Portland Oregon Parks

Going down the slow hill once more one finds that B street heads, to speak in the manner of the mountaineer, in a stony canyon, whose natural roughness has been aggravated by gravel-diggers. Out of this rises, or did rise King’s Creek, a stream of most delicious water, which has now been consigned to more than Tartarean gloom in a sewer. In a cleft on. the left, which is soft and leafy with trees overhanging, and cool with the shade of some immense firs, begins an inviting path, gently rising, leading between two banks more or less bestrewn with leaves and ornate with fern fronds, maiden-hair, wood-brakes, wild shrubs and fox-tails. Trees of fir, cedar, dogwood, maple and willow lean over the way; logs lie above across the ravine from one side to the other, and upon them have been laid rustic walks.

The city has other parks-a whole string of them from end to end, but some individual of pomological ideas was intrusted with the work of improving them, and set out trees in lines geometrically straight like an. apple orchard, making the park blocks almost offensive to a man of sensitive nature. The City park was, however, saved from any such errors. It contains forty acres and was bought as much as ten years ago from A. M. King at the then high price of $1,000 per acre. Lying on the hillside, with gulch and steep brow, and looking like all the other hills surrounding, the people of the city felt no vast interest in the place, and it was difficult to gain any appropriation to improve the same. If $50,000 had been secured at once it is likely that the whole thing would have been grubbed and levelled and set out to poplar trees in straight rows. But having only about enough means to employ a keeper, the city took no such disastrous steps, and the gardener was left to make the place as attractive as possible by his personal labors. Very wisely he decided not to dig up the trees but to simply clear away the rubbish and to let the native shrubbery and the wild-wood still grow. Following along in this line it was soon demonstrated what a wealth of beauty had already been lavished upon the spot. Little firs, clumps of crooked vine maples, clean-boiled dogwoods, endless bunches of the scarlet flowered currant that flames in the early spring, and many others such as our suns and showers nourish, were left to their first estate, and were only relieved of the rubbish of years. The roads which have been built from B street and from Jefferson street, must of necessity wind along the hill and thus be as curving as the hill points themselves. As time has gone the ground has been turfed, the roadways terraced above; hothouses and plats of flowers added; pumps, a seal-tub, a bear pit, cages for panthers, and a deer-park have also been supplied.

Coming around in front of the hill one discovers Portland. One sees now that he has not as yet seen it at all. From the river it is not the city but the back-ground that appears. From the hill-fronts he looks down over the place. To get a full, unobstructed sweep, let him ascend the heights still back of the park and stand on the tree-shagged knob of King’s mountain. While on the subject of parks, it may be suggested, that forty acres is very small for anything really fine. Let six hundred be added to if. A good piece of land along the river, or perhaps Ross Island; and a square mile or two on the East side should also be secured before values become too exorbitant.

In coming back from the park, one sees on the south side of B street a large wooden building, covering two blocks, 400×200 feet. It is that of the North Pacific Industrial Exposition. It was erected by the people of Portland in 1888, at a cost of $150,000. Its first opening in 1889, from September 26 to October 26, was a great success, people coming in for attendance from all parts of the Northwest. The exhibit was good, the music excellent, furnished by special contract with Liberati, of New York, and the receipts were so large as to assure the success of the undertaking henceforth. From the time of the organization of the Mechanic’s Fair on the old Market block it has been the custom of the people of the surrounding towns and country to come to Portland at the time of the exposition, and the transportation lines have favored them with reduced fares. This has made Portland a sort of Mecca for the whole Northwest; and is unquestionably the best sort of policy for her to pursue a liberal spirit of general good feeling inviting communication and friendship. The following is a good description of the building: The exposition building is a mammoth structure of brick, iron, glass and fir. It is certainly the largest edifice on the Pacific Coast, and competent judges, who have visited exposition buildings throughout the United States declare it to be superior for the purposes for which it was erected to any they have seen. It is 400 feet long by 200 feet deep and covers two full blocks. Practically it is three stories high, the floor of the central portion or music hall being thirty feet lower than those of the two large wings, while a gallery forty feet wide extends throughout the entire building. With the galleries the building has a floor space of 143,000 square feet, and, after deducting aisles of ample width; can accommodate 250 exhibitors with 200 square feet each. The general plan of the main floors and galleries has been made so that all pushing and crowding may be avoided, and exhibitors may have spaces that can be seen by the greatest number of visitors.

The officers’ quarters, ladies’ parlor and gentlemen’s smoking room are on the main floor in the front part of the building, while the musicians’ room and dining room are in the rear portion. The interior is lighted by large windows on every side of the building, and by suitably located skylights. Under the main floor is ample room for storage. The boilers, engines and dynamos are separated some feet from the building and enclosed in a stone, iron and brick structure.

The right wing of the building, which is 200×150 feet, with a gallery 40 feet wide, is intended chiefly for exhibits of machinery. Main lines of shafting may be attached to the outside row of the gallery supports and so arranged that exhibitors can belt to almost any space in the entire hall. Steam pipes run under the floor and are so situated as to be easily tapped by exhibitors of engines and machinery requiring steam. Suitable arrangements are also made for exhibitors of pumps, electric-motors and other exhibits that require special facilities.

