The fire at 1 West Portal a few weeks ago stirred some strong memories for me. My very first ‘grown up apartment’ was at 330 West Portal back in 1987. My landlady was Demitra (Demi) Georgas, who also owned 1 West Portal-which has remained in her family.
The Avenue was totally new to me even though I had already lived in the city for two years. It was much different back then; there was no Starbucks, Café for all Seasons was the hot ticket and Sylvanus Upholstery was at 199 WP. A friend went with me to look at the apartment and although Demi’s property manager showed me the property, Demi dropped in to check me out-we hit it off immediately.
I loved my first apartment. Built in the 1920’s, the Spanish Mediterranean flavor had me hooked. Although it was a studio, I had my own fireplace, a balcony, a vintage purple tile bathroom and hardwood floors- all for $500 a month. I was working in an architectural firm at the time and she had a soft spot for architects, because one of her nephews was studying architecture. Instead of raising my rent, she asked me to change the burned out light bulbs in the hall ways; when my car got broken into on 14th Ave., she rented me a parking place in the building for $25 a month and when I was ready to buy my first place, she offered to help me out.
Demi and I stayed in touch over the years and occasionally ran into each other on the Avenue. When I found out that she had passed away some years ago, I went to her funeral. This phenomenal woman made a huge impact on my life. To a large extent, she introduced me to West Portal and I’ve considered it my neighborhood ever since.