Ralph B. Lloyd was born in 1875 in Ventura, California and first came to the Northwest in 1907. While in Portland he developed two strong convictions. The first was that Portland would become a great city. The second was that the East Side should be the center of that city. In 1911, Lloyd returned to California to manage the family ranch where he brought in his first oil gusher in 1920. Almost overnight, he became a very wealthy man. Over the next three decades, the millionaire oilman continued to believe and invest in Portland’s East Side.
Lloyd purchased his first parcel of Portland real estate in 1910, buying two lots on the northwest corner of Union Avenue (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) and Multnomah Street. He continued to buy small pieces of land until 1926, when he was finally able to purchase the largely undeveloped Holladay’s Addition and, later, 170 lots on both sides of Sullivan’s Gulch.
Throughout his time in Portland, Lloyd had to contend with skeptics and local business opposition from West Siders who did not believe the East Side could or should be allowed to prosper. Nevertheless, Lloyd remained committed to the city as a whole and to its prosperity. Ralph B. Lloyd died in 1953, without seeing his dream realized, and perplexed by Portland’s conservative attitudes toward development.
Realization of Lloyd’s dream was left to his descendants – his four daughters and their families. When construction of the Banfield Freeway through Sullivan’s Gulch was assured, the Lloyd family’s focus turned to a retail facility. Throughout the 1950s, master planning progressed for the Lloyd Center and its surrounding area. At that time, the Lloyd District was similar to many urban Portland neighborhoods – middle-class, single- and multi-family homes with a big Sears store, grocery stores, a few restaurants, dry cleaners, churches, etc. serving the residents.
In August 1960, Lloyd Center, the then-largest shopping center in the country, opened its doors. As an open-air development, it featured extensive award-winning landscaping and became immediately popular with residents from all over Portland.