Saturday, August 23, 2014

Laurelhurst Gates

Our next adventure takes us to the edge of the Laurelhurst neighborhood, the frontiers of which are guarded by seven stone gates. Laurelhurst was created as an extra-swanky subdivision back in the early 20th Century. To keep it that way, the neighborhood came with a very restrictive set of covenants. One rule prohibited businesses within the area, as well as all residential uses other than single-family detached houses, and houses could not be sold for less than $3000, which was a lot of money back then. Another rule, the most notorious of the set, banned minorities from owning property anywhere within Laurelhurst. I'm not sure whether the rules also banned Jews, Catholics and freethinkers; some covenants of the time did and others didn't.

In any case the developers also put up fancy sandstone gates along major roads as they entered the subdivision. They were even lighted at one point, although the lighting system hasn't worked for decades now. Calling them gates is maybe overstating the case a bit; they look kind of gate-like but only extend over the sidewalk, and they don't provide a way to block the sidewalk, much less the street as a whole, and there's nowhere for armed guards to sit and demand ID from everyone trying to enter. So they're at best a larval form of the modern gated community. The neighborhood association now prefers to call them "Laurelhurst Arches", and certainly they sound less exclusionary that way.

There were originally eight gates, but one at NE Peerless Pl. & Sandy Blvd. was demolished at some point. A Plaid Pantry convenience store now stands where it once was, though the neighborhood association states a long term goal of replacing the lost gate, as well as restoring the lighting someday. This post has photos of two of the seven survivors, namely the pair at 32nd & Burnside, but a post at History Treasured & Sometimes Endangered includes photos of all the gates, including a few from 1910 when they still fronted an area of empty lots.

As far as I can tell (by which I mean "I searched the net and various databases"), the identity of whoever designed the gates is lost to history. If it had been a prominent architect or sculptor of the day, Laurelhurst real estate ads (which featured the gates prominently) undoubtedly would have mentioned it as a selling point.

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