Old and Historic Homes in Portland, Oregon

Best Old-House Neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon

We specialize in old and historic homes…

Harlan Mayer, Principal Broker and Owner, Mayer Howell Real Estate


Portland eastside neighborhoods

(Courtesy of Portland City Archives)

Portland, Oregon, isn’t a city known for extremes. Our mild-mannered climate gently swings between cool summers and damp winters, our history is rich but lacks dramatic booms of wealth and industry, and our inhabitants are so easygoing that we actually stop our cars to let pedestrians cross the street.

Our architecture follows the same script. You won’t find boulevards peppered with gated estates of the super-rich here, or severely blighted areas of urban decay. We have no big-name architects’ masterworks, nor acres of bland, no-name development. What Portland does have—perhaps its greatest asset— is a living mosaic of inner-city neighborhoods filled with tens of thousands of charming and well-preserved early 20th-century homes.

Divided right up the middle by the Willamette River, Portland has an East/West split that defines more than the city’s geography and address system. On the Westside is the city’s urban center, which quickly rises into the 1,000′-high West Hills, where winding streets and forested canyons play host to view-blessed homes of the affluent. On the flatter Eastside, an endless grid spreads across a gently rolling landscape, where more modest middle- and working-class houses are woven into a patchwork quilt of neighborhoods both funky and elegant, sewn together by vibrant commercial streets, busy public schools, and beautiful city parks.

For the old-house explorer, Portland has treasures on both sides of the river, and seeing them will have a lot to do with how you plan to get around. The complicated and curving switchbacks of the West Hills can be a navigational challenge even for natives, and are more amenable to GPS-enabled automobile outings. The Eastside, on the other hand, offers a welcoming terrain that can be walked or biked with ease, and rewards adventurous wandering—so that’s where I recommend starting. From dozens of great neighborhoods on the Eastside, here are four of my favorites.


Built in 1906, the Gustav Freiwald House in Irvington displays a unique mix of Queen Anne and Colonial and Classical Revival details.

Built in 1906, the Gustav Freiwald House in Irvington displays a unique mix of Queen Anne and Colonial and Classical Revival details. (Photo: Courtesy of James Heuer)

Platted in the late 1880s and recently named a National Register Historic District (Oregon’s largest), the 583-acre Irvington neighborhood is like a walk back in time. More than 90 percent of the 2,800 homes here were built between 1890 and 1950, and the vast majority still retain their original historic appearance. The state’s earliest use of restrictive development covenants resulted in a concentration of exceptional houses set well back on oversized lots in the heart of this lovely neighborhood. You’ll find perhaps the broadest range of house styles here, from Queen Annes and Colonial Revivals to Arts & Crafts and English Tudors. Many of Portland’s most talented early 20th-century architects built projects in Irvington, and dozens still survive.

Alfred Faber’s striking designs, like this 1910 example in Ladd’s Addition, often feature “Miracle” cast stone and exaggerated gables and brackets.

Alfred Faber’s striking designs, like this 1910 example in Ladd’s Addition, often feature “Miracle” cast stone and exaggerated gables and brackets. (Photo: Courtesy of James Heuer)

Ladd’s Addition

Smaller, but perhaps better known, Ladd’s Addition was Portland’s first planned community and is also a National Historic District. In 1891, William S. Ladd subdivided a close-in 126-acre farm for a “modern” development with amenities like gas and electric lighting, paved streets, sidewalks, and a sewer system. Departing dramatically from the city’s strict orthogonal grid, his neighborhood was laid out in a distinctive L’Enfant-inspired radial street pattern, like a baseball diamond of four small public squares around a large central traffic circle.

With most of its homes built between 1905 and 1930, Ladd’s has a diverse mix of classic house styles, features formal rose gardens maintained by the community in the four squares, and is shaded by some of the tallest and most stately elms in the city. This neighborhood is one of the few in Portland with alleys, which makes for a fully rounded old-house gawking experience during which I can play my favorite game: “spot the closed-in sleeping porch.”


Herman Brookman’s 1927 Byzantine Revival Green Mansion in Laurelhurst oozes Hollywood glamour.

Herman Brookman’s 1927 Byzantine Revival Green Mansion in Laurelhurst oozes Hollywood glamour. (Photo: Courtesy of Tommy Jedrzejczyk)

Between 1900 and 1930, partly fueled by exposure during the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, Portland saw its population grow from 90,000 to 300,000—and those newcomers needed homes. Platted in 1909 from Hazel Fern Farm (another Ladd property), Laurelhurst was intended from the start to be a “high-class residence park” with some of the most restrictive building covenants ever enacted in the city. Only single-family homes were allowed, and these were required to meet minimum building costs.

The firm of Olmstead Brothers was hired to lay out the 400+ acres, and in yet another dramatic break from the city’s traditional planning, a series of concentric, radial, and gently curving streets were created that still consternate Portland’s grid-conditioned drivers today. While the same broad array of early 20th-century home styles can be found in Laurelhurst as other areas, this district has an especially nice concentration of fine Craftsman bungalows.

This 1925 Dolph Park Storybook home features a jaw-dropping rolled-edge roof that imitates the look of English thatch.

