Burnside Elevation of Proposed new restaurant to replace the Galaxy. Image from BDS Public Notice for the project.

According to the Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS), the owners of the Galaxy Restaurant at 909 E. Burnside plan to demolish the exiting building and replace it with another single story restaurant. This raises a couple of interesting questions.

The Galaxy Restaurant - 909 E Burnside - Home of Portland's First Denny's Restaurant. Image from PortlandMaps.com

First of all, unless there are irreversible structural issues, why demolish a building only to replace it with something that will serve the same essential purpose and will do nothing to add housing density or other social benefits to the community? Such a demolition is a waste of resources and energy. Even if a large portion of the building is “recycled” that doesn’t take into account that those materials will need to be re-manufactured in some way in order to be useful again – meaning the consumption of additional energy on top of what it will take to tear the place down. And even with best practices a large amount of demolition waste would also still be generated. Then of course, you have all of the new building materials, which would require even more energy and resource consumption…

Secondly, is something like Portland’s first Dennys even worthy of preservation? After a little research, it appears that this location was indeed Portland’s first Denny’s Restaurant, opening in June 1963. It was used to promote franchise possibilities for the Denny’s chain, and was modeled after the prototype Denny’s Restaurants founded in Southern California a decade earlier. The “check mark” design is one of those trademark patterns from the era of “Googie” architecture – something that we don’t have a lot of (remaining and intact) here in Portland. Not far away at NE Grand and Hassalo, is another early Portland Denny’s. If Oregonian employment ads are correct, that location seems to have opened within a year after the Burnside location.

Denny's Grand Opening Advertisement from The Oregonian, June 8, 1963

So what do you think? Is Portland’s first Denny’s worthy of preservation?

Let’s start the new year with a healthy discussion on this topic.

Happy New Year!