East Columbia is a Portland neighborhood bordered roughly by Marine Drive on the north, the Columbia Slough on the south, Interstate 5 on the west and the Levee Road dike on the east. The area’s history has been shaped by the character of its wetlands and its role as a link between Portland and Vancouver. Before it was annexed to Portland, this general area was known as Faloma.
Native Americans of the Multnomah tribe living on nearby Sauvie Island hunted and fished along Columbia Slough for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
Early European explorers brought unfamiliar diseases to these tribes. Epidemics drastically reduced their numbers, and the malaria epidemic of the 1830s killed about 90 percent of them.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed nearby but did not camp here.
John Switzler and his family settled here. He supplied Fort Vancouver with cattle, which he pastured where Columbia Edgewater members now play golf. He also ran a post office and the first Portland-Vancouver ferry. The fare was 50 cents for a pedestrian and one dollar for a horse and rider.
The Portland and Vancouver Railroad reached Switzler’s ferry landing.
Local residents built a rough dike along the Columbia.
The original Columbia School was built as a one-room schoolhouse.
Portland Yacht Club was founded on the Willamette River. In 1926 they floated their clubhouse and boathouses to the current Marine Drive site.
Peninsula Drainage District #2 was formed to manage area flood threats.
A more substantial river dike was constructed.
Columbia Edgewater Country Club opened.
The Flood Control Act led to dike improvements by the Corps of Engineers over the next few years.
Columbia School was rebuilt to its current size.
Henry Kaiser created Vanport nearby to provide homes for shipyard workers during World War II. Their children attended Columbia School.
May 30, 1948
Flooding from a levee break destroyed Vanport, which was never rebuilt. The Vanport Flood also reached East Columbia. The Corps of Engineers soon strengthened the levees enough to withstand a 100-year flood.
Jubitz Truck Stop opened.
The Interstate 5 freeway was built.
The “Christmas Flood” spurred evacuation, but the area did not flood.
Columbia School became a middle school and part of the Portland Public School District. It created an outdoor classroom that is now the Columbia Children’s Arboretum, administered by Portland Parks and Recreation.
Portland annexed East Columbia, established commercial zoning here and required sewers. Area residents organized to deal with the high cost of sewer installation.
East Columbia Neighborhood Association was formed.
At this point in its history, East Columbia included widely-spaced homes, recreational areas, open meadows, vegetable farms, horse stables, dog kennels and businesses related to the trucking industry.
Columbia School closed as a general school. Today, it provides classes for children with special social and emotional needs.
As of the 1990 census, East Columbia, with 475 acres, had 474 people living in 238 households.
The Albina Community Plan opened zoning for higher density housing.
Lija Loop added 32 new homes to the area. Other new houses expanded Meadow Drive and Faloma Road during the 1990s.
By the 2000 census, East Columbia had grown to 753 people living in 282 households. In 1999-2000, Blue Heron Meadows added 104 new homes.
Mariner’s Gale/Loop brought 86 new households to East Columbia.
East Columbia Neighborhood Association expanded its borders to welcome Deltawood and Fox Hollow residents and Hayden Meadows businesses.
As of the 2010 census, East Columbia has a population of 1,750.