First Advisor

Carl Abbott

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Public housing -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Temporary housing -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, World War (1939-1945) -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (451 p.)


Guild's Lake Courts was built as temporary worker housing for the steel and shipyard industries during World War II. The massive housing development in Northwest Portland consisted of 2,432 units of housing, five community buildings, five childcare centers, a grade school and a fire station. Guild's Lake Courts was the eighth largest housing project built at that time in the United States. The peak population in January 1945 was approximately 10,000 individuals. Archival research, face-to-face oral histories, and resident reunions were used to explore the social, architectural and political history of Guild's Lake Courts. The lens for understanding how the community operated is dominantly for the social history that of a childhood homefront experience. Four wartime themes emerged in this study: 1) that Portland's focus on prejudice dimmed during the war years, 2) that the community was a confluence of humanity, 3) that the design of the site and the housing was shaped by a convergence of New Deal innovations in design construction technologies and electrification and 4) that there was a willingness to sacrifice creature comforts during the war years. Guild's Lake Courts as a residential community under went three rapid evolutions prior to its demolition in 1951, a wartime housing operation 1942-1945, affordable housing 1945-1948, and a haven for Vanport Refugees June 1948-1950. Guild's Lake Courts history has been overlooked but it offers insights into the possible fate of the residents of Vanport City had the community not been flooded in 1948. The story of Guild's Lake Courts is a counterpoint story to Vanport City the largest of the three defense housing projects in Oregon that admitted African-Americans during the war years.


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