Progress on the “new” City Hall building is on track. Each day brings new things to discover as we enjoy checking the progress. The landscaping and surrounding grounds look great. The first time we saw the new sidewalk on the northside my mind flashed back to another picture, I had seen, taken much earlier, over 100 years earlier.
A picture made in 1917 shows some of Portland’s first sidewalks. An ordinance approved by Mayor W.C. Austin and the City Council required property owners to lay sidewalks of concrete or granitoids around their property and to keep them in good repair.
They were to be at least four feet but no more than nine feet wide. The building on the corner of Russell and High Street then was home to the Portland Studio and The Portland Herald News Office. We believe portrait artist E.M. Stark did some of his early work there. He is best remembered for his office in Gallatin and for his work on high school graduation pictures.
The Portland Herald remained in that location during the 1920s, and into the 30s. I am not sure when it closed. The Portland Studio was replaced by Empson and Peden who sold Real Estate, Insurance and was an early Ford Dealership in the early 1920s. A recent find of an old newspaper copy revealed that Mrs. J.B. Empson also wrote a personal column for the paper. This building served the community for many years in different capacities, mostly in grocery and general merchandise.
The corner of High and Russell Street has been an important and busy place since the earliest days. Russell Street follows along the road from Gallatin to Russellville, Ky. that preceded early Portland. South Russell today was the earliest to see a lot of growth in Portland with new homes being built. The Butt family, early owners of the land, sold a portion for a Cumberland Presbyterian Church around 1904.
It sat on the left side on a little rise a short distance from town. An early nickname given to that road was “Squalling Street” referring to the number of young families with young children living there. It is exciting to see a lot of “love’ and money being poured into those older homes along that street today.
Part of North Russell was once called Skeen Pike after the Skeen family who lived Northwest of Portland. After South Russell, High Street was the next street opened to residential development. Many of the leading citizens built lovely Victorian houses along this street. It is wonderful to see the present-day community coming together taking pride in restoring and preserving this historical part of town.
Johnnie Freedle is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.