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The Building of Peacock Lane

by Naomi Swett, American Builder, December 1925

[The entire 1925 article has been republished here in it's entirety with all accompanying photographs. Ed.]

1925 - American Builder - Peacock Lane

ANYONE in Portland, Ore., can tell you that Peacock Lane is something "different" from the ordinary run of real estate developments and in every way lives up to the picturesque expectations which the name creates. When R. F. Wassell, Portland builder, planned this fascinating street he chose a name which would not suggest the development of an entire addition to the mind of the public, for Peacock Lane, is just four blocks long, and which would demand much in construction and development to justify its use.

1925 American Builder - Peacock Lane - Wade Living Room
The spacious Living Room in the Wade Home is Lighted by Wall Candle Brackets and Floor Lamps. At the far side French doors lead to the dining room.

Five acres of land, parallel with Fortieth Street, on the east side, within an easy ten-minute drive from the heart of the downtown section, were selected for the Lane. The four-block length of it runs from Stark, a main thoroughfare, to Belmont, another main thoroughfare, and is very close to one of the best trolley lines in Portland. This tract involved a consideration of $21,500 and Wassell immediately assessed the property for street improvements costing approximately $11,000. These included the installation of eleven beautiful street lamps, gas lighted, with arrangements for ten years' service from the Portland Gas & Coke Company, to cost each home owner but $1 a month.

This was the first step in a completely worked out plant and it gave the Lane, even before house building was started, unusually fine illumination. Next commenced the construction of a group of houses that would not in any wall fall below the expectations build on the suggestion of the name.

1925 - Wade House
The House on the Corner, Which Is the Residence of Dr. Wade, Is One of the Higher Priced Homes in Peacock Lane, Which Sold for Not Over $8,750. On the next two pages a floor plan and interior view of this home are shown.

English style architecture was chosen, with full play to the imagination allowed, resulting in tall, peaked gables, and plenty of exposure to the sunlight that would stream into each home through quaintly beautiful windows, in now two houses exactly alike.

Twenty-two houses were built in Peacock Lane, all in pleasing relation one to another, and of strictly English character. As surely as a visitor to the Lane decides, "This surely is the prettiest of them all: he discovers something in the house next door that is more interesting still! He then tries to compare one with another. "Which really is the loveliest?" But it's impossible.

It can only be said that the beautiful houses of Peacock Lane are more beautiful because there is but one style of architecture on the entire street, not unsympathetic line or design to destroy the quaint little English village atmosphere that Wassell succeeded in attaining. Surely an English house, surrounded on all sides by English houses, is more English than if it faced a Spanish home across the street, an Italian house at its, left, and a stately Colonial house at its right! And, because the climate of this part of Oregon is exactly like that of England, Wassell deemed the English type truly fitting in the building of Peacock Lane.

1925 Peacock Lane - Wade Home Plan
Like Every House in Peacock Lane, the Wade Residence Is Planned for the Living Comfort and Convenience of the Family Which Is to Occupy It.

The houses of Peacock Lane have each either five, six, or seven rooms. All are equipped with single and some with double garages. For exterior surfaces, either stucco, shingle or combinations of the two are used in a host of interesting ways. Both metal and wood lath have been used under the stucco outer surfacings.

The five acres were cut into thirty-three lots, each 50 by 85 feet. Most of the houses were built with an attractive little garage forming an interesting addition to the house proper and with picturesque gate entrance alleys giving immediate passageway from each kitchen. Sometimes the little alley is between the house proper and the garage, sometimes it is on the outside of the garage, and sometimes there's not alley at all, the garage being build separately — always, however, each garage is different from the others in design.

The houses all have triple floors throughout, two underfloorings of soft wood and the upper one of oak. Particular attention was given to the designing of windows, which sometimes have wood casement, sometimes leaded planes, sometimes large square panes, or just as often small diamond-shaped panes, never just like the panes of any other house on the Lane.

No two interiors were planned exactly alike, though in each house the general idea is carried out of a large living room, commodious dining room, super-convenient kitchen with extra large breakfast room. Living rooms usually have casement type windows, and this is adhered to throughout most of the houses. Sometimes there are beautiful transom door type windows. Fireplaces are faced with soft-toned ceramic tile. Living rooms have no built-ins, giving owners opportunity to fill their homes with plenty of fine furniture.

Living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms are all papered, ceilings having been finished in small, creamy-toned plaster.

1925 Peacock Lane street scene 1925
A Two-Block Stretch of Homes in Peacock Lane Which Is, in All, but Four Blocks Long. Every house is different from the others, but all are of the same English style. Some of these houses sold as low as $6,500.

Except in the dining rooms, side illumination from wall bracket candle fixtures has been provide. The bathrooms have the most modern type of build-in plumbing, usually tile floors, while kitchens have drainboards, either tile or glass work tables, hoods over ranges and convenient enclosed vestibules for the placing of refrigerators. Each house has a laundry room and fruit closet in the basement and is equipped with a thermostatically controlled furnace, assuring the owners of homes in Peacock Lane the highest peak of modern home comfort and efficiency.

Most of the house of Peacock Lane have been build level with the ground, some with little brick stoops, some with stoops of concrete. Often wrought iron is introduced into the exterior trim, by means of little entrance hoods or porch rails. The entrance doors are as unusual as anything else about Peacock Land. Sometimes they are of the enclosed vestibule type, sometimes of panel or leaded glass, sometimes of hardwood with or without a small window, and adorned by old-fashioned brass knockers.

The lots are usually level with the sidewalk, but in some few instances have low banks. Even nature has contrived to make Peacock Lane the little lane from the fairy book, the straight line that has no turning! When the houses of Peacock Lane were finished in soft creams, grays, browns, or pure whites, they were brightened by wood trim, in contrasting colors: their main portions so colored that in time they would acquire pleasing aged tones with no fear of dinginess because of the easily renewed and colorful wood trim.

1925 Peacock Lane - Wade Interior
The Kitchen in the Wade Residence with a Spacious Breakfast Room Adjoining. A hooded range and enclosed refrigerator vestibule are features of the kitchen which cannot be see in this view.

By taking out building permits for twelve or fifteen houses at one time and putting a crew of skilled workers on the job on a strict time and materials basis Wassell was able to save the purchases of these homes from 10 percent to 20 per cent of what it would have cost them to obtain their own building work, had they engaged architects' and contractors' services. "Our mechanics worked from one house to another," he explained, "and there was no lost motion. In addition, through the larger buying power gained by making a single material purchase for the entire group of houses we secured the finest possible at the lowest price."

Two-thirds of the houses in Peacock Lane were sold before they were finished. And the balance sold shortly after, so at this writing, not many months since ground was first broken in Peacock Lane, every house but one has been sold. The selling prices of this houses have been from $6,500 to $8,750 each. Quite a number of them were sold for all cash, the balance with down payments of from $1,000 to $2,000, the rest in monthly payments like rent of from $50 to $75.

Off first mortgages were taken at 6 per cent by the Prudential Life Insurance Company, the difference between the first mortgages and the down payments being absorbed by the Wassell estate as second mortgages.

"While I always engage the finest architects available in building apartments," Wassell says, "I developed the plans of these English houses myself by working out suggestions gained through a study of various magazine picturings of English style homes. When I had arranged my layouts I had a draughtsman work up specifications and working details."

1925 Peacock Lane - Portland Oregon
Another Group of Houses Which Form a Part of Peacock Lane, Showing the typical English Style, Garages Designed as a Part of the House and Attractive ARched Doorways Between Garage and House.


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