On Tuesday, PBS will launch the new series “10 That Changed America” looking in particular at the parks, homes and towns that have influenced the way Americans have lived, worked, and played from an architecture, urban planning and design perspective. In 10 Homes that Changed the America, host Geoffrey Baer will bring viewers from iconic homes like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, to groundbreaking types of dwellings like the the pueblos of Taos, New Mexico, and the tenements of 19th century New York. 



Last month, Brooklyn real estate broker Dan Levy proposed a system of gondola lifts to ferry people between Manhattan and quickly growing waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. Dubbed the East River Skyway, the proposal is modeled as a sort of juiced up Roosevelt Island Tram. Levy envisions the system connecting South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan to Dumbo and the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, up to Williamsburg and across again to the Lower East Side, and a final stretch extending the Roosevelt Island tram over to Long Island City in Queens. He estimates the entire project could cost $225 million to $375 million, and could transport 5,000 commuters per hour per direction, with cars arriving every 30 to 40 seconds.



Portland, Oregon is famous for a number of things–but did you know that it is also known for being a mecca for cyclists as well? While cities like New York have only just started to get on the biking bandwagon, Portland has been consistently appearing on the top five lists of every possible biking blog and magazine as “America’s Bicycle Capital.” But some bikers in Portland consider their bikes to be more than just a means of transport–these entrepreneurial spirits have started businesses on their bikes! Here’s a look at some of Portland’s most innovative bike businesses. (more…)

Mad Men PDX

With the release of the new The Great Gatsby movie, the Roaring ’20s are making a full-fledged comeback, even in the corner of America  known as Portland, Oregon. Walking in the door of the vintage barbershop, The Modern Man, visitors will leave behind the hustle and bustle of the digital era and enter into another era.  “My bet is that they will never have visited a shop like ours before and that’s what we want,” said The Modern Man founder Chris Espinoza. A time when flappers roamed the streets smoking cigarettes, jazz was king, and speakeasys were the place to be during the Prohibition Era. “This is where a kid becomes a man,” said barber Chase Danielle.


What do men with conjoined beards, jars of pickled vegetable, houses blooming out of flowers, a superhero-like beluga whale, and pair of coffee-loving mermaids have in common? They are all the whimsical artwork of Portland-based illustrator Brooke Weeber, the creator of The Little Canoe. According to the artist’s website she began drawing at an early age and pursued her passion for drawing at high school and in college; she received her BFA in painting at the University of Oregon. She traded her Northwest roots for New York City, where she pursued her other passion of professional baking. After some time she began to miss her Douglas fir trees and wished for more elbow room to draw so she packed her bags and headed for Portland in 2009.
The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration


The Pearl District, where old meets new

Take a walk around the Pearl District and you will discover block after block of century-old abandoned, historic buildings that have rose from the dead and have a second life as a mixture of hip restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and furniture stores.  The Pearl District is a turn-of-the-century revitalized niche in Portland where old meets new, with the young and old cohabitating together and old brick warehouses become friendly neighbors to giant skyscraper apartments.

Old brick warehouses are friendly neighbors to giant skyscraper apartments

Old brick warehouses turned into lofts and apartments

Over a century ago this northwest quadrant was the heartbeat of Portland’s industrial and transportation zones with a number of occupied warehouses and railroad yards formerly known as the “Northwest Industrial Triangle.”  Fast-forward to 2012, the Pearl District continues to have a pulse as Portland’s most hip and distinctive shopping and lifestyle neighborhoods.

The Pearl district was once the heartbeat of Portland’s industrial and transportation zones

According to the Pearl District Neighborhood Association website the name behind Pearl District “caught on as a way to describe a neighborhood of rough old buildings each concealing ‘pearl’ in the form of artists’ studios and art galleries.”  The Pearl District has a number of hidden gems that visitors can see if they look up at the old red brick buildings and discover the signs of the past that haunt the side of these buildings with peeling paint and faded lettering.    The fading ads  in Portland are relics of old advertisements that were painted on businesses and warehouse where travelers could view them in plain sight.

The  fading letters of the Modern Confectionary Building  

Step back in time and stroll down Thirteenth Avenue Historic District which is the “Avenue of the Ghost Signs”  with a number of vacant warehouses and lots that were once home to candy factories, kitchen equipment and utensil warehouses.   On the corner of 13th  and Hoyt, sits the Filson store, an outdoor clothing store for men and women who for the past four years has called “The Modern Confectionery Company Building”  home. “The heritage of this building fits our tradition of the industrial look,”  said Filson Store Manager, Nathan Gray. Filson was established back in 1897 in Seattle, “We are what clothing was for the outdoor person, said Gray.

Gray later dusted off the cob webs of the story behind the sign of “The Modern Confectionary Company,”  and the “Delicious Brand Hams and Bacon,”  which he said was built in 1907 and was originally a candy factory. The inside of the store is complete with the entire original framework including brick walls and beams. The red brick walls continue to bleed and the store warns customers not to brush their clothes on the brick because they will get stained. The store was able to salvage a part of a conveyer belt from the sugar company and built a chandelier out of it which proudly hangs near the register. “The building fits our company’s history,”  said Gray. Around the turn-of-the-century the building underwent a warehouse-to-loft renovation. Six lofts were built and the developers retained the name of the original building, dubbing it The Modern Confectionery Lofts.

The Gadsby Building built in 1906

Across the street from “The Modern Confectionery Company Building,”  is the four story warehouse known as “The Gadsby Building”  which was built in 1906 by William Gadsby and his sons. They operated a downtown retail furniture store from 1898-1953 and built this warehouse on 13th  Avenue railroad spur to support their downtown store. Today, the Gadsby building is home to three different stores: Hunt & Gather, Barista, and Ready Paint Fire.

The next time you’re in Portland, take a walk around the Pearl District and go on a ghost sign hunt. Take in how Portland retains its past while simultaneously planning for its future.

Get in touch with the author  @alicperez.