Portland Officials Voice Support for Creating Northwest Darcelle XV Street

Maybe it’s kismet that the Alphabet District street outside Darcelle XV Showcase starts with the letter D.

Portland is poised to change the street name of one of its main drags.

In the hours after the death of Walter Cole, beloved as the female impersonator Darcelle XV, pedicab driver and pedaling advocate Ryan Hashagen papered over a street sign outside Darcelle XV Showcase in Old Town. For the weekend, Northwest Davis Street became Northwest Darcelle XV Street.

Three members of the Portland City Council tell WW they’re open to making the change permanent.

“I love this idea,” says Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “Darcelle deserves recognition in our city so that future Portlanders know her impact.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler is on board, too. “Darcelle is a Portland icon, and if a proposal to change the street name was brought forward to City Council, Mayor Wheeler would help see it through,” says his spokesman Cody Bowman. “In the near term, Mayor Wheeler supports the temporary signage and hopes it will stay up.”

Bowman directed further inquiries to the office of Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Mapps says he, too, wants a Darcelle Street.

“Sure, I support it,” Mapps told WW. “We are working with PBOT on a new process for street renaming.”

But there’s one big problem, Mapps says: City code requires that a street’s namesake be dead for five years.

Mapps says that’s one of the pieces of red tape he’s trying to remove by crafting a new process. “Under the current code,” he said in a statement, “a person must be deceased for at least five years, which is just one example of how this outdated code section can be improved. I look forward to the day when we can see Darcelle’s name on the street sign.”

But in past street renamings, such as changing Southwest Stark Street to Southwest Harvey Milk Street in 2018, the City Council has simply voted to overrule the code.

Darcelle was the drag persona created by Cole in the 1970s, and became the central performer at the nightclub that bears her name. Darcelle XV Showcase holds a central place in the fabric of Portland’s LGBTQ+ life—and sits on the corner of Northwest 3rd Avenue and Davis Street.

Northwest Portland’s street names run in alphabetical order, giving the neighborhood its “Alphabet District” moniker. So the synchonicity of Darcelle’s club and the D street name is drawing enthusiasm at City Hall.

Northwest Davis Street received that name in 1891. Its namesake was Anthony L. Davis, Portland’s first justice of the peace and the first director of the city’s public school system.

In his book Portland Names and Neighborhoods, Eugene E. Snyder notes that the naming of the street required scrapping another proposed Davis Street in Southwest Portland. “There were, of course, many other pioneer Portlanders whose name began with ‘D’ who could have been commemorated on ‘D’ street,” Snyder wrote. “Therefore, Anthony Davis must have been a likable and outstanding citizen.”

By all accounts, the same was true of Darcelle.

For their part, Hashagen is delighted that their change was picking up traction in City Hall. “Darcelle XV is a local legend that deserves to be recognized for all of their contributions to our community and beyond,” Hashagen tells WW.

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