Today Portland welcomes a new neighborhood, it’s sixth. In a city divided east and west by the Willamette River, it’s been easy to orient yourself with address designations based on the compass. But ever since our smartphones have been finding our way around for us, there has been one part of town that caused a problem. And not just for your GrubHub and Amazon deliveries – for police and fire as well.
Because of the turn in the river, a certain amount of SW Portland addresses east of Naito Parkway used a leading zero in their addresses. (for example 02484 SW Military Rd.) I have to admit, I have sold homes with addresses including the leading zero and considered it optional, when in fact it served a purpose: to compensate for properties west of the river but geographically east of the dividing line. Sounds like a work-around right? Well now it’s been fixed.
Enter the new S. address designation, which becomes effective May 1st. Mostly affecting the area of South Portland Neighborhood Association, but also Riverdale, Collins View and Riverplace downtown, the city has been working on the change since 2018. The last time Portland had a major re-addressing was in the 1930’s, when the five geographic divisions, N, NE, SE, NW and SW were established, along with the system of 100 numbers to each block. It also placed the geographic designation (i.e. NW, SE) in front of the street name rather that at the end like in Seattle and some other cities. The postmaster at the time, J.M. Jones, thought that if they came at the end, too many people simply left them off. You can find more information about the history of street names in the book “Portland Names And Neighborhoods” by Eugene Snyder.
It’s a system that allows even a stranger to locate addresses easily since it first places you in a general geographic area of the city. But even better it can narrow down to the exact block. For example, if you were looking for the address 805 NW Glisan St., you know it will be in the 8th block west of the Willamette River (you also know it’s between the streets beginning with an ‘F’ and a ‘H’ because streets in that neighborhood are alphabetic, but that’s a topic for another story). Of course, our smart phones and the 911 system want to be even more precise. So welcome to our new neighborhood: South! You can find details from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) here.
I love this town.