About the tour

Each year, the Irvington Home Tour is held on the third Sunday of May – rain or shine. The 2016 Tour will be held on May 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plan on spending at least two-and-a-half hours touring homes.

A history of the Irvington Home Tour
Irvington Home Tour Etiquette
Irvington Home Tour Fundraising

A history of the Irvington Home Tour

The Irvington Home Tour is the longest continuously running neighborhood home tour in Portland. In fact, the very first Irvington Home Tour, conducted in 1967, was the first such tour in the city. The tour was scheduled intermittently until 1983, when the popular program became a permanent part of the Irvington Community Association's annual calendar.

The Tour has its genesis in the dark days of the mid-1960s. The middle-class flight to the suburbs had drained population and resources away from the neighborhood and by the early years of the 1960s, many of the fine homes had been turned into rooming houses. Some of the larger ones had been abandoned altogether. Compounding the problem, the part of Irvington west of NE 15th Avenue was "red lined" by the racist managements of local banks, making it difficult for residents to obtain loans for restoration or purchase of the houses there.

In those years, apartment developers began to demolish the homes between Tillamook and Broadway, replacing them with uninteresting (and some would say ugly), apartment buildings, whose principal architectural feature was a large parking. By 1964, a few neighborhood residents took the lead to organize the community to fight the blight. The Irvington Community Association (ICA) was formed that year, the first such organization in Portland.

In 1967, one of the activities organized by the ICA was a home tour of 20 neighborhood residences. The idea was to inform the larger community of the historic homes still very much intact in the neighborhood, to provide an activity that would help neighbors get acquainted, and to raise money for community projects. Those goals have remained the focus of the tour ever since. In the ensuing years, the tour was held sporadically, as interest and available volunteers permitted.

By the early 1980s, the germ of an urban renaissance had begun to spring up and the Irvington Home Tour was made a regular annual activity. The Tour provided a stimulus to rehabilitation and recognition for the home owners who were making major investments in cash and “sweat equity” to restore their properties. The Tour began to grow in attendance as citywide interest in Irvington increased in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1991 the attendance had grown, and revenues from the event had grown beyond the few hundred dollars that was typical of earlier years. In response, the ICA created its Charitable Giving Program and developed guidelines for distributing the proceeds of the Tour to worthy charities that have a connection to the Irvington neighborhood.

Today, as Irvington has resumed its status as one of the premier neighborhoods of Portland, the Tour continues its role of bringing neighbors together and raising money for community projects. Where once sales of a few hundred tickets were considered a success, now sales are capped at 1,000 and most years tickets sell out in advance.

Irvington Home Tour Etiquette

On the day of the tour, please arrive at the location printed on your ticket. There you will be given the printed program which lists the homes, provides a map showing all locations, includes descriptions of sites along the way, and explains what you will see in each home. This program is your admission pass to each home. Because this is a residential neighborhood, we encourage tour-goers to enjoy a walk between homes, rather than driving. Plan on spending at least two-and-a-half hours touring homes.

Each home is staffed with volunteer docents, who are knowledgeable about the home and its features and will be happy to answer your questions.

To ensure an enjoyable and safe experience for all, please follow these guidelines:

  • Admission is by ticket only, no exceptions.
  • Children under the age of 7 are not permitted inside homes – with the exception of infants carried in “front packs.”
  • No high-heeled shoes.
  • Booties are provided and must be worn over shoes or socks.
  • No opening of drawers, cabinets, or closets.
  • No handling of any household furnishings.
  • No smoking, eating, or drinking while on private property.
  • No photography or video cameras allowed inside homes.
  • No pets.
  • Do not use the restrooms in tour homes.

Irvington Home Tour Fundraising

In addition to sharing the rich history and amazing homes that make up in Irvington, the goal of the Tour is to raise funds for the ICA to donate to charitable organizations which enhance the quality of life for the neighborhood.

The ICA follows five basic guidelines when selecting organizations to fund through its charitable giving program:

  1. To nurture our children and youth — Our priorities are to help parents build skills for successful child rearing, to improve the quality of child care, to provide positive experiences for youth that will stimulate curiosity and contribute to a sense of self-worth, and to make excellent, challenging education available to all our young people.
  2. To promote a high quality of life for our elderly citizens — Our priorities are to give older residents opportunities to enrich their lives, to help elders and their families adapt to new life situations caused by aging and to improve the quality of long-term care available for the elderly.
  3. To improve life for the disadvantaged — Our priorities are to assist the poor, the physically challenged, and those in crisis — to help them improve their lives and achieve long term self-sufficiency.
  4. To enrich community life through cultural and educational awareness — Our priorities are to expand cultural and community education opportunities for our diverse population and to increase the self-sufficiency of enrichment organizations.
  5. To foster an informed and involved citizenry — Our priorities are to help Irvington residents, including young people, to become effective leaders, to promote community problem solving through training, and to involve diverse groups of people in mutual problem solving.

To learn more about the ICA’s charitable giving program, contact Susan Hathaway-Marxer at susan.marxer@comcast.net.