Gregory Heights Library began as a reading room in the late 1930s, as Multnomah County Library continued to supplement neighborhood library service with small collections in rented facilities. Minutes of the April 12, 1938 meeting of the Library Association of Portland Board note residents’ demand for a neighborhood library at Gregory Heights.
A small reading room at 3448 N.E. 72nd Avenue opened quietly in 1938. Later that year, three hours per week were added to the schedule, resulting in 12 hours of reading room service per week. Circulation that year totaled 20,928. The Library Association of Portland’s 1939 annual report notes the “improved housing for the Gregory Heights station.”
In the 1950s, the Library Association of Portland began developing a plan for improved service that would gradually transition neighborhood library service from a large number of small locations to a smaller number of larger libraries that would be located to better serve the needs of the community. As part of this plan, the Gregory Heights reading room closed on June 6, 1956, transferring its service to a bookmobile that could better serve the area.
The next step in the plan included establishing a permanent library on “upper” Sandy Boulevard, and this remained a priority for the library throughout the rest of the decade.
In 1961, the Library Association of Portland directed William B. Wood, the new library director, to study existing libraries in light of recent population changes and development throughout Multnomah County. In 1962, the study committee recommended that five new library buildings be erected (including one in the Gregory Heights area), one rented library be relocated, and one owned library be renovated. The 1964-65 librarian’s report noted that among the major items for study and decision that year was the building specifications for the new Gregory Heights Library.
The Gregory Heights Library was dedicated on February 24, 1966, at its current location on the corner of N.E. 79th Avenue and N.E. Sandy Boulevard. The building could seat 40 readers and featured a collection of 10,000 books. Miss Eunice Wolfe was the first librarian.
Gregory Heights continued to serve a busy section of Northeast Portland with books, videotapes, audio cassettes and other materials throughout the 1970s. After three budget cuts during the 1982-83 fiscal year and reduced county funding during the following year, four libraries — including Gregory Heights — were reduced to half-time schedules with one staff operating two locations. In spite of the reduction in hours, circulation at those four libraries remained at 70 to 80 percent of circulation prior to the reduction. A three-year serial levy to restore library operations passed in May 1984, and the affected libraries resumed their regular five-day schedules.
In the 1980s, as the economy slowly improved, Gregory Heights Library customers benefited from an expanded collection of books and other materials. Computer terminals enabled customers to see which library materials were available at Central Library and other locations. A collection of Southeast Asian materials was added for those who spoke and read Vietnamese or Cambodian.
By the early 1990s, Gregory Heights Library was showing its age, despite repairs and minor changes. In May 1996, Multnomah County voters passed a general obligation bond measure to renovate deteriorating neighborhood libraries and to improve technology in all. Gregory Heights closed for renovation on July 3, 1998, reopening on March 2, 1999.
- Area: 5,997 square feet
- Book capacity: 20,000 volumes
- Original architect: Farnham and Peck, A.I.A.
- Renovation architect: Thomas Hacker and Associates P.C.
- Original contractor: Cloyd R. Watt
- Renovation contractor: Andersen Construction Co., Inc.
- First librarian: Eunice Wolfe
- Original opening date: February 23, 1966
- Reopening date: March 2, 1999