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Motoring Through Portland’s Past

Walk into Old Town Pizza /Old Town Brewing Co. and listen closely. You might hear the far-off strains of an idling engine mixed with the hum of guest chatter.  That’s because this location has a storied history as a center of automotive commerce, dating back to before World War II.

In the early 1930s, Herbert L. Frank opened a used car dealership just south of where Old Town Pizza now stands. Through the early half of the 1940s, with the war halting the manufacturing of new cars, used auto lots like Frank’s were commonplace up and down what was then Union Avenue.

In 1946, post-war prosperity boosted demand for sleek new cars; Americans were ready to roll, and Detroit was pumping out cruisers for an auto-hungry public. Frank Chevrolet was born. Across the street were a new Ford dealership and a small pharmacy (later to become a Fred Meyer Department Store). Frank Chevrolet lived on this block through the prosperity of the 1950s and tumult of the 1960s, until finally surrendering in 1972. A year later, Harley Davidson opened a dealership, but rode it out only until 1977.  Through the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s, the building housed a succession of auto repair and service businesses.

By 1990, the neighborhoods along Union Avenue had been through many evolutions… including the thoroughfare’s name change to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Old Town Pizza is proud to play a role in the regeneration of inner northeast Portland as one of the first to sign on with Vanport Square, a Portland
Development Commission-backed project that has its roots in the City of Vanport. A bustling shipbuilding community of the 1940s, Vanport was home to many of the area’s African American citizens until the flood of 1948 – and discriminatory housing practices – drove them into Portland’s inner north and northeast neighborhoods.

With our family home just three blocks away, we believe in our “old town” neighborhood of Walnut Park, and are taking the opportunity in our history-rich location to showcase our philosophy of sustainability and environmental stewardship. Many of the design features – such as the weathered wood wall from an old Oregon barn, the giant beams from barracks that housed Italian immigrants at the San Pablo Fish & Wildlife Refuge, and the centerpiece chandelier that hung in the Portland Art Museum until a 1970s remodel – were reclaimed and given new life here just like our neighborhood.

Old Town Pizza has been a part of Portland’s culture since 1974, when the Accuardi family opened the doors of the historic Old Town Pizza landmark location. We’re carrying on that tradition here, with a second outpost dedicated to serving up Portlanders our legendary pizza and craft beer.

Cheers,
The Milne Family