One of the first settlers in the area was Philip Foster. He arrived in the Oregon Territory in 1843. His wife was Mary Charlotte Pettygrove, sister of Francis W. Pettygrove, one of the founders of the city. Foster owned a merchandise business in the city and a farm at Eagle Creek, which was the first one on the Oregon Trail in the Willamette Valley. Initially, most of the land area of the neighborhood was geared toward farming and rural life. Homesteads were scattered throughout the area. The coming of the streetcar and interurban lines to this region between the 1880s and World War I greatly altered the area’s scenery and lifestyle.
The Foster-Powell neighborhood began as the Kern Park streetcar subdivision in the early 1900s as Portland expanded eastward from the Willamette River. Its northern border is formed by Powell Blvd, a U.S. highway (26) that stretches from the Oregon coast to the heart of Nebraska. Foster Road defines the southern border of the neighborhood, giving it its peculiar triangle shape. Foster Road breaks off from US 26/Powell Blvd at 50th Avenue, continues eastward through Pleasant Valley and terminates in the town of Damascus. In Portland’s early days, Foster was a dusty trail used by farmers to haul their goods downtown, passing through the then-independent town of Lents (near 92nd Avenue) on the way. Portland expanded and connected transportation links to suburbs, including the old Mt. Scott streetcar line which traveled up Foster on its way to Lents, eventually connecting to service all the way to Estacada. In the early 20th century, Foster was Portland’s widest street, with 17-foot wide sidewalks modeled after Parisian boulevards. A large area containing the Foster-Powell, Mt. Scott-Arleta, and most of South Tabor neighborhoods was annexed to Portland by an election held November 3, 1908.
After some years of decline during the economic troubles of the 1970s and 1980s, this area of Southeast Portland is making a comeback. Young families and immigrants, attracted by the affordability of housing, are moving into the area in droves, restoring its residential vitality. New shops and restaurants are opening along Foster Road, and the recent extension of the Lents Urban Renewal Area down Foster to 50th will provide funding to fix up many storefronts and implement the Foster Road Streetscape improvements. Foster Road is finally on its way back to being one of Portland’s great Main Streets!
Foster Road Transportation and Streetscape Plan
Oregon Historical Society
City of Portland Office of Transportation