A Historic Walk Through the Alphabet District

One of the many beautiful old houses found in Portland's Alphabet District.  Photo: KGilb.

One of the many beautiful old houses found in Portland's Alphabet District. Photo: KGilb.

The Alphabet District, so called because its cross streets were named in alphabetical order, is one of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods. Better known to locals as Portland’s Nob Hill or simply Northwest Portland, the district was planned and developed in 1865 by seafaring Captain John Heard Couch. (pronounced Kooch) It quickly became a favorite with many of the city’s founding families who built lavish homes here in the latter part of the 1800’s.

Today, the Alphabet District is a bustling urban neighborhood. But unlike many historic districts lost to “progress” and the wrecking ball, this one survived almost completely intact. Those lavish homes built in the late 1800’s are still here. Though some have been converted to other uses–retail shops or professional offices–many are still single family dwellings.

So while the bright autumn sunshine lasts, I urge you to come to NW Portland and take a walk back in history. The Alphabet District has an incredible number of beautiful old houses, fully restored, which have been designated historic landmarks. Architectural styles range from Victorian and Tudor “mansions” to classic Craftsman homes. So you can wander for blocks along these tree-lined streets and never get tired of the landscape.

And at the end of your walk, be sure and stop by the Moonstruck Cafe’ for a cup of hot chocolate! They’re located at 526 NW 23rd Avenue. The perfect end to your autumn outing.

The Alphabet District is located just off I-405, west and a little north of Portland’s downtown business district. This historic neighborhood is bounded on the north and south by NW Marshall Street and West Burnside, and on the east and west by NW 17th and NW 24th Avenues.

Special Note: Northwest Portland’s two main thoroughfares–NW 21st and NW 23rd Avenues–are lined with an eclectic mix of trendy shops, boutiques, salons, local markets, coffee shops, and restaurants. Parking is problematic, but it’s still a great place for shopping, dining, people watching, or just hanging out with friends.

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