Portland West Side Auto Camp

Portland West Side Auto Camp, ca. 1930.

Portland West Side Auto Camp, ca. 1930.

The first facilities specifically for automobile tourists were auto camps – campgrounds where the motor tourist could pitch a tent and have access to shared kitchen and bathing facilities. These were usually anchored by a gas station, store and sometimes a cafe.

The earliest auto camp in Southwest Portland was the Portland West Side Auto Camp, built at the heart of the John Slavin donation land claim. After Slavin died in 1908, his family subdivided and sold off the property. Dr. Edward A. Pierce bought the lot containing the 1882 Slavin house in 1917, remodeled it, added twenty-five cabins, and opened the Pierce Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Pierce closed the sanatorium in 1925 and leased the land and buildings to George and Elsie Battey, who converted the sanatorium into the Portland West Side Auto Camp. The camp was an immediate success. During the winter of 1925-6 the Battey’s demolished the Slavin house and used the wood to construct twenty – eight additional cabins. The camp operated from 1925 to 1953, first as an auto camp, then as a motel, and finally as a trailer park.

Had those early auto tourists known some of the cabins they were staying in once housed tuberculosis patients, the camp probably would have seen few guests. The site of the auto camp (the northeast corner of SW Capitol Highway and SW Sunset) is occupied today by The Hillsdale library, apartments, homes, and commercial buildings.

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