Do restaurants even have matchbooks anymore? Or just those silly mints? © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
What do you perceive here: former jazz club or 1980’s time capsule? One or the other, perhaps both?
Jazz clubs in the 1940’s were dens of music, entertainment, sin and crime . Tom Johnson, vice lord of North Portland, sustained the Portland Jazz community through a series of enterprises both legitimate and criminal: real estate, music promotion, prostitution, gambling and drugs. If all you wanted was music, dancing and booze, you learned to look the other way and leave before any trouble.
The clubs were helpful in their decor. Maintaining a dark exterior hid the illegitimate while allowing full immersion with the music for those not within the criminal element. Profane and sacred, illegal and legitimate—they coexisted in the hazy atmosphere by unwritten rules governed by intuition. God help you if the rules were broken and it all decided to clash.
The 1980’s was a decade of dark wood in bars and light wood in homes. It was a decade of brass, both real and fake, with the fake normally in the white-carpet homes of up-and-coming yuppies. In the 1980’s, no iPad or Smart Phone spoke to your importance. Clothes, hair and the company you keep—that could be resume enough. You did not Google people or find their social media profiles; it was appearance that counted. The right suit, the right brand of cigarette, the Rolex watch—there was legitimacy there. First impressions were king.
The demolition revealed compatibility between these styles. The few windows and muted lighting transitioned nicely into the dark wood and brass. The lounge atmosphere that once hosted Sammy Davis Jr. was decidedly far from medieval despite the attempt at the Age of Chivalry on the outside. It kept the lounge look into the decade of big hair and power lunches, providing a backdrop for conversation without distraction. Worn, generic, a slight air of pretension and yet, small and cozy. Its exterior was likely more accident than design. Simply put, it looked cool. The Castle existed for its clientele. It was little beyond what they brought to it.
On that standard, it was dead in 1990, not in 2006 when the demolition crew hauled off the stone, auctioned off the fixtures and cleared the land for large houses on small lots. It was dead the night the last customer went home, the till was balanced and the employees locked the door behind them knowing the walls would never hear or talk again.
In the land of timber, construction stone is hard to come by. No doubt this was the first of salvage to find a new use. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
The hand-cut stone was the first to go. While much of it was covered with graffiti, this was still fine stone and once it was removed, it remained piled like this until a truck with different markings hauled it away. (I presumed it was a buyer.) As it was removed, the doors were also removed and that allowed me to go in.
There were a few others there too wishing to loot the fixtures. A few well-placed dirty looks and I had the place to myself for a merciful amount of time.
Some walls remained with the stone but most of the walls revealed the timber underpinnings. The walls and opened and light entered along with me and my camera.
Timber, insulation and looters, oh my! © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
Missed a wall! © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
Not too unlike the majority population in and around Portland, Oregon, I am obsessed with beer. It was not surprising that as I entered the building and my eyes (and camera settings) adjusted to the dark, I gravitated to the bar.
What’s on tap? Anything on nitro? Perhaps a Scotch chaser too–today just SUCKED. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
With some repairs, it looked as though it could still be useful. If not for that trim falling off, I could easily imagine myself leaning against it and asking what was on tap. I felt deprived of this experience. Many a walk from my bus stop, past The Castle as a derelict, only to soon arrive home, often had me wishing I could go in for a beer and a reminder that not all humanity was demanding and annoying.
There were still some glasses and a cracked mirror behind. But alas, nothing to drink. (It was before noon anyway.) There were still plenty of places to sit and once you wiped off the dust, the stools would likely still hold you.
Not too shabby of a place to sit after a hard day. Bring your own beer. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
I would not stand on these. Someone else felt differently. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
Ever since my first visit, I wondered about the fireplace. It seemed real enough, even used enough and had enough soot, dirt or other organic material to grow a tree, as you saw from the Chimney Tree photos. Besides, in my fantasy about visiting the venue, I also assumed there was a table or at least some chairs in front of the fireplace. If you ever walked home from a bus stop on a dark November night in Portland where it is already pitch black and raining with bone-chilling wind by 4:00 PM, you understand what a welcome experience that would be.
No sign of the Chimney Tree; it obviously took root higher up. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
Brick floor in front of fireplace. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
I visited the bar and it was time for something to eat. The kitchen was still being broken down and much of it remained. When Jim Roake fought to keep the restaurant use, he also looked into alternative uses, including the possibility of making the building into a group home. The kitchen was the primary reason for this consideration.
One of the prep stations next to more stainless steel surfaces. Condition was not half bad although I doubt these saw the restaurant industry again. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
While doing my initial archive research, I discovered Evelyn Verl Stewart. She was born on June 1, 1914 and died on July 31, 2003. According to her obituary, she worked as a chef at The Castle for 34 years. I have come to think of these kitchen photos as Evelyn’s Domain.
The kitchen in better light and showing a good escape hatch for smoke breaks or cooling-off periods. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
There was also a cook named Doreen Helen Venner who died on January 15, 2005. I do not know how long she worked at The Castle or if she had any authority in Evelyn’s Domain, but this would be her workplace home as well.
However it worked among the staff, former patrons let me know that you never left The Castle hungry.
Steak, medium rare, Table 3! © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
The rest of my tour revealed debris waiting for dumpsters and fixtures sporting auction tags. Even after 16 years of non-use, it was a reminder that some seemingly outdated artifacts remain useful. Soda fountains have not changed much and a trip to a liquidation market reveals that non-computerized cash registers remain in demand. This still had the possibility of being useful capital.
The Castle was a Pepsi place, I see, although we find Coke cups. Notice the pink auction tag. The basketball? Most likely stoned teenagers who once trespassed on a dare. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
The defunct cash register with no auction tag giving it scrap metal value. I took a till closing print out before I left, but I can not find it now. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
Massive mess of loose bits, possible useful items and who knows what. The proverbial junk drawer of the demolition. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
I never found the bathroom. That was likely a good thing. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
At this point, I saw what I wanted to see. I took the pictures I wanted and as more onlookers arrived, I felt more annoyed and with my quiet mind space completely disrupted, it was time to go. It was not a warm day. But I did what I was there to do. Two days later, and there was nothing left but empty land.
Hostess counter. Right this way, please. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
The good thing about The Castle was it was never a “Good Bye” but a “See you later” even if I did not realize it at the time. As I started home, I could not help but notice the Chimney Tree and how it grew and changed color, unconcerned about its imminent death.
I am glad I caught her. © 2013 Jocelyn S. Mackie
Like The Castle, these pictures became forgotten too in the havoc known as Real Life. I assumed them lost for good when my computer at the time suffered a catastrophic hard drive crash. I moved on feeling sad that my intentions were unmet. But The Castle was not content to be forgotten.
On June 15, 2013, I woke up early that Saturday morning feeling the need to look through old electronic files. I kept a collection of CDs in the back of a drawer reserved for the research I maintained on seemingly one million amateur history projects. Since 2006, I moved to three different apartments, including a brief stint in Molalla, Oregon, taking this soft case of CDs with me. I put it wherever it fit, a situation no different when I occupied this apartment in May 2012. I likely wondered why I kept them. It never occurred to me to look at the CDs until June 15, 2013.
I placed the first CD into the drive and clicked the first folder. It contained photos–these photos. They were not lost after all!
I will never know why I was lead that way on that particular day . I am satisfied knowing simply these are now shared. In addition to possibly bringing more information to the surface, and more stories to tell, there is also the reminder that “lost” and “forgotten” are often not permanent conditions.