The Fulton House, built in the late 19th century, originally served as a bordello floating in the Willamette River, one of the gambling houses and bordellos built in present-day Willamette Park. Around 1902, the house was placed on logs and dragged one block west up the hill to its present location, a lot owned by Joseph Weber, a local tanner who owned the entire block. The Weber Tannery was the largest tannery on the Northwest Coast in 1894 and operated until 1945.
Originally, the Fulton House was not in Portland but in the small town of Fulton, which was annexed by its larger neighbor. One block from the Fulton House sits the old Fulton Post Office (cc 1894), today a building containing two small shops. In the area, there is a Fulton Park and the local microbrewery known as the Fulton Pub built on land previously owned by the old Fulton Dairy. Several of the larger homes in the area, like the Fulton House, still exist.
One block east of the Fulton House is Macadam Avenue, today a major thoroughfare but once the first black-topped road out of downtown Portland; in the eastern U.S., roads are paved with “macadam” not with blacktop, hence the street name (many of Portland’s early residents came from the eastern part of the country). Macadam Avenue was built to give easy access to Portland businessmen and politicians to the bars, gambling houses and bordellos, which lined the Willamette River in Willamette Park.
Having spent many years of researching the history of the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast located in Portland Oregon, it was important to take a trip to Washington State to explore the charming historical and rural town of Walla Walla to discover the historic connection between the two sites.
Frank I. Weber & Sons started a tannery in Walla Walla in 1871. The factory was located between 2nd and North Palouse streets; right in the center of town. However, his first building burned in 1879, and the building pictured above was built. By 1896, the year this picture was taken, Weber and his sons had an extensive business dealing with leathers and shoemakers’ supplies all over the Northwest. Having been so successful they expanded their business to Portland, Oregon in 1889 known as the Weber Brothers Tannery.
The Weber Tannery was established by Joseph & Frank I Weber and by 1916, it was the largest tannery on the North Pacific Coast, earning approximately $150,000 a year and employing more than 36 men plus multiple family members. The Weber Tannery occupied five acres on the Willamette River bank directly across from the Riverview Cemetery.
The tannery consisted of a 100 foot by 150 foot 3-story building, which included multiple bark ho rooms, steam drying houses, vats for storage and drying rooms, a beam ho finishing room as well as other independent buildings on the acreage including a wagon shed, a garage, multiple dwellings, fuel sheds, a moorage and a wharf (today house boats at Macadam Bay). The facility was also located on the Oregon & California Railroad line, which allowed import of hides and supplies from Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Iowa and an occasional shipment from Canada. Aside from tanning leather for harnesses, footwear purposes, belting etc., considerable custom work was done. Sheep pelts, deer and fur animals skins were tanned for rugs and other purposes.
The Weber family also owned approximately three-quarters of Block 16 between Nevada and Texas streets, as well as store front/residences on Macadam Avenue and multiple family sites on Virginia Avenue. Today, at Nevada and Macadam, the Art Factors occupies the building, which was the Fulton Post Office, then the Fulton Hotel, a delicatessen, and a donut shop. Just across Macadam at the foot of Nevada, was where the Fulton train station once stood. Also along the Riverview Trolley passed on it way to the River view cemetery stop. Nearby were the Weber’s Tannery, the Leach’s Foundry and the Irving Company Soap Works.
Be looking for our next Blog post for more about the History of the Fulton House Bed & Breakfast and its connection to Walla Walla, Washington