Woody Guthrie’s Portland Apartment Is for Sale

This house was made for you and me.

Woody Guthrie. IMAGE: Al Aumuller.

Each new year shimmers with possibility. For example: Maybe 2023 is the year you move into Woody Guthrie’s apartment building.

The fascist-fighting folk troubadour lived in Portland for just one month, starting in May 1941. Low on cash (Depression, dust bowl), he took a gig from the Bonneville Power Administration to write songs praising the construction of Columbia River dams. For four weeks, Guthrie, his wife Mary, and their three young children lived in a second-story apartment in the Southeast Portland neighborhood of Lents.

That apartment building went on the market this month for $975,000. For that price you get a two-story, 2,748-square-foot fourplex with six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a four-space parking lot. The building was last purchased two years ago by Happy Valley real estate agent Alexandru Ianos for $480,000. (Photos suggest Ianos Realty has done some work on the place.) It’s across the street from a Nectar cannabis dispensary and a subsidized housing complex named after Guthrie.

Woody Guthrie didn’t like Portland. (He called it “a place where rich ones run away to settle down and grow flowers and shrubbery to hide them from the massacres they’ve caused.”) And his legacy here is hardly pristine: The songs he wrote were used as advertising for the hydroelectric dam projects that submerged Celilo Falls, Oregon’s largest waterfall, a tribal fishing area, and the oldest continuously inhabited place in North America until it was flooded.

Still, Ianos Realty is using Guthrie as a selling point. “Great opportunity to own the Woody Guthrie House, the actual location where the famous musician lived in 1941 while writing songs for the Bonneville Power Administration,” the Redfin listing notes. That’s a change from 2016, when the previous owner told an Oregonian reporter, “I had no idea Woody Guthrie lived here. Had no idea.”

The listing adds that the property is zoned for “potential commercial uses.” Think: This Coffee Shop Kills Fascists. That sort of thing.

It’s a little odd that the proposition boils down to “Imagine being Woody Guthrie’s landlord,” but these are strange times. It’s not like you and three friends couldn’t pool your resources and start a communal living arrangement.

And if the sign says “For sale,” well, on the other side it doesn’t say nothing. This house was made for you and me.

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