This 1925 Dolph Park Storybook home features a jaw-dropping rolled-edge roof that imitates the look of English thatch. (Photo: Courtesy of Jack Bookwalter)

Alameda Ridge/Dolph Park

Alameda and Grant Park are adjacent neighborhoods with similar early roots in the 1910s. However, each of these areas contains a smaller district with a stellar collection of large, romantic Historic Revival-style houses built in the 1920s and ’30s. Alameda Ridge is the mini-West Hills of the Eastside, where fine (and expensive) homes meander along a prominent crest that offers stunning views over the city.

Within Grant Park, Dolph Park is like a trip to Disneyland for grown-ups, a tidy grid of remarkable Storybook “cottages” on immaculate lawns. Between the two, you’ll find some of Portland’s most substantial and imaginative Old English manses, Norman castles, and Mediterranean villas, sporting wrought iron balconies, stuccoed half-timber facades, faux-thatch rolled roofs, and massive chimneys of river rock and clinker brick.

Want to know more about your old home?  We partner with historians and bring you deeper information about your home and your community.  Visit us at www.RealEstatePDX.com


How to Sell Your Home in a Seller’s Market

by Harlan Mayer,  Portland Real Estate Agent and Principal Broker with Meadows Group Realtors

Selling your home in a strong seller’s market can be a very satisfying feeling.  You potentially have a product that a lot of people want and have an opportunity to make a healthy profit.

As a real estate listing expert, I’ve put together some important points to consider:

  • Before you list the property on the MLS make sure your agent conducts market research

Multiple Offers Are Back in Force in the Portland Market

Multiple Offers are Driving the Portland Market in the First Quarter of 2017

By Harlan Mayer,  Principal Broker in Portland, OR with Meadows Group Realtors

The market is crazy right now.  I have buyers calling me within hours of a property being listed and then by the time we view it there’s already multiple offers submitted.  I have even been recommending people write on property sight unseen just so they have an opportunity to purchase.  The only difference I can see between this feeding frenzy and the one that caused the real estate bubble in 2006 is that people are now more highly qualified to purchase.

The combination of low inventory, continuing low interest rates and Portland’s increasing popularity have created a perfect storm this quarter.  It’s a very interesting market – there’s something in it for everyone.  It’s obvious we’ve reached the bottom of the pricing drop – prices are now on the rise.

For Sellers:  It’s a seller’s market!  Listing your property now for the right price will sell it quickly.  As always, we recommend holding onto property for the long-term if it makes sense for you to do so – however, if selling now is ideal for your situation, the combination of low inventory and low rates is bringing sellers better prices and more solid offers.  The great thing about multiple offers is that it becomes easy to put a back-up offer in place, which allows for insurance in two ways.  Obviously there’s a contract in place immediately if the first position buyer walks, but the back-up also makes the first offer stronger – and gives the seller more ability to negotiate during the inspection period.  A quality real estate agent will help distinguish the terms that are best for you and your situation.  With investors out in force we are seeing a LOT of cash offers.  Cash is king and it can be difficult to compete with if the other buyers are financing.  Accepting a cash offer does away with the appraisal contingency – which, depending on the price point and condition of the home, can be very appealing.

Other terms that can be used for the sellers’ advantage are the timelines for earnest money and inspection periods.  On one transaction recently, one of the buyers making an offer on the property I was representing brought theirs immediately to first position by removing the inspection contingency and accepting the property in AS-IS condition.  That buyer can still walk away, but not with his earnest money, which which we had released to the seller immediately.  My seller liked that.

For Buyers:  Being first in line into a property is always a good idea.  The tools that I as a Portland real estate agent purchase for my buyers alert them immediately when a property comes on the market.  Our website, www.RealEstatePDX.com provides search tools with an hourly update of properties – but also allows these all important alerts.  In this type of market, the listings have to come to you.  If a buyer waits until they get home from work, or until the weekend, they may miss that house they’ve been waiting for.  A buyer should immediately do a drive-by as their first opportunity and then call their agent to see the interior as soon as possible.  There are rare occasions where you may want to write an offer before you see the inside, subject to interior inspection.  The state of Oregon allows a buyer to walk away from for the first 5 days after the contract is in place, so there is very little liability for the Buyer here.  On the other hand, once an offer is accepted, the Seller will be locked into the sale under the initial terms of the agreement.

It has become a fast moving market – but as we always recommend with large financial decisions – surround yourself with people who know more about that kind of money than you do.  A team approach to real estate purchase and sale is the best way to protect your interests and make sure you’re making a sound financial decision.

Contact Harlan Mayer, Portland Real Estate Agent and Principal Broker with Re/Max equity group and his team at www.RealEstatePDX.com.  In addition to buying and selling, Harlan teaches real estate at Portland State University.


Tips When Selling Your Home

Simple Tips for Better Home Showings

1. Remove clutter and clear off counters. Throw out stacks of newspapers and magazines and stow away most of your small decorative items. Put excess furniture in storage, and remove out-of-season clothing items that are cramping closet space. Don’t forget to clean out the garage, too.