Duck Duck Book


29 – burnside a community
01.18.2006, 12:01 am
Filed under: history & geography

Burnside, a community : a photographic history of Portland’s skid row / [compiled] by Kathleen Ryan ; text by Mark Beach.
Portland, Or. : Coast to Coast Books, c1979.
[MCL call number: 979.549 B967; one copy, no holds; one copy reference only at Central Library]

Like many central city districts, the neighborhood north of West Burnside and close to downtown Portland has seen a lot of change in its history. It has had many names — The North End, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Skid Row, Old Town — sheltered many communities, and served many roles in the life of the city. Burnside, a Community is a photographic record of the neighborhood during the late 1970s, with attention to the people who lived and worked there, and their view of the district’s history.

The photographs were originally part of a public exhibition, and their arrangement in the book feels a bit haphazard. The first few pages show historic photographs from the 19th and early twentieth centuries, and reproductions of old maps of the neighborhood. Most of the rest of the book is filled with contemporary (c. 1979) photographs of people, businesses, residences, and street scenes.

Restaurateurs and small businesspeople, people living with homelessness, sex workers, missionaries, the cop on the beat, families, the public craft market, and outdoor tableaux of all kinds are depicted. Each photograph has a brief, folksy caption, and some subjects are treated detail — for example, the section illustrating the Japanese and Japanese-American community includes contemporary and historic photographs and a map (page 25) showing the businesses, institutions, and residences of the Burnside-area Japanese community before it was decimated by forced internment of Oregonians of Japanese descent in 1942.

Burnside, a Community has a very 1970s feel to it, which kind of adds to its historical appeal, now that several decades have passed.

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