Lents History

A vibrant, thriving community

Once a vibrant, thriving farming and business community, with a strong sense of solidarity and independent spirit, the town of Lents, Oregon stood unincorporated on the eastern outskirts of Portland. The residents enjoyed the simplicity and convenience of a small, self-contained town and the benefits of close proximity to a major port and rail city. Lents was never a wealthy area but it was considered a safe and good place to work and raise a family. All the necessities of life were within walking distance and families and businesses flourished.

The decline of Lent’s vitality began in the 1930s with 82nd Ave becoming a state highway and major commercial zone. The decline culminated in the ‘70s with the construction of the I-205 freeway, which cut through the heart of town. These events contributed to a state of depression and poverty for Lents.

Despite these challenges the Lents community has always maintained a glimmer of the pride from what once made it a desirable place to live and visit. Throughout the years, various members of the community have researched and carried forward the town’s history in an effort to inform and reinstill a sense of collective pride and enthusiasm among its people.

One of the best examples of this is the book written by sisters Judith Quinlin Bunch and Joyce Quinlin Gray called Pearl Tea – Historical Stories of Lents, Oregon 1861 to 1954 (published in 2008 and reprinted in 2011). The Quinlin sisters grew up in Lents and have a family lineage in the neighborhood. The book is a wonderful journey through the town’s history told through stories, many of which their family had a personal connection to. It’s available for check-out at the Multnomah County Library and is highly recommended.

History Display by Ray Hites – Lents Fair 2016

Another example is the mobile history display that was put together and presented by Ray Hites, a Lents historian, at various local events such as the Lents Fair (The display, as seen here in the photo from the 2016 Lents Fair, had historical photos and documents covering both the front and back side). When Ray stopped bringing out the display, I (author of this paper) carried on the tradition with a photo and history display which I have hosted at several Lents community events beginning in 2018.

History Display by Jason Bird – Lents Farmers Market – 2022

In 2005, Randy Dagel, owner and operator of Lents Auto Body Shop from 1984 – 2016, published a paper titled The Founding History of the Lents Neighborhood Portland, Oregon, and posted it to his company’s website for the public to read (it is no longer available on the website).

These efforts and other significant contributions from dutiful residents had a hand in bringing attention to city leaders that the neighborhood was worthy of and ready for a large-scale revitalization effort, and in the early ‘90s the city’s Planning Bureau began working with Lents community members on what would eventually become the second largest Urban Renewal Area in the city of Portland.

Jason Bird – Website author and Lents Community Member since 2007

Poem from Beaver State Herald Sept. 28, 1911  

Lents, Oh! Beautiful Lents.
   With well-kept graded streets.
‘Tis of everything you are wise,
   With woodlands, baseball park, and retreats.

Go to “Kelley’s Butte” for your sport
   The height of enjoyment to reach.
There your lady friend you may court,
   On the beautiful shady slope.

The theater ‘s’ you will sure report
   Are fine places for friends to meet
And stores are the best of the sort,
   That one would want the eye to greet.

Our many maidens in Lents
   Are dainty, graceful, and sweet,
Likewise, the gentleman too are 
   – Handsome, good-looking and neat.

The newspaper and its exhorts,
   Similar to a metropolitan sheet;
And its articles have no retort,
   By the pen pushers swift and fleet.
                        – Contributed.