A Brief History of William Ladd & Ladd’s Addition

Ladd’s Addition was developed on land once owned by William Sargent Ladd. Born in Vermont, the 24-year-old Ladd arrived in Portland in April of 1851, two months after the city was incorporated. He had a consignment of liquor, a reference from his minister, and enough cash for two weeks. His shoes were in such poor condition that a bartender gave him a new pair.

Ladd sold his liquor consignment and made $2,000. He went on to sell other consigned goods, such as paper, tobacco, shaving soap, farm tools, and blasting powder, as well as items produced locally. In 1853, he built Portland’s first brick structure and was elected to the city council. By 1854, he was making loans, receiving deposits, and acting as a banker to his customers. He made loans at one percent interest per month, and often received goods or real e!state as repayment.

In 1854, Ladd was elected to the first of his two terms as mayor. He continued his mercantile business until 1859, when he and C. E. Tilton established the Ladd & Tilton Bank, the first bank on the northwest coast. Another bank venture was the Ladd & Bush Bank in Salem (1867). He was a major mover in the Oregon Steam Navigation Co. (1860), the Oregon Telegraph Co. (1862), the Oregon Iron & Steel Co. (1866), the Oregon Central Railroad Co. (1866), the Oregon & Idaho Telegraph Co. (1868), the Oregon Furniture Manufacturing Co. (1874), the Portland Flouring Mills (1883), the Portland Hotel (1887), and the Portland Cordage Co. (1888). He contributed to the Portland Public Library, an orphanage, Oregon’s medical school, and Willamette University. He was president of the board of regents of the state agricultural school (later Oregon State University). He owned 4,000 acres of land. One of his three farms included t!he 126-acre plot that became Ladd’s Addition, which he bought in 1878.

In 1891, Ladd visited Washington, D. C., and was impressed with its hub-and-spoke street plan. The plan for his Victorian “residence park,” later known as Ladd’s Addition, included a similar diagonal street system around five “village greens.” Service alleys kept the garages and utilities behind the homes and businesses. He named the two main streets after himself and his wife, whose maiden name was Caroline Augusta Elliott. He gave the remaining streets the names of trees.

Ladd never saw the neighborhood he designed. He died on January 6, 1893, at the age of 66. His estate exceeded $10,000,000 (or $250,000,000 in current dollars). On May 18, 1897, his grave was opened and the body was stolen. The perpetrators planned to hold the body for ransom, but were arrested before they could do so. Thanks to expensive embalming, the body was still in good shape. The new grave was filled with concrete, and a guard stood by around t!he clock until it hardened.

Ladd’s Addition was developed between 1905 and 1930. Most sidewalks are imprinted with their date of construction. Horse tethering rings and metal curb protection for buggy wheels still remain. In 1909, Emanuel Mische, Portland’s first parks director and a former Olmstead associate, designed a formal landscape plan for Ladd’s Addition’s five city parks. He planted perennials in the central park and 3,000 rosebushes (about 60 varieties) in the four small parks. Streets were lined with American elms and Norway maples, white birches and little-leaf lindens. Later residents have retained much of the original landscaping and street tree plans.

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