd & Oak Street from 1878 into the 1950s. BMF 1988.11.67

The recent relocation of the storage of the Architectural Heritage Center’s vast collection of building artifacts in 2020 led to the “rediscovery” of some collections items that have rarely been displayed, if at all. Also on view for the first time are exciting new additions to our artifact and archival collections, kindly donated within the past few years. This exhibit shares a number of these new and fascinating acquisitions, including terra cotta lettering from the old Portland Union Stockyards, a grotesque creature that once adorned a downtown building, a slate roof shingle from the 1889 First Presbyterian Church, a railroad freight depot blueprint, and much more.

Touring the Central Eastside exhibit

Permanent exhibit


The architecture of Portland’s Central Eastside, the neighborhood around our center, tells the story of this district’s past and the unfolding of its distinct character over time. This exhibit traces this history through the stories of 57 of its buildings. With the oldest buildings dating to the 1860s, the district’s architecture shows how it evolved from its marshy roots in the 19th century to become a booming center of industry and manufacturing to then develop into the ever-growing hub for design, IT innovation, maker spaces, and tourism that it is today.

This project was made possible by support from Central Eastside Together.