First Advisor

Paul Collins

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing






Wrestling, Gentrification, Superfund, Saint Johns (Portland, Or.) -- Social life and customs, Saint Johns (Portland, Or.) -- History, Neighborhoods -- Oregon -- Portland -- Anecdotes



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 98 pages)


In 1865, a settler named James John laid out a small neighborhood at the end of the north Portland peninsula, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. For a half century, until its annexation to Portland in 1915, St. Johns was an independent municipality. Factories lined the waterfront, and a full complement of businesses in the small downtown area--grocers, bakers, hardware stores, clothing shops--catered to all the residents' needs. St. Johns was always a working-class town with a strong sense of identity. But after World War II, as Portland grew, St. Johns began to seem defined less by self-sufficiency than by isolation and neglect. Mom-and-Pop shops had a hard time staying in business. Junkyards and drinking establishments proliferated. Residents began to realize the full extent of decades of industrial pollution on the St. Johns waterfront. At some point, St. Johns officially became the poorest neighborhood in Portland, a distinction it still holds today. But St. Johns never lost the loyalty of its residents. This thesis is about some of the people and places that embody the neighborhood's eclectic and stubborn character. As St. Johns undergoes a gradual and perhaps inevitable transformation into a trendier, more upscale area, time is running short to meet the old-timers and try to understand the neighborhood through their eyes. This thesis attempts to capture the essence of a neighborhood with a rich past, a colorful present, and a promising but uncertain future.


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Portland State University. Dept. of English

Persistent Identifier