3019 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard is slated to be torn down, due to damage from a fire next door at the apartments under construction at MLK & Monroe Street.
3019 NE MLK is one of only five or so free-standing homes left on the Boulevard, a street that held many more such homes until it was widened by ten feet on each side in 1930-31. Numerous buildings seem to have been torn down at that time; at least one (still standing) moved back, and a number of buildings that still exist had their facades cut off, some of the bricks removed, and the facades restored. (For some photos that give a sense of what part of the boulevard looked like before 1930, head to Goldrush Café at Russell and visit the blown-up photos of then-Union Avenue.)
The house was built before 1930, year unknown at present. It was used as a residence for a long time, particular by black residents of Portland. For example, Ada McGill, “well-known cateress in charge of arrangements for the Dahlia Dinner Dance on Battlefield Oregon,” during the 20s and 30s; Blanche And Harold Washington, Harold working as a histologist at the University of Oregon Medical School, from the early 50s through 1975; in the 80s, Mary Evans, whose goddaughter Claudette talked with me about how much she loved living with Mary Evans, and strong church and faith was for them.*
Later, it became used for commercial purposes, as Lusijah Marx told me:
Quest Center for Integrative Health [founded by Lusijah] was located right across the street from 3019 NE MLK for several years. I always think of that location as “the blue house.” We moved for a time to the building by Emanuel Hospital which now houses NARA, and finally to our present location on East Burnside. The house next door that was totaled by the fire [3019 NE MLK] belonged to Bola, an accountant initially from Nigeria, a wonderful man, who is still my accountant today.
The Blue House was bought by “The Friends of Trees” when we expanded and needed a different location. I did therapy in a converted bedroom on the second floor. We have had for 20 years a weekly community dinner to support people in making changes to a healthier diet. We would be cooking our dinner with the smell of Popeye’s Chicken, our across the street neighbor. Our time in the Blue House was a very good time in many ways that had much of our community have easier access, and a time we enjoyed. I felt very saddened when I learned of the fire and I know it caused great angst to my friend Bola. Time goes on and changes happen—and I will always feel a special connection to MLK from our years of being there.
The organization Nigerian Community in Oregon and Southwest Washington was housed there recently, one of an increasing number of organizations in the area serving the newer African diaspora communities.
*Some of this information comes from Cornerstones of Community: Buildings of Portland’s African-American History.