During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there used to be a town on the Willamette River, upstream from downtown Portland by less than a mile, named Fulton. The main road between Portland proper and Fulton was Macadam Avenue, which, as anyone from the East Coast knows, is the name for blacktop. Macadam Ave. was so named because it was the first all-weather road in the greater Portland area. Why? It’s simple enough: all the gambling houses and bordellos were located right on the river in Fulton, and the road was built to give easy access to Portland businessmen and politicians regardless of weather conditions.
The Fulton House is particularly interesting. It originally floated on the Willamette and was a bordello. Around the turn of the century, it was lifted and loaded onto logs and dragged up the hill one block west to its present location, to serve as a rooming house on a site owned by the local tanner.
We started researching the house’s history shortly after we bought the Fulton House because of one peculiarity — every bedroom on the second floor had a wash basin. Now, knowing its original function, the proximity of sink to customer is understandable.
Fulton House is an East Coast House. It is vertical in design not horizontal, a Cape Cod-style structure. It has a number of features rarely seen in the Northwest. For example, there’s a “sun room” on the main floor, a place where sunshine pours in on nice days. We grow herbs there now. There’s also a “widow’s walk” on a fenced, flat part of the roof, where by invitation guests can sit and enjoy the views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, the Willamette River and downtown Portland. It got its name because two centuries ago many of the men folk on the East Coast, primarily in coastal towns in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, made their living as crewmen on whaling ships. When these ships were due back in port, wives would look out to sea from the highest point of their homes, the walks on the roofs, waiting and praying for their husbands’ safe return. Since whaling was an extremely dangerous profession, many men never returned and their wives became widows. Hence the name.
Several other old homes are in the immediate neighborhood of the Fulton House. Unfortunately, many have already been torn down and townhouses have been built in their place. We have no intention of subjecting the Fulton House to this indignity.