When conducted in the early 1980s, Portland’s Historic Resources Inventory primarily looked at buildings that were at least 50 years old at that time. Parts of the city were also missed or only partially examined. In addition, Portland has annexed new areas into the City since the time the inventory was conducted. The net result is that there are likely thousands of structures in the city that have never been considered as potentially historic or architecturally significant. The Daily Journal of Commerce published a nice article on the need for a new inventory just today.
The recent listing of the Memorial Coliseum in the National Register of Historic Places helped draw attention to the potential historic resources of what we call “the recent past”, but are also often termed Mid-Century Modern” buildings. It is time that the City determine a method to update the aging inventory and this inventory must include and examination of post 1935 buildings, including housing. There was tremendous growth in the Portland area, especially after World War II, but it was predominately in areas that were outside the city at the time. Many of those areas are now part of Portland. It’s time they were given consideration for their potential historic resources.
We’re not naïve enough to believe that a new inventory will offer real protection against the loss of significant buildings. Buildings still need to be designated as historic to gain a level of protection, and that requires owner consent. Nonetheless, an inventory is vital for creating the framework from which neighborhoods can better understand, among other things, their architectural heritage. There would, perhaps, be no better way to engage the 95 neighborhoods across the city, than by working with them to organize and conduct their own inventories. This would connect residents to their neighborhoods in ways many have never thought of, especially residents that are new to the area. And that would help reinvigorate Portland’s Neighborhood system. Let’s hope the City recognizes this potential as well.