Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hawthorne Milestone P2 (?!)

Hawthorne Milestone P2

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I don't get a lot of reader suggestions here at this humble blog. And when I do, I don't always follow up on them in anything resembling a timely manner, if I get around to them at all. But just yesterday morning, a keen-eyed Gentle Reader pointed out a possible milestone sighting that I just had to check out:

To go back to the milepost saga, I was on a walk last night and noticed a milepost-looking stone embedded in the parking strip on SE 23rd, just south of Hawthorne behind Grand Central Bakery. Looks like the top of it might be broken off. I wonder if it's one of the missing stones, relocated? Haven't had a chance to investigate further, though

That sounded intriguing, and I had a spare hour to burn, so despite the awful weather I set out for the corner of 23rd & Hawthorne. There I found the stubby, off-kilter, moss-encrusted stone you see here.

Hawthorne Milestone P2

As a sign of my very, uh, selective powers of observation, I've been to the adjacent Grand Central Baking a couple of times in the last month or so, and I'm certain I walked right past the stone here without noticing it. This was after the recent milestone project, and I think I was even chatting to someone about said project on a recent stop here. But I wasn't looking for milestones at the time, so the thing just didn't register.

Now, in my defense, everyone knows the milestones are on Stark St., some blocks north of here, and not on Hawthorne. Also, the stone here looks similar but not quite identical to the the Stark St. stones. And it's not like it has a big neon sign attached. Although sometimes I wonder whether I'd miss that as well, if I wasn't specifically looking for neon signs.

Hawthorne Milestone P2

In any case, I'm not entirely sure what we're looking at here. It was pouring rain on me at the time, so I didn't go over it as meticulously as I could have looking for any signs of writing. There are marks here and there that look deliberately chiseled, but I couldn't really tell if they're supposed to say anything or not. Maybe it would help to peel some of the moss off of it, but I'm not sure you're supposed to do that if it's a protected historical object, which it may or may not be.

I see 3 basic possibilities here:
  1. It's something else entirely, and merely bears a striking resemblance to a milestone. Possibly a bit of historical research would dig up what sort of structures have been here over the years. I do know that across the street, where the outdoor produce market currently stands, there was a gas station at one time. And before the real estate bubble burst, there was a monstrous 50 unit upscale condo project slated for the site. On this side of the street, I dunno. It's been a Grand Central as long as I can remember. Which, I'll have you know, is really not that long at all, historically speaking. Maybe we're seeing the base of a column of a long-lost building, or the base of an old lamppost, or the only remaining piece of Hawthorne Stonehenge, or who knows what.
  2. As suggested above, it's a rescued milestone from elsewhere, either Stark St., Capitol Highway, St. Helens Road, or somewhere else entirely. If there was a readable inscription on the stone, that could help prove this hypothesis. But it would raise another question: Why here? It's in an obscure spot down a narrow side street, at the back of a commercial building, without any sign or marker explaining what it is. The crazy tilt of the stone seems to argue against the rescue theory. It just really looks like it's been at this spot, unmaintained, for a very long time. It also looks wider than the Stark St. stones, and seems to be more trapezoidal than square, so if it's a refugee, my guess is that it's from somewhere other than Stark.
  3. Which leads me to an even more intriguing possibility: What if this is a survivor, perhaps the sole survivor, of a series of Hawthorne milestones parallel to those on Stark? The key argument in favor here is the location. It seems like an obscure and nondescript little place, but 23rd Avenue places it exactly due south of Stark St. Milestone P2. P2, as you might recall, is in the 2300 block of Stark, embedded in the north wall of the Lone Fir Cemetery, and it signifies being two miles from a point in downtown Portland somewhere near the Galleria MAX stop. If this is a 2-mile marker, technically it would be two miles from a different "P0" point parallel to and south of the original. My rough guesstimate would place this point somewhere in the area of Keller Fountain, more or less. I could be wrong.

    In any case, for now and for lack of a better name I'm going to refer to the rock here as "Hawthorne Milestone P2", since it does actually mark distance, whether that was the original intent behind it or not.
Hawthorne Milestone P2 So, assuming we've got one milestone on Hawthorne due south of one on Stark, the obvious question is are there any others out there? I haven't gone searching in person (so far), but based on a little poking around in Google Street View I don't think there are.
  • P1 would be around MLK & Hawthorne, but Hawthorne is still on the bridge viaduct at that point. So it would either be on the Hawthorne Bridge, or under it, or stuck somewhere in the freeway-style interchange with MLK.

  • P2 is what you see here.

  • P3 would be around 42nd & Hawthorne, but I don't see any sign of it. It's a shame. There's an antique store next door where I bought an old camera a while back. It would seem sort of fitting to put a roll of film in it and take some pics of the milestone nearby, if it existed.

  • P4 would be at about 61st & Hawthorne, which is to say it would be at the bottom of Reservoir #6 at Mt. Tabor. Hawthorne has sort of petered out at this point, although it picks up on the other side of Mt. Tabor.

  • P5 would be around 78th & Hawthorne, but it's not there either. Although Hawthorne continues again east of Mt. Tabor, it's just a quiet residential street at this point, and unlike Stark it only continues in fits and starts.

  • P6 would be at 98th & Hawthorne, if that intersection existed, but it doesn't. Instead, the P6 point is somewhere on the campus of Portland Adventist Academy, just east of I-205.

  • P7, 117th & Hawthorne: The intersection exists, with another stretch of Hawthorne ending at 117th. It's a little residential street here, again with no sign of any milestones.

  • P8, 138th & Hawthorne: No Hawthorne here, where "here" is just east of David Douglas High School.

  • P9, 158th & Hawthorne: There's a short one block stretch of SE Hawthorne Ct. here, but no stones in sight.

  • P10, 178th & Hawthorne: No Hawthorne here. The P10 point would be in the Greater Portland Christian Academy parking lot.

  • P11, 197th & Hawthorne: Again, no Hawthorne. It's an industrial area next to a huge quarry pit. The closest street is 199th, also called 11 Mile Ave.

  • P12 & P13 would be in the middle of Gresham suburbia. The Portland street grid basically doesn't exist at this point, and I haven't bothered taking a straightedge to a map to figure out exactly where these two would be. If there's no Hawthorne, there are almost certainly no milestones, in any event.

  • P14 would be around the SW corner of the MHCC campus, where the Stark P14 is at the NW corner.

  • P15 would probably be on Stark, actually. After its own (missing) P15, Stark departs from the street grid and winds down the hill to the Stark St. Bridge over the Sandy River. In the process, it intersects where Hawthorne would be if it existed at this point. Except that Hawthorne would need to drop straight down a steep bluff to get here.

Hawthorne Milestone P2 So, if there was a series of Hawthorne milestones, my guess is that they didn't extend past Mt. Tabor, and this is the only surviving one. I'd say there's an off chance there was a P5 too, but it's not there now either. It's a shame. If there was at least one more, it would nail the case for milestones on Hawthorne. As it is, I could be making all this fuss over absolutely nothing. Although it's still a very old rock, and it would be interesting to learn what it is and how it got here, regardless. Hawthorne Milestone P2 Hawthorne Milestone P2

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