Graceful arched windows in the western face of the Hazelwood building have captivated Portlanders for nearly a century.
Moving through the gateway to North Portland from Downtown, it takes an act of will to focus on the road, resisting daydreams about all that might have transpired inside. The iconic Hazelwood building was built by Portland architect A.E. Doyle in 1923, the triangular building just touching the new garage that sat at the southern edge of the lot.
The Hazelwood first housed a fashionable restaurant with a bakery, creamery and confectionary above. Ten years into the life of the building, a beer parlor emerged where the restaurant had been. There were scattered years of vacancy though this early history, interspersed with occupancy by the Home Owners Improvement Co., Century Metalcraft Corporation, and St. John’s Welder Supplies. In 1945, Portland’s premier jazz club, the Dude Ranch defined a neighborhood and an era from its home at 240 N Broadway. In his book Jumptown, Robert Dietsche writes,
“There never was and there never will be anything quite like the Dude Ranch. It was the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theater, Las Vegas, and the Wild West rolled into one. It was the shooting star in the history of Portland jazz, a meteor bursting with an array of the best Black and Tan entertainment this town has ever seen.”
Soon after the Dude Ranch closed, Mutual Wholesale Drug Co. bought the two existing buildings. In 1949 they built a 3rd structure in the ‘L’ made by the other 2, and opened connections between them. This unified the building, creating the footprint we know today. After their tenure of about 25 years, Mutual Drug left and MultiCraft Plastics moved in.
MultiCraft’s occupancy brings the building’s story into the memory of most Portlanders. Following a few years of vacancy when MultiCraft moved, a young developer was drawn to the building. While years of deferred maintenance and a neighborhood sliced up by freeway ramps presented obvious challenges, the building’s rich history as a center of industry and culture, and its location at this energetic hub were calling. With the promise of healing a once vibrant place he drew in a handful of visionaries, and together they conceived of the Leftbank Project.
Today, the gathering Leftbank community writes the next chapter.