Friday, March 4, 2022

A Miracle on N.E. Eighth Ave.

It’s good news, usually, when politicians and TV cameras show up for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  It was miraculous news for the Allen Temple CME Church that finished a $3 million restoration that took more than six years to finance and finish.

 News accounts properly reported on the remarkable fund-raising and volunteer work that ultimately involved more than 70 design, construction, religious, social and financial partners.  There was little discussion, however,  of the architectural significance and the population changes now well into a “third wave” in the Northeast Portland neighborhood.

Architectural preservation is not specified as a religious mission, but Allen Temple was fortunate in having two architects assist who know the preservation world.  Bill Hart and Logan Cravens, affiliated with the Carlteton Hart Architecture firm, preserved the historic envelope of the building and sanctuary while completely updating the building's other "innards."  While original repair estimates were put at $400,000, the completed overhaul cost $3 million. 

 The Allen temple, at 4236 NE Eighth Ave., was one of several wood-framed churches to sprinkle the neighborhood in the early 20th century.  Like this one – erected in 1913 as the Second German Congregational Church  and enlarged in 1921 and again in 1927 and 1932  --  many were connected to the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the Scandinavian and European immigrants who dominated the neighborhoods composed of smaller, less expensive homes.    In physical size, this church was larger than many.

 Like the Allen Temple, most of these vernacular buildings were planned and built by carpenters, not architects.  They featured the gothic-arch windows, modest spires and crosses that signified a single meaning: “church.”  These small churches were common to most western towns, where wood was the least expensive building materials and carpenters had the ability to create simple designs.  Over time, many fell into disuse or the parishes graduated into more substantial edifices made of brick or stone.

 Demographic changes occurred dramatically in North and Northeast Portland after World War II, when thousands of Black workers recruited to the shipyards were funneled into the Albina area by Portland’s de facto racial segregation policies adopted by the real estate and lending businesses.


The Allen Temple CME Church was organized by Black parishioners in 1949.  As its membership grew, it learned in 1960 of the potential sale of the former German Episcopal building, and has been based there since 1961.  In 2015, two electrical fires that started within hours seriously damaged the church interior and its roof.  The site could have been cleared and sold for housing. 

 The Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes Jr., pastor since 1997, thought otherwise.  As the neighborhood gentrified during the past two decades, he believed it was important to maintain the presence of Black church and its social services in the neighborhood.  Most of the other small wooden historic churches in Northeast Portland had long since given way to other uses.

 Overall, the restoration was a daringly bold plan that required thoughtful execution.  One assumes that its success will provide for decades of religious and social benefits, as well as retaining a neighborhood architectural landmark. 

----Fred Leeson

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1 comment:

  1. A dedicated reader, Steve Schreiber, advises that there is a detailed history of the original German Volga church at; look for the Second German Congregational Church listing under beliefs, churches.