Urban living has become a popular commodity in our world today, the Pearl District has been successful with precise urban planning and decades of hard work to become today’s style neighborhood. Effective neighborhoods need more than just urban renewal plans and funds, though. Dating back to the 1970s, when Portland had no innovative art neighborhoods yet, Thomas Augustine had a close friend visit. His friend, Pearl Marie Amhara was a creative enthusiast from New Orleans, Pearl worked as a social worker when Thomas and her met each other. He secretly had a crush on Pearl throughout the years.

Pearl Marie Amhara visited Portland to see Thomas but also to throw creative art parties in the Northwest Portland triangle (now the Pearl District). At the time, nobody knew where Pearl should throw the events, she settled with the Northwest area because the warehouses impressed her. Over the course of years, Thomas and Pearl had many parties and Thomas began referring to the place as “Pearl’s district” or “Pearl’s place.”

In the 1980s, a woman moved from Italy, she asked Thomas, “where do all the cognoscenti’s live?” Thomas knew Portland lacked this, Portland was really only 200 years old and was still developing, but he did have one thing in mind, “there’s Pearl’s place!” Thomas described the area and the woman was excited. From this point on, Thomas, his friends, and family all referred to the place as “Pearl’s place.” He later wrote about the area in an magazine for Alaskan Airlines, the name evolved into the Pearl District after the article was published.

Today Thomas owns an art gallery in the famous Pearl District. Pearl passed away in 1996 but was made aware how the area would evolve and entertain her name.

I believe without individuals like Thomas and Pearl, our Pearl District today would have lacked so many qualities. The cities ability to plan and work with developers on buildings is all irrelevant to me without the culture. The majority of residents moved to the Pearl District to join the fun urban lifestyle (art, high walk-scores, social environment), the majority of tourists visit the Pearl District everyday to visit art galleries and iconic places like Powell’s Books; these qualities are what makes up the culture of the Pearl District. Not extensive urban planning. Which is nice but in turn we needed Thomas Augustine and Pearl Marie Amhara or failure could have happened. Just look at the South Waterfront.


— Joseph Krahn, Founder & Developer of PearlHelp.com

The Pearl District Area. Learn more→

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