Portland’s Breakside Brewery, one of Portland, Oregon’s brewery success stories by any measure, has announced that they will be opening a third location in 2016, to be located in the northwest Portland “Slabtown” district. Let’s get straight to the snippet from the press release:
Breakside Brewery, the Oregon-based award winning craft brewery, announces that it has secured a 5,000 square foot space for a new brewpub in the historic Slabtown district in Northwest Portland. Breakside has targeted early summer 2016 to open its newest location on the corner of NW 22nd and Raleigh next to the recently opened New Seasons Marketplace. Local design-build firm Green Gables has partnered with Breakside to create the new space.
Breakside’s new brewpub will create an estimated 75 new jobs and will include an outdoor patio and mezzanine with flexible meeting and entertaining space.
I write “success story” and it really is: they started out as a three-barrel brewpub located in northeast Portland in 2010, turning out a surprisingly wide variety and quantity of interesting beers on that tiny basement system, and in 2013 opened a 30-barrel production brewery in nearby Milwaukie and continued to brew at the same frenetic pace. They’ve won multiple awards in a number of competitions and a large number of accolades in other areas and media. And it’s not just for the stunt beers and weird, attention-grabbing brews (though they crank out their share of those); they have excellent standards like their Pilsner and IPA. (You can read my review from 2012 here.)
For all that, the key point of this story for me that made me wonder is—where or what in Portland is the “Slabtown district”?
Google to the rescue: this Portland neighborhoods website tells me:
Flanked by the West Hills and squeezed in between the Alphabet, Industrial and Pearl districts, historic Slabtown was once home to Portland’s immigrant, blue collar and logging communities. These days, it’s anchored by the Legacy Good Samaritan hospital, Wallace Park, a Multnomah County Library branch, and thriving brewpubs, bakeries and holistic healing centers.
And Arcadia Publishing has a book about Portland’s Slabtown:
In Portland’s first decades, the northwest side remained dense forests. Native Americans camped and Chinese immigrants farmed around Guild’s Lake. In the 1870s, Slabtown acquired its unusual name when a lumber mill opened on Northrup Street. The mill’s discarded log edges were a cheap source of heating and cooking fuel. This slabwood was stacked in front of working-class homes of employees of a pottery, the docks, icehouses, slaughterhouses, and lumber mills. Development concentrated along streetcar lines. The early 20th century brought the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, manufacturing, shipbuilding, Montgomery Ward, and the Vaughn Street Ballpark. Today, Slabtown is a densely populated residential neighborhood, with many small shops and restaurants and an industrial area on its northern border. Tourists still arrive by streetcar to the charming Thurman, NW Twenty-first, and Twenty-third Avenues.
However the Portland crime blog “Slabtown Chronicles” tells a different origin of the name:
The nickname Slabtown was first used in the 1880s for the “tenderloin” district just behind the Port of Portland in what is now called Oldtown and stretching westward from the river to today’s Pearl District. This was an area of Sailor’s boardinghouses, saloons and brothels. In fact there was a solid block known as Whitechapel (from NW Couch to Davis between NW 3rd and 4th Aves) made up of tiny prostitute cribs, little stalls just big enough for a bed where women lived and worked. Erickson’s Saloon, with the longest bar in the west, was in this area.
Relevant to Breakside’s news? Not really. But the history fascinates me, and a Google Maps search shows me that McMenamins Tavern & Pool, the Lompoc Tavern, and the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall are all nearby, so it definitely will be in good company.