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For many years, Olds & King was considered the oldest department store west of the Mississippi River to operate continuously in one city. Henry Corbett opened “The Store”, as it was first called, at SW Front Avenue and Oak Street in 1851. Other owners followed Corbett, and in 1878, W.P. Olds, a store clerk and S.W. King, Portland school superintendent, acquired “The Store” and subsequently moved it to SW Fifth and Washington, renaming it “Olds & King.”


H.C. Wortman bought a one-third interest in 1891 and the store was rechristened Olds, Wortman & King. 

Interior view of Olds Wortman & King in 1898.

Olds Wortman & King Delivery Wagon.


The Olds Wortman & King Stables were located in Northeast Portland near Woodlawn School.


Early view of OWK trucks and wagons lined up before making their morning deliveries. [Photo courtesy of Charles T. Jobson, grandson of Welcome Low, who worked for Olds Wortman and King].

In 1910, Olds, Wortman and King built  a new six-story store at Morrison, Alder, Tenth and West Park Streets and it was the first store in the Northwest to occupy an entire block. The store opened with a brass band and what is believed to have been Portland’s first fashion show.


Olds Wortman & King was known for its day-lighted atrium exposing four selling floors, probably patterened after Chicago’s very successful Marshall Field’s. After World War II, an escalator was installed here.

The Paris Tea Room at Olds Wortman & King circa 1911.

 Streetcars and interurbans made connections at Olds Wortman & King, circa 1915. 

In 1925, the Schlessinger Company, took over operation of the store. In 1926, the Schlessingers reorganized the store and made many changes.

On August 14, 1926, a reception was held to bring together a great and growing army of patrons who were sold on the splendid merchandising service based on honesty and integrity. Refreshments were served from 8 to 10 pm, while Harry Hobbs’ Orchestra provided musical entertainment. A fashion show of the newest creations was held on the Central Staircase and the adjoining runway that was built for the occasion.

The next day, patrons were invited back to participate in the Jubilee Sale, celebrating the 75th Anniversary with a Diamond Jubilee. They wanted to showcase a thoroughly remodeled store with new display windows, interior enhancements and improved lighting effects.


Window display showing the development of bicycles over the years.


Santa Claus could be found at the Big Top Circus Toyland at Olds & King.


Santa’s Express at Toyland at Olds & King.


Santa’s Toy Catalog from Olds Wortman & King in 1931.


Western Department Stores was formed in 1935 as the result of a reorganization of the Schlessinger Company. At that time, it included three major stores: Kahns, which began operation in Oakland, California in 1890, Olds, Wortman and King in Portland and Rhodes in Tacoma, Washington.

Wortman was dropped from the name in 1944 and the store became known as Olds & King once again. In 1947, the building was remodeled again, under the direction of architect Pietro Belluschi. They installed one of the first escalator installations on the West Coast. Shortly thereafter, they installed new automatic elevators.

In 1951, Olds and King celebrated its 100th anniversary. Beginning in 1954, Western implemented an expansion program which added new stores in suburban shopping centers. A new Olds and King store was opened at the Gateway Center in the east Portland area in 1956.

Western Department Stores opened a second Kahn’s location in Oakland in 1957. Then, new Rhodes stores were opened in Lakewood, Washington and in California at Concord, Fresno and  Sacramento. There were now five stores under the Rhodes banner and in 1960, it was announced at a stockholders meeting on July 29, that all nine stores owned by Western would be re-branded as Rhodes stores on September 6, 1960.

Nine years later, Amfac, Inc. bought Rhodes-Western in September 1969 and the Rhodes stores were operated as part of the Liberty House-Rhodes Division of the AMFAC Merchandising Corporation. In 1973, most of the Rhodes stores were renamed “Liberty House” as they focused on suburban shopping mall locations and closed the older stand-alone department store locations. The Rhodes store in downtown Portland closed in January 1974. The Gateway store was remodeled and renamed Liberty House in November 1973 in conjunction with the new Liberty House store at Jantzen Beach. The following year, a new Liberty House opened in Washington Square. Other Liberty House stores opened in the region, but they were all absorbed into now defunct Frederick & Nelson in the mid-1980’s.

Portland’s latterday forefathers Bill and Sam Naito renovated the Olds & King-Rhodes building in downtown Portland in the mid-1970’s and opened the Galleria with 42 stores which had a local flavor on three floors. The urban mall met with early success, but over the years it lost its luster and retail was consolidated on the first floor. The Western Culinary Institute occupies the upper floors with a space on the first floor for a restaurant, cafe’ and a coffee shop where they feature the baked creations of aspiring chefs from the Institute. Brooks Brothers occupies a large portion of the first floor and a City Target which opened July 24, 2013 now occupies three floors.

Department Stores

Last updated 10-23-16

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