So one of our Ass Kicking Friends posed a question on The Facebook Machine… and Melissa The Intern Investigated! Heather asked…
What did Melissa The Intern discover? Well read away, Dear Ass Kicker…
Hi Heather! I am pleased to tell you that I have solved the mystery of the apartment complex on SE Hawthorne Blvd and SE 50th Avenue here in Portland. In addition, I would like to tell you and the other Ass Kickers a little bit about the asylum that was located on Mt. Tabor from 1905 to 1910. The building that became the sanitarium atop the hill was originally known as the “Massachusetts Building” and was part of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition of 1905. The famed piece of architectural study was touted as a “truly colonial” replica of the State House on Beacon Hill of Boston. In 1905, the building was dismantled piece by piece, transported to Mt. Tabor for reconstruction and renamed the “Crystal Springs Sanitarium” by physician and sanitarium entrepreneur, Henry Waldo Coe.
The Massachusetts Building was originally erected in 1905 in Northwest Portland and was deconstructed and rebuilt on Mt. Tabor later that same year.
Coe moved to Portland in 1890 and began building a series of sanitariums. You might recollect Coe’s name from the statues that he had erected around town — the Theodore Roosevelt statue on the Park Blocks (Coe was a lifelong friend of the President) and the Joan of Arc statue in Laurelhurst (though there is no evidence Coe ever knew Arc personally, Arc has been known to carry on supernatural relationships).
Interior of the Massachusetts building which was touted as a “truly colonial” replica from the only New England state represented in the Exposition.
Coe and his sanitariums are an interesting chapter in Portland’s history and deserve a post and perhaps a podcast of their own. But for now, we’ll just list Coe’s sanitariums which included, “Dr. Coe’s Nervous Sanitarium” (run out of his home), the “Mt. Tabor Nervous Sanitarium”, “Mindease”, “Crystal Springs Nervous Sanitarium”, and lastly, “Morningside Asylum” which perhaps should be famous for housing the mentally ill, homosexuals and prostitutes shipped down from Alaska from 1905-1962. Morningside Asylum, which moved to a location bounded by SE Stark Street and SE Main Street between SE 96th and SE 102nd Avenues in 1910, and closed its doors in 1968, and was subsequently demolished to become the site for Mall 205.
Now for your other question, “I’m curious about the Mt. Tabor Apartments (on 50th/Hawthorne) too, which are rumored to have been an insane asylum at one time.”
The Mt. Tabor Apartments were originally addressed 1395 Hawthorne Blvd later changed to 4929 SE Hawthorne Blvd which made for a bit of confusion when trying to research the building’s records. Building records can be researched by address all the way back to 1930 by checking the Portland City Directories, yet it takes a bit more investigation on trying to trace the records of a particular site earlier than that year. Thankfully, I had amazing help from the lovely ladies at the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library (free to Multnomah County residents). I discovered that the structure was in fact erected as an apartment building and has remained so since its construction (though that’s not to say that it never housed the “nervous” or the “friendless” or, as in the case of a lady named Nancy, housed in the Oregon State hospital for “acute mania caused by masturbation”)*. And, it is important to note that a variety of sanitariums did exist in that area, such as the “Hawthorne Avenue Sanitarium” on SE Hawthorne, the “Frazer Detention Home of the Juvenile Court” on NE 52nd Avenue and Hassalo Street, and the “Portland Sanitarium” at Belmont Street and SE 60th Avenue.
Heather, thanks so much for inquiry! It was fun to dig through the records to solve the mystery of 4929 SE Hawthorne!
Let us know at Kick Ass Oregon History whether you have any more questions and we’ll get on the case!!
Melissa the Intern.
Have a question of an Oregon Historical Nature you are just dying to know the answer to? Well hit us up with that shit! FB, Twitter, oregonhistorian[at]gmail[dot]com, mail us a letter, carrier pigeon or smoke signal. Melissa The Intern will be on the case!!
*An affliction the Resident Historian has sought treatment for as well…