TheGrayBuilding

The Gray Building

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Gray building in 1929 (courtesy City of Portland Archives and Records Center)

x_The History of PDX AA p46

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Gray Building in 1980 (courtesy Thomas Robinson)

Gray-BldgCurrent-edited_Cropped

Gray Building 2014

Design Rendering

Rendering of restored Gray Building

Statistics

  • Built: c.1900
  • Builder: Peter Yost
  • Designation: Undesignated

News and Updates

2016

Conversations between the property owner and a Restore Oregon board member regarding the future of the property are ongoing

Summer 2015

Discussions are in progress that are expected to produce a development model for the site that retains the Gray Building and honors its history

November 5, 2014

Listed by Restore Oregon as one of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places

October 9, 2014

Development Wraps Black History and Career Education into Preservation Project

History

Built at the turn of the last century, this modest false-front building is a significant reminder of Oregon’s role in the national Black History story, exemplifying a century of cultural and civil rights struggles in inner North and Northeast Portland. As early as 1906 an African American family, Henry and Katherine Gray, occupied the building. Mrs. Gray was a founding member of African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and founder of the Harriet Tubman Club. Katherine Gray served as Vice President and her daughter, Edith Gray, served as secretary for the Colored Women’s Council.

In the 1960s the building was the location of Black Panther riots and other local interactions with the national civil rights movement. The nationally-known 1981 Opossum Incident, a racially charged conflict with Portland Police and elected leaders, led to marches, protests, and eventual firing of officers who unlawfully and symbolically left animal remains on the steps of a Black business. Despite its exterior alterations, the building’s association with Portland history makes it significant.

Why it’s Endangered

A series of restaurants operated at this location until November of 2013. Since that time the deteriorated building has been boarded and scheduled for demolition. Located within the Interstate Urban Renewal District, the building and its adjacent surface lot represent a development opportunity for the building’s long-time owner. However, recent plans to demolish the structure and replace it with a multi-story commercial building raised enough community awareness that it resulted in a temporary delay in development. While preservation options are being explored, the building is still very much at risk of being demolished unless an adequate plan is developed.

Near-term Goals

A successful save would be the restoration and active use of the structure. Current plans include reusing the building as an accessible community hub and public archive for World Arts Foundation, Inc. Construction of a “Soul Food PDX” food cart pod on the adjacent lot would generate income to assist in rehabilitation expenses, however, further study is needed to confirm that this proposal is economically viable. In the months ahead, business plans will be developed and explorative design schematics will be expanded with the intention of seeking necessary funding in early 2015.

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