Pepper Box, the last food cart at the former bank building at MLK & Graham, is leaving the site to make way for an unknown new development. The story is here, at the Eliot Neighborhood blog. The folks involved with Eliot N’hood have done an admirable job covering MLK Boulevard over the years.
This location (2737 NE MLK) was mostly recently home to the Dreamers Marketplace, a short-lived outdoor collection of artisan booths, as well as CrossFit MLK. The bank vault itself was very briefly used as a consignment shop, called (natch) The Vault. A number of food carts had set up in the parking lot, but had drifted away until only Pepper Box remained.
The Freedom Bank of Finance opened in 1969 by Venerable F. Booker, who saw a need for a community lender in North/Northeast Portland. Freedom Bank of Finance/American State Bank spent thirty years on Union Avenue/MLK Boulevard until its absorption by Albina Bank, all but a few months at 2737 NE MLK.
Karen Gibson, Portland State professor of urban studies and planning, notes in her fascinating article “Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000″ that Booker opened the Freedom Bank of Finance to address the severe reluctance of banks to lend to Albina residents so that they might buy a home, or make home improvements. Along the way, Booker fought to keep the federal government from discriminating against black-owned banks in its distribution of deposits.
Isaac Laquedem notes on his blog that “Mr. Booker was a major part of the drive to memorialize the late Gladys McCoy with a plaque and open space near the bank office. Somewhere close by, the city should make room for another plaque to tell Mr. Booker’s own remarkable story.”