Friday, August 29, 2014

NE 17th & Thompson

A few blocks west of our last semi-adventure (the mini-roundabout at NE 24th & Thompson) is another spot on the obscure municipal list of obscure places I've slowly been exploring. This one is a sort of landscaped traffic barrier, turning NE 17th into a cul-de-sac on the south side of Thompson St, keeping cars from busy NE Broadway from blundering onto the Irvington neighborhood's genteel streets. There are a few other traffic control widgets of various types in the area, and they're remarkably effective without really seeming to be. While walking along Thompson St. it occurred to me that I'd never actually been through this part of Irvington before. I'd been along Broadway more times than I can count, but while driving around in the area I always seemed to end up going around the residential part of Irvington rather than through it, even when straight through would be the most direct route. It wasn't until I walked through looking for places on this list that I realized all this detouring was intentional on the city's part. Obviously someone at City Hall is smarter than they look.

So the deal here is that Irvington is known to be an upscale sort of neighborhood, but you may not realize just how upscale and old-money-ish parts of it are if you haven't wandered through. It even has its own historic private tennis/social club. I'm fairly sure that, not not long ago, I saw a map someone had created showing Portland city commissioners' residences over many decades; it may have been back to the early 1900s when the city adopted the current, sometimes controversial commission-style city government, with all commissioners elected at large and thus free to live anywhere in town. It was not an even distribution, or a random one, to put it mildly. Irvington was one of several clusters, as I recall. Maybe it's a more voter-friendly address than living somewhere high in the West Hills, off the normal street grid, apart from the peasants. Or maybe it's the other way around, and living in the middle of the city prompts people to get involved whereas living in the West Hills doesn't. Beats me. Unfortunately I've looked but haven't been able to find this map again. I'm not just imagining I saw it, am I? Feel free to leave a comment if you know the one I'm talking about and have a link to it.

Anyway, for some reason in addition to the trees and flowers there's a big wood carving of an eagle head here, and it looks like it's been here for a long time. I didn't see a sign or a signature, and I don't know who created it or why it's here, and the internet isn't helping with clues. If I knew those things, the eagle head would get its own separate blog post, because them's the rules.

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