History of Ladd’s Addition in Portland, OR

Ladd's Circle Park at the center of Ladd's Addition. | Photo by PDXtoday

Many of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods sprouted + grew around the development of the city’s streetcar system in the early 20th century. One such “streetcar suburb” is Ladd’s Addition, nestled in Southeast Portland — and not much has changed there in over 130 years. 

A black and white photograph of the unique, diagonal layout of Ladd's Addition surrounded by standard grid networks of streets.
An aerial view of Ladd’s Addition, sometime before 1919. | Photo via City of Portland

🌹 How it started

Banker + former Portland Mayor William S. Ladd acquired the land that would become Ladd’s Addition in 1878 between what is now Southeast Hawthorne and Division streets and Southeast 12th and 20th avenues. He and his wife Caroline platted the land in 1891, dividing it into 32 blocks containing 716 lots. Inspired by Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for Washington, DC, William designed the unique street layout against his surveyor’s advice, creating two major diagonal thoroughfares and five park spaces that he dedicated to the City of Portland.  

William didn’t live to see the first houses built on his former farmland, which began in the northern blocks around 1905 near the old Hawthorne streetcar line. Development started really taking off a few years later as streets were paved, sidewalks were built, trees were planted + builders financed new houses. The city’s love affair with roses was blooming around that same time, so it transformed the neighborhood’s park spaces into rose gardens.

A tree-lined neighborhood road in Southeast Portland.
Ladd’s Addition required new houses be worth at least $2,500 in the early days. | Photo by PDXtoday

🌏 Cultural significance 

In 1913, architect Joseph Jacobberger built St. Philip Neri Church to serve the city’s growing population of Italian Americans. When anti-Asian sentiment took root in the western United States in the 1930s, members of the Portland Realty Board informally designated Ladd’s Addition as a neighborhood for Asian American families. 

🌳 Designations  

  • 1977 — Ladd’s Addition is designated as one of the city’s two Historic Conservation Districts
  • 1988 — Ladd’s Addition is added to the National Register of Historic Places
  • 2011 — The Cultural Landscape Foundation of Washington, DC, recognizes Ladd’s Addition residents for their 15-year battle to protect neighborhood elm trees