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Multnomah Historical Association now exists only on line but website is a font of historical information

The new decade began with some bad news for people who appreciate the preservation of the past in Southwest Portland.

"As of Jan. 1, 2020, the Multnomah Historical Association History Center is closed," reads the notice on the website HYPERLINK "http://www.multnomahhistorical.com" www.multnomahhistorical.com. The Center was located on the ground floor of the office complex at 2929 Multnomah Blvd.

"Everything is in storage now, packed in boxes with lists telling us what's inside," said Patti Ingebretsen. Along with Tim Lyman, she has kept the center going for the last few years despite eroding interest.

"This means we have no place for public meetings, so no regular monthly meetings," she said in early January.

According to its mission statement, the Multnomah Historical Association is "Dedicated to preserving the history of Portland's Southwest neighborhoods."

Ironically, the effort to have the site of the school, now the Multnomah Arts Center, declared a national landmark has passed two steps in the process and could achieve that vaunted status this spring. Much of the information used to establish landmark status was based on work done by the association.

Ingebretsen told the SW Connection that the association struggled to recruit new members interested in this area's rich history.

"We're down to four people who were doing everything," she said, "and it's been like that for quite a while. People do want to preserve whatever it is they want saved but it's not something they're going to get involved in.

"In my mind, it's more like mothballing," she said. Like people put winter sweaters into cedar chests, "We're putting everything into mothballs for now."

The formation of the association dates back to 1978 when it set up shop in what was then the Multnomah School Building on Southwest Capitol Highway. Many of its early volunteer members were veterans of the successful effort to save the school building from being turned into a shopping mall in the late sixties. Ironically, the association couldn't afford the rent and had to move out of the building, which now is the location of the Multnomah Arts Center.

In February 2019, the SW Connection reported, "Ingebretsen and Lyman obviously enjoy researching and talking about the history of the neighborhood. Get them going and you'll learn that Packy the elephant was the guest of honor at the opening of the Hillsdale Shopping Center, that Barbur World Foods was once a Piggly Wiggly and that Bertha Street is named after the daughter of the founder of Red Electric Railroad with a station at Southwest Vermont Street and Bertha Street."

The association applied for a grant from Southwest Neighborhoods Incorporated last year and tried to rent space at the Multnomah Arts Center, but was turned down in both cases, Ingebretsen said.

Anyone interested in investigating any element of the history of Southwest Portland can still contact the association through its website at HYPERLINK "http://www.multnomahhistorical.com" www.multnomahhistorical.com.

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