Jun 4 2014

A show of hands, who's been to Edgefield...? OK, great. Now, who's been to Ruby's Spa at Edgefield? Whether you've been to get a massage, lounge in the soaking pool or have your nails done, here's a little background on that building, among the "newer" on the Edgefield property, and one that has ties to the recently purchased Pig Farm acreage across the street to the north.

While this eBlast gives you a general summary, the History Pub at Edgefield's Blackberry Hall next Tuesday (see poster below) will delve more deeply into the story of The Cedars, set within the contextual history of the day and presented by Dr. Kimberly Jensen, professor of history and gender studies at Western Oregon University. The event is free and open to all ages.



Chapter 1: The Cedars

posterIn 1917, six years after Edgefield opened as the county poor farm, a detention home for "fallen women" called The Cedars was built to the north of Edgefield, accessible via the old Sandy Rd. (near today's county animal shelter and part of what we are currently calling the Pig Farm, a nearly 65-acre plot of land that will have multiple uses).

As a City of Portland facility, The Cedars fell under the stewardship of Lola Baldwin, Portland's first policewoman, nemesis of Ringler (the Crystal Ballroom's original proprietor), and namesake of our Lola's Room. Press clippings trumpeted The Cedars as a "refuge for diseased women." Yet the concern wasn't actually for the women themselves, but for servicemen headed overseas for WWI who might unknowingly fall prey to these scandalous women [sarcasm mine]. Per Uncle Sam, venereal disease was "an enemy as vicious as 'the Hun,'" so it was of utmost importance that our boys in uniform be kept at a safe distance from prostitutes, the leading source of venereal infection. So the women were shipped out to Troutdale.

Initially, The Cedars was lauded as a model facility. Yet within six years, in 1923, the venture failed as a result of negative press. A number of escapes had made it clear that not every female "inmate" was grateful for her rehabilitation. Periodically, inmates broke out by digging under the stockade or prying open the bars on the windows. Staff were even accused of placing parolees from The Cedars into private homes where they were kept in virtual states of slavery. Another condemnation came from a local judge who rightly decried the whole system of detaining diseased women but not men as "an infernal outrage against womanhood."

Chapter 2: Bealey Military Academy

The vacated Cedars remained unoccupied for two and a half years, 'til 1925, when it was purchased for use as the Bealey Military Academy. (The rich irony of a home for fallen women turning into a boys' military academy cannot be overlooked.) On August 1, 1926, hundreds attended the school's grand opening and enrollment of nine cadets. Aviator Oakley Kelly, who had co-piloted the first nonstop flight across the country, delivered a United States flag and note from President Calvin Coolidge, dispatched via air mail for the momentous event.

In its early years, Bealey Academy thrived, accepting applications from around the U.S. and even South America. However, within six years, the facility had fallen into debt and had its own share of bad press - one lawsuit claimed that facilities were not kept clean, that the food wasn't good, that students were required to do menial tasks and more. Combined with the crushing economic effects of the Great Depression, the notoriety was too much for the school to bear. Bealey Academy was shuttered in early 1931.

Chapter 3: Janus House

For the second time, this building with undoubtedly thousands of stories to tell stood vacant. In 1938, after Edgefield's administrator had appealed to the Works Progress Administration, the women's-refuge-turned-boys-academy was dismantled and the timber carted across the street to the Edgefield poor farm campus, where it was used to construct the three-story building on the west side of the property that you see today.

The newly built duplex initially housed Edgefield's staff doctors and nurses, and later the farm managers' families. After the farming operation ceased in 1969, the house sat empty for nearly a decade, until the county made it available for the Janus Youth program, providing residential care for adolescents struggling with homelessness and drug abuse. Named Janus for the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, gates, doors, passages, endings and time, it's also fitting for the building's history too.

Chapter 4: Ruby's Spa

spaIn the mid-2000s, when the Janus program relocated from Troutdale, McMenamins acquired the building from the county, thereby returning the structure to the fold of the historic Edgefield poor farm complex.

Today, it's known as Ruby's Spa (right), a truly relaxing, welcoming place. The ladies of The Cedars, and perhaps the Bealey boys and Janus kids, too, would have appreciated a spot such as this.

We'll see you on Tues., June 10, for "Venereal Girls: The Cedars Detention Home and the Portland Free Dispensary - Gender, Public Health and Civil Liberties in WWI and Its Aftermath." Maybe schedule yourself a massage at Ruby's Spa beforehand?

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#1 Noah

Awesome story! I love reading your companies history! 

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