Some people are bird watchers, some people are people watchers, some are television watchers. I am a building watcher. As I go about my day, I check out the buildings around me. Residential, commercial, new, old, it doesn’t matter. I’m interested to see them, notice tiny details I never saw before, and see how they change.

I’m always amazed how quickly the buildings of downtown change. I’ve only lived here since 2001, but things have morphed even in seven years. As I live among them, these buildings become mine, even if I never set foot in them. I lived in downtown Portland from June 2002 to August 2005 and as I went about my commute, to work, to the store, to various buses that would take me elsewhere in the city, on bike, jogging, by myself and with others, I noticed what was going on around me with my buildings until I owned large segments of the city for example:

This is the corner of SW Madison & SW Broadway where picture was taken. It is the North street of the bus mall which is currently being reconstructed to have a Max train, cars, bicycles and buses. As mentioned before, I think this will be a disaster and liked the bus mall idea much better.

The building to the left in the above picture (in shadow) is the Ambassador apartments, where I imagine the nice old ladies have afternoon tea and where I dream of living when I am an old lady.

The building to the right is the Gus J. Solomon courthouse. Here I had a job interview in 2004 with the Classroom Law Project. I didn’t get the job because they “thought I should be a teacher” as they told me in my rejection letter. It was one of the most annoying rejection letters ever. Not only did I not get a job that I was interested in, they needed to discount my choice to not pursue teaching at that time. The Post Office moved here (again) in 2003 after the other downtown location in Pioneer Courthouse was unjustly closed so the judges could have parking spaces. I haven’t been to this location lately, but for the first year or two it was one dead branch. The lone counter employee would often be reading a book when I walked in, though she was happy to help me. I liked her hair, which was long and red and braided into a crown around her head.

Stepping forward one block, building on left are apartments. I used to live a block away from them. Sadly, my beautiful building, the Rosefriend Apartments, was torn down by the First Christian Church to make way for luxury condominiums. After the condo market went sour, they reduced the ceiling height of each floor to add a few more stories, and are currently building “luxury apartments”–one of my favorite oxymorons. The First Christian Church chose to tear down the Rosefriends and build a huge building so they could have more parking spaces. In doing so they eliminated affordable housing with high ceilings, huge kitchens and a building with history and character.

From my old apartment I could see people in these apartments when they wandered out on their balcony. This didn’t really happen that often. I don’t know if I didn’t spend too much time looking out the window, or if those little tiny balconies don’t lend themselves to hanging out on. In the ground floor of that building is the Oregon history museum gift shop. It will move around the corner soon. On the side of the apartments facing the Park Blocks there is a trompe l’il mural of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

The building on the right is the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. (PCPA.) It’s that little sliver of orange brick that looks like it has a tower on top of it (it doesn’t–more on that, below.) Matt and I volunteered as ushers one year and saw a lot of good shows. We even ushered a show during an ice storm when the streets were encased in ice. There were a few people who made their way to the theater, but it was a pretty quiet production. Afterwards, we walked the two blocks home gingerly, careful not to slip on the ice.

Behind the PCPA is the tower that doesn’t match of the First Congregational Church. When the church was built, it was built in the Richardson Romanesque style a la the church in Boston’s Copley Square. That church is another building that became mine when I lived in Boston. The story goes that when it was finished the congregation didn’t like the darkness and heavy stone of the style and eventually built a soaring bell tower in a style they would have preferred. It doesn’t match at all, but the church has embraced it, calling themselves “The church tower church or whatever” Recently, I sat all the way in the back and heard Lois Lowry–herself a resident of Boston–speak there.

This part I didn’t get around to fleshing out. (says the 2013 me, who has just discovered this unpublished post)
Art museum, used to cut through the sculpture garden pathway on the way to church.
Shiny gray building on the left in the back is the Eliot tower. Named after 1UU minster, was the safeway and cut through the parking lot on the way to church.
Next door to Eliot Tower and unseen in this small picture is the Y where I was a member until sleep problems. Home of Nicole, fabulous yoga teacher.

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