Peek Into Irvington

Those of you in the Portland, Oregon area need to make a quick phone call after you read this article because tickets are about to sell out for the always enjoyable Irvington Home Tour coming up on May 17th. Find out more below!

The Irvington Home Tour is the longest continuously running neighborhood home tour in Portland. In fact, the very first Irvington Home Tour, conducted in 1967, was the first such tour in the city. The tour was scheduled intermittently until 1983, when the popular program became a permanent part of the Irvington Community Association’s annual calendar.

The Tour has its genesis in the dark days of the mid-1960s. The middle-class flight to the suburbs had drained population and resources away from the neighborhood and by the early years of the 1960s, many of the fine homes had been turned into rooming houses. Some of the larger ones had been abandoned altogether. Compounding the problem, the part of Irvington west of NE 15th Avenue was “red lined” by the racist managements of local banks, making it difficult for residents to obtain loans for restoration or purchase of the houses there.

In those years, apartment developers began to demolish the homes between Tillamook and Broadway, replacing them with uninteresting (and some would say ugly), apartment buildings, whose principal architectural feature was a large parking area. By 1964, a few neighborhood residents took the lead to organize the community to fight the blight. The Irvington Community Association (ICA) was formed that year, the first such organization in Portland.

In 1967, one of the activities organized by the ICA was a home tour of 20 neighborhood residences. The idea was to inform the larger community of the historic homes still very much intact in the neighborhood, to provide an activity that would help neighbors get acquainted, and to raise money for community projects. Those goals have remained the focus of the tour ever since. In the ensuing years, the tour was held sporadically, as interest and available volunteers permitted.

By the early 1980s, the germ of an urban renaissance had begun to spring up and the Irvington Home Tour was made a regular annual activity. The Tour provided a stimulus to rehabilitation and recognition for the home owners who were making major investments in cash and “sweat equity” to restore their properties. The Tour began to grow in attendance as citywide interest in Irvington increased in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1991 the attendance had grown, and revenues from the event had grown beyond the few hundred dollars that was typical of earlier years. In response, the ICA created its Charitable Giving Program and developed guidelines for distributing the proceeds of the Tour to worthy charities that have a connection to the Irvington neighborhood.

Today, as Irvington has resumed its status as one of the premier neighborhoods of Portland, the Tour continues its role of bringing neighbors together and raising money for community projects. Where once sales of a few hundred tickets were considered a success, now sales are capped at 1,000 and most years tickets sell out in advance. So, with that in mind, visit and purchase your tickets today!

Photos courtesy of Jim Heuer.