Researching House History- Part 4

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 we determined when our example house was built and by whom, found historical maps and photos documenting its original configuration, and identified some of the prior occupants.

Now we'll try to learn a little bit about the builder and those prior occupants.

Start with the builder.

The builder of our example house was the "Provident Investment & Trust Co". Searching newspapers turns up many references to this company around that time, such as this May 28, 1911 ad. The company was engaged in building houses and selling them on installment all over the eastside neighborhoods of Portland and in neighboring cities.

Provident Inv. & Tr. Co. went into the new neighborhood of Laurelhurst in a big way. A February 16, 1913 Oregonian article says the company had purchased about 100 lots in Laurelhurst, and "One entire block of fine dwellings at East Thirty-third and East Glisan streets, in Laurelhurst, was completed by the company about a year ago". That is Block 74 which includes our example house, built 1911.

Provident was also building and selling houses elsewhere in Laurelhurst. A September 29, 1912 Oregonian article reported "The Provident Trust Company is just finishing a new home for John J Valentine, near the corner of East Glisan and Thirty-ninth streets, Laurelhurst”.

By early 1913, reported the Oregonian, Provident was preparing to build another 25 homes in our neighborhood.

The 1914 Realty Atlas shows that, a year later, many dozens of lots in Laurelhurst were still owned by the company, including much of Block 74 where our example house is located.

Hmm. In 1914, why was Provident still owning the houses on Block 74 that it had built 2 and 3 years earlier?

This advertisement, which ran in the Oregonian on November 26, 29 and 30, 1911, December 5, 16 and 23, 1911, and January 15, 1912, may give a clue. The date is about the time our example house was completed, and the description - corner lot, east front, number of rooms, sleeping porch, two fireplaces, built-in wardrobes - matches the house exactly, and in 1911 our example house would have had a fine view of Laurelhurst. Was this the ad for our house? Very possibly. Now look at the price: $7,500. This was a high price for a Laurelhurst house, at a time when house prices in the new neighborhood were averaging a little over $5,000.

For whatever reason, history records that the Provident Investment & Trust Co. transferred many dozens of lots, including many in Laurelhurst, to Charles K. Henry in June 1914, and to the Title & Trust Co. in May 1914. On September 27, 1914, Mr. Henry auctioned off the Laurelhurst lots he had acquired from "a certain Trust Company".

By 1914, the Portland real estate market had started into a slump, which we can see from the changing tone of classified real estate ads around then - from exuberant to anxious. World War One began, by 1917 American "Doughboys" were dying in the trenches, and Portland real estate ads were sounding increasingly desperate. Houses in Laurelhurst were being offered for less than they had cost to build just a few years ago, an unbuilt lot in Laurelhurst was offered for just $250. Automobiles were being accepted as part payment on houses, and the dread word "foreclosure" begins to appear in Laurelhurst ads. House building activity dropped off to almost nothing by 1918.

A few years later, the glum of the 'teens and the darkness of the war gave way to ebullience of the 1920s Boom, and Laurelhurst real estate was booming again. But the Provident Investment & Trust Co. was not to be part of it.

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