Real Estate

Property Watch: A Former Social Club Turned Home in the Heart of Sellwood

Built in 1910, this grand home saw Sellwood grow up around it.

By Melissa Dalton March 10, 2023

Editor’s Note: Portland Monthly’s “Property Watch” column takes a weekly look at an interesting home in Portland’s real estate market (with periodic ventures to the burbs and points beyond, for good measure). This week: a former social club in Sellwood. Got a home you think would work for this column? Get in touch at [email protected].

On January 17, 1910, the Sellwood Commercial Club held a grand opening for their newly built and furnished clubhouse on Umatilla Street, just off SE 13th Avenue. The club reportedly had a membership of 175 local businessmen who were eager to promote Sellwood’s growth and development, and the clubhouse would be a place for them to gather, play pool and cards, and conduct business.

At the opening, called a “red-letter event in the history of that suburb” by the Oregonian, the president gave a speech praising Sellwood, saying, “There has not been any wild cat scheme or gold-brick inducements [to bring people] here,” but added that there would need to be gas lines and paved streets if more people were going to be persuaded to buy lots and build homes.

After so auspicious a start, it’s a bit of a mystery as to why the club disbanded within the next decade, but the clubhouse endures. Better yet, much of its original character has been kept intact, and mixed with strategic modern upgrades to convert it into a gracious and comfortable home.

From the exterior, the home looks like a fairly typical bungalow of its era, though large, with a deep front porch across the façade and a little hip-roofed dormer projecting above. Inside, the scale and proportions of the rooms are generous, hinting at its past as a place for people to gather and fit in a couple pool tables, with extra tall ceilings over 12 feet high on the main floor and oversize double-hung windows.

The main floor’s plan is circular, with wide cased doorways between the foyer and primary rooms, sometimes with additional columns, or half-walls of glass-fronted bookshelves. The wood floors have been refinished, and they shine against the original dark wood trim found around the windows and doors, at the picture rail, in the baseboard, and in the coffered ceiling over the dining room.

As you might expect in a former clubhouse, there are a few different seating areas, including two living rooms (one with a working fireplace) and, off the foyer, an open room with built-in bookshelves that could serve as an office, library, or flex space. There are two bedrooms on the main floor as well: one that may have been the former card room, and one connected to the living room by pocket doors, so it would also make for a really nice office.

Home staging by Modern Folk

The dining room still has its original serving hutch, while the kitchen, which is accessed through a swing door with a brass hand plate, has been nicely updated with era-appropriate cabinetry, tile, and a large gas range. Off it, find a full bathroom, and a door to the backyard, which was layered with decks to make multiple seating areas in a smaller footprint.

Upstairs, there’s the same tall ceilings and nice proportions for two bedrooms, the primary suite, and a recently remodeled hall bathroom, complete with clawfoot tub, pedestal sink, and modern lighting.

Back in the club’s days, the basement was the banquet hall, and perhaps that’s why the ceilings are so high there, about nine feet, with more than 1,800 square feet of space. It’s been finished with a kitchenette, great room, nonconforming bedroom, full bathroom, and separate entrance. So, rather than hosting “red-letter” parties and fundraising banquets for the neighborhood, it could become that much more modern means of income generation: an ADU. 

Listing Fast Facts

  • Address: 1325 SE Umatilla St, Portland, OR 97202
  • Size: 4,825 square feet/5 bedroom/4 bath
  • List Date: 2/23/2023  
  • List Price: $1,325,000  
  • Listing Agent: Carolyn Spurlock and Allison Williams, Windermere Realty Trust, 

Melissa Dalton is a freelance writer who has focused on Pacific Northwest design and lifestyle since 2008. She is based in Portland, Oregon. Contact Dalton here.