That’s My Dump!

photo/Patrick Banks
photo/Patrick Banks

If misery loves company, then the corner of St. John and D streets is a real block party. This residential pocket — tucked in the gritty western end of Portland’s West End — is home to two, arguably even three different dumps.

The one at 175 St. John is less of an eyesore, mostly because it’s set back from the street and obscured by the other two: 181 and 177 St. John.

Several of 181’s windows are broken and sealed up with wood or cardboard. Paint is peeling profusely from the wood-shingle siding. A relatively dust-free rectangle by the front door indicates where the mailbox used to be. But repairs appear to be in progress. There were a couple ladders leaning against the south side of the house when I visited last month. The front porch steps, as well as a couple strips of trim here and there, look newly installed, albeit unfinished. The yard is being semi-maintained.

In contrast, 177’s postage-stamp yard looks a lot shaggier. The mailboxes for its two units are bursting with uncollected letters, and the driveway is littered with drifts of trash. The two Dish Network satellite dishes attached to the front of the house look incongruously new.

The three properties have a convoluted ownership history, tangled with legal actions and foreclosure filings, stretching back to the heady days before the Great Recession. But the gist of the story is familiar. The two most neglected properties, 175 and 177, have been under the control an out-of-state financial entity for several years. The one being improved, 181, was recently acquired by a Portland-based real-estate investment company.

So this miserable block party may be over soon. One dump already has one foot outside the door. Good thing the front steps got repaired.

— Patrick Banks