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Portland neighborhood now officially historic.

Byline: Melody Finnemore

Nearly 30 years after efforts were initiated to add Portland's iconic Laurelhurst neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places, it finally happened.

The Laurelhurst Historic District was added to the register March 18. John Liu, head of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association's Historic District Committee, said the designation recognizes the historical, architectural and urban design characteristics of the neighborhood and follows the listing of Laurelhurst Park on the register.

"It protects Laurelhurst's historically contributing houses from needless demolition," he said. "It allows the neighborhood to continue adding housing through accessory dwelling units, and will also allow internal conversion of larger houses to multiple housing units."

Early in the process, some Laurelhurst homeowners were initially concerned about restrictions on remodeling, Liu said. When the city confirmed that there will be no restrictions other than on demolitions of historic houses, those concerns were largely addressed. Ultimately, during the six-month objection period at the end of the nomination process, only 14 Laurelhurst residents less than 0.5 percent objected to thehistoricdistrict designation, he said.

"It is an emotional moment for many in Laurelhurst, from those who started the effort in 1990 to others who joined the effort several years ago," he said. "The effort has brought our neighborhood closer together. Old and young, longtimers and newcomers, our community organized and worked together to accomplish a common goal. We are taking that community energy forward to work on other causes and needs of the neighborhood and our neighbors."

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's official list of buildings, districts, structures, sites and objects important to local, state or national history. The program is run by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., and administered locally by the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

A historic district is defined as an area or neighborhood that has a concentration of buildings and associated landscape and streetscape features that are at least 50 years old. To be eligible for listing in the register, the majority of the buildings in the district must maintain their historic appearance, or be "contributing," and the district must be associated with an important aspect of the area's history and/or be notable for its architecture or design.

The Laurelhurst Historic District is bounded at the north end by Northeast Multnomah and Senate streets; the east by Northeast 44th Avenue and Southeast 44th Avenue; on the south by Southeast Stark Street; and on the west by Southeast 32nd Avenue and Northeast 33rd Avenue. The district comprises 1,751 properties constructed between 1910 and 1987, consisting of 1,315 contributing buildings,four contributing sites, seven contributing objects, 436 noncontributing buildings, and six buildings and one site, Laurelhurst Park, already listed in the national register. The listing allows the district's signature arches to be designated as historically protected structures, making them eligible for historic preservation grants.

The Laurelhurst Historic District was listed in the national register as a local example ofcommunity planning and development and for notable architecture. The district is significant as Portland's only residential subdivision illustrating both fashionable "City Beautiful-era" planning principles and for representation of popular trends in American architecture between the 1910s and the 1940s, according to the National Park Service.

"Largely built out between 1910 and 1930, the neighborhood's picturesque layout with curvilinear streets, abundant natural landscaping and tree coverage, and varied building styles represents a unique streetcar suburb built in Portland's Eastside during a period of rapid residential expansion," the agency stated.

In 2016 and 2017, hundreds of neighborhood volunteers conducted neighborhood meetings and public presentations by representatives of SHPO, the city of Portland, other historic districts, and both proponents and opponents of the listing, as well as a neighborhood, door-to-door information campaign.

The neighborhood associationworked with Peter Meijer Architectto prepare the nomination document. The PMA team led by Kristen Minor, with volunteers from Laurelhurst and the University of Oregon's Historic Preservation program, completed in April 2018 a neighborhood surveythatidentified the properties to be included in the nominationand finalized the projectin July2018. A draft nomination for the district was then submitted to SHPO for consideration in October.

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Publication:Daily Journal of Commerce (Portland, OR)
Date:Apr 19, 2019
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