Much of the text below is adapted from information originally found on OurLaurelhurst.org, a community resource for the Laurelhurst neighborhood,; our thanks to Sharon Kidder.
New! See the Walking Tour of Laurelhurst, below.
A Short History Of Laurelhurst
In 1869, William S. Ladd began buying up the land that would eventually become Laurelhurst. One portion of the land (320 acres) came from the purchase of Thomas Frazer's Hazelwood Farm in 1869. After the 1869 purchase, other purchases were subsequently made in 1873 and 1876.Ladd purchased another part of the area (a portion of the Quinn family's original claim) from Louis Marier. This collection of properties became the Hazel Fern Farm (one of three farms owned completely by Ladd, who also owned 5 other farms with S.G. Reed).
In 1909, the Ladd Estate Company sold its 462-acre Hazelfern Farm to the Laurelhurst Company for approximately $2 million. The Laurelhurst Company platted a residential development of about 444 acres in 1,880 lots and hired the famed architectural firm of the Olmsted Brothers to design the neighborhood. The firm created a curving, tree-lined plat following the natural contours of the land. The name "Laurelhurst" was given as one of the founders of the Laurelhurst Company (Paul C. Murphy) had worked on the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Washington, and wanted to bring a similar vision to Portland.
The improvements made by the Laurelhurst Company were unusually extensive for the era and included such things as: fully paved streets; water, sewer, and gas mains installed under the streets; 9' wide parking strips with 6' wide cement sidewalks; cluster gas lights (of which only two pole still exist); and more than 2,200 trees of between 12' and 18' in height ("that being the largest size it is practicable to transplant") planted every 30 feet in the parking strips. Decorative sandstone arches were built on Peerless, Glisan, Burnside, and 39th Streets. One arch was demolished for commercial development the others remain as landmark symbols of the neighborhood. .
The first home in the new Laurelhurst neighborhood was built by W. N. Everett at what is now 525 NE Hazelfern Place.
While Laurelhurst represents a wide variety of houses from stately mansions, to more modest accomodations, the predominant style of house in the neighborhood is the bungalow style, of which there are estimated to be about 1,000 examples in Laurelhurst. Certain blocks were expressly set aside for small bungalows.
Specific parts of the Laurelhurst land was put aside for other use besides residential housing, also unusual for the time. One area was set aside as a refuge home for women called the Anna Mann House. Another area was set aside for a neighborhood school; what would become Laurelhurst Elementary. Finally, 32 acres were set aside for Ladd Park, which would become Laurelhurst Park in 1912.
Laurelhurst Park was designed by Emanuel Mische, Portland's Superintendent of Parks and former horticulturist for the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. The park follows the Olmsted firm's naturalistic design principles, with curving paths and unfolding views, reminiscent of New York's Central Park, an Olmsted design. In 2001 Laurelhurst Park became the first municipal park to be recognized as a historic landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.
During the initial sales of Laurelhurst lots, the Laurelhurst Company set up a sales office at the traffic roundabout at NE 39th Avenue and NE Glisan Street. This was, conveniently, a stopping point for the Montavilla streetcar line. In 1920, the office replaced by a small park, now known as Coe Circle, containing a statue of Joan of Arc donated by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe. The statue is a bronze replica of Parisian sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet's famous statue of Joan of Arc that Dr. Coe donated in 1924 in honor of the American 'doughboys' who were so closely allied with the French during World War I. The statue was unveiled on Memorial Day 1925 which was also the anniversary of St. Joan's martyrdom on May 30, 1431.
The statue of Joan of Arc sits off to one side of center due to the fact that the streetcar tracks ran down the middle of the circle when the statue was placed in the circle. The tracks are visible on the 1916 plat map. Portland's statue is one of eight copies in the world with four in France, one in in Melbourne, Australia, one in Philadelphia, and the youngest one dedicated in 1972 in New Orleans.
When Laurelhurst was developed, streetcar lines on Sandy, Glisan and 39th provided convenient transportation from the new eastern suburbs to the original core of Portland. Many of the earliest houses were near these lines. In the 1930s and 1940s, Sandy was widened and converted to commercial use, eliminating some of the oldest houses in Laurelhurst. In the 1960s, the city attempted to build the "Laurelhurst Expressway" along 39th (Cesar Chavez) and 41st, as part of a planned grid of urban freeways. That freeway and others were stopped by neighborhood and citizen activists. The Banfield Expressway was built, resulting the demolition of more houses and streets in the north-east corner of the neighborhood.
In March 2019, Laurelhurst became a National Register Historic District. The historic district includes all of today's Laurelhurst neighborhood, except NE Sandy Blvd, the blocks north of Sandy, and the east side of SE 32nd.
A Visual History Of Laurelhurst
Coming soon. Sort of soon. Okay, this visual history is taking longer to put together than expected, but it'll be worth the wait.
A Walking Tour Of Laurelhurst
Take a walking tour of Laurelhurst, narrated by resident Amelia Shields. Two tours are available.
Tour 1 covers the history of the neighborhood, and homes/ landmarks in the two North quadrants, Coe Circle, and the SW quadrant. It takes approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete the loop. Part 1 starts and ends at Laurelhurst Elementary School.
Tour 2 covers Laurelhurst Park in one of the South quadrants and a few surrounding homes/places of interest. This loop starts and ends at the Laurelhurst Club and takes a little over an hour to complete.
Amelia has included a detailed print version so you can read along with the tours and learn even more about Laurelhurst. You can read the PDF below, or print or download it.
Amelia researched and produced this walking tour as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest level award a Girl Scout can earn. It requires a minimum of 80 leadership hours toward the completion of a project to better the community. The Gold Award allows a girl scout to develop leadership skills, be seen as a role model, master time management skills, and make the world a better place.
History of Racial Restrictive Deed Covenants In Laurelhurst
At the request of neighbors, the LNA board researched and prepared this history of racial restrictive deed covenants in Laurelhurst and elsewhere in Portland and the country. The draft was distributed to the neighborhood, reviewed in two community meetings and via email and mailed comments, revised, and approved by the LNA board on September 8, 2020.
If you have corrections or additional research to share, please email us.