The central portion of the Exposition building was originally intended to be used permanently as a garden, with tropical plants, caged wild animals, and birds of rare plumage, but the possibilities of the uses to which this central portion could be put, led the management to temporarily at least, abandon the ” garden ” idea, and make of it a music hall. The rough plank floor on which it was intended to lay from twelve to eighteen inches of soil, has been covered with a toe and top nailed, best quality wood floor, and when waxed, as it will be, will make one of the finest floors in the country for promenade concert purposes. Two galleries, each sixteen feet wide, extend the entire length of either side. These are roomy, and have a seating capacity of 1,000. From every part of these galleries a full view of the stage can be had. The stage of this music hall is set in an elegantly painted grotto, and is surrounded almost entirely by a semi-circular sounding board which serves to intensify the magnificent acoustic properties of the hall. Behind this grotto is a magnificent landscape painting, executed by an eminent artist from Munich. The scene is typically representative of some of the garden spots of the North Pacific Coast, and is spread upon a canvas 100×85 feet. The roof of this hall, or garden, is of glass supported by eleven semi-circular arches of iron and fir. The diameter of each being 100 feet. The floors of the two wings of the Exposition building lead directly on to the galleries of the music hall. The entire seating capacity of this hall is between 5,000 and 6,000 persons.

The dimensions of the general exhibit hall are the same as those of the machinery hall, 150×200 feet, with a gallery forty feet wide, extending throughout. The entire building is lit with the Brush system of arc lights and the Swan system of incandescent lights. For an art gallery a space 75 feet long and 35 feet wide has been enclosed in the front gallery of the general exhibit hall. A wall space of 4,600 square feet is afforded by this enclosure.

On the whole this exposition building is one of the most notable features of the city.

Coming down B street one finds himself again in the North End, but above the area of mean buildings. He strikes the center of the great wholesale houses, and there are few finer anywhere. It is a region of brick blocks, three to five stories in height, of massive iron fronts and deep cornices. The shore is here lined with wharves. It must be said, however, that for the water front there remains much improvement. It looks, at present rather crude and backdoorish. Time will be when the beautiful limestone of Southern Oregon, or some other kind of rock, will be used to build substantial docks or moles from one end of the city to the other, and the wharf fronts and roofs will be carried to a height of seven stories. Our docks at present are all two-story to accord with the rise of water of twenty feet in June. The coal bunkers and the railroad bridge across the Willamette give a deep emphasis to the scenery here. The latter is of iron, completed in 1887, at a cost of nearly $1,000,000, and is double, for both the car track and a roadway. It connects on the west by a viaduct with Third street.

Passing from Couch’s and Star’s tracts to Lownsdale’s one reaches the region of retail houses, banks, offices, halls, hotels and churches. The streets are paved with Belgian block, basaltic stones cut in brick shape, making a durable roadway, but as the weather surfaces grow smooth, very severe on horses, sometimes giving them heavy falls. The buildings here are massive, elegant, of three to five stories, and kept reasonably clean. Many are set with turrets or small towers, and occupy for the most part five or six streets, and nearly half a mile along the river front.

To strangers there is nothing more attractive than the Chinese quarter. This comprises about three blocks on Second street, Alder being their cross street. The buildings which they occupy are mainly of solid brick, put up in the first place largely by Americans, but on long leases to the Chinese merchants and have been fixed over according to their convenience and ideas of beauty. They are intensely oriental in their general air, with piazzas of curved roofs, highly ornamented with yellow, white and vermillion paint, , and paper globes and gewgaws. Red paper inscribed with characters in black serve as signs, and are pasted numerously over doors and windows. On gala days the entire area is lit up by lanterns, or gaily ornamented with paper, and thin, peevish tones of their flutes and fiddles, and the falsetto twang of their gongs, making a noise, exceptionally flat and weak, lacking even in energy of tone, which is kept up with monotonous persistency. If the Chinese heart is as devoid of sentiment as their music would indicate, it must be quite barren. But as if to contradict such a conclusion the long rows of flowers of gaudy hue, and in the spring time their basins or vases of early blooming lilies should be observed.

The main fact to notice is their presence, and Portland’s tolerance of them. They are not a particularly desirable people and are subject to the usual criticisms and strictures that apply to man in his natural state, but it has not been found necessary to expel them, and it is acknowledged by thinking people that the work they perform so well-laundrying, housework, wood-cutting, clearing up land and railroad construction-is no detriment but makes work of a more desirable and better rewarded kind for the American. Also to those who believe that the race which claims the more enlightenment owes fraternal care to those inferior, either in attainment or opportunity, it seems odious to deny an equal chance in our city.

The middle portion of the city has been spoken of as the place of churches, the large Catholic Cathedral built of brick, and surmounted by a tower with a fine chime of bells, erected on Third and Stark streets; the old Presbyterian Church on Third and Washington; the Baptist on Fourth and Alder; the Congregational on Second and Jefferson; the First Methodist Church on Third and Taylor; and Trinity Church on Sixth and B would justify the remark. In truth, however, the area of churches is moving back. Already the roar of business, the pressure of other buildings and the centres of the residence quarters, have moved the church area more than half a dozen streets westward. This is all the more to be desired since, as is usual, business buildings of a very inferior sort have been made to occupy the cheaper ground just back of the main grand mercantile houses. Some of the church edifices have therefore found themselves almost submerged in a drift-wood of mean, wooden shanties, devoted to occupations highly offensive to religious feeling.

It will be unnecessary to name here the fine business buildings of this central portion, since they are spoken of elsewhere. Some of them will, however, necessarily be noticed. Ladd & Tilton’s bank, a very tasteful two story brick and stone structure with fluted column decoration, and carved frieze and cornice, has for many years been noticeable on the corner of First and Stark streets. It was in its time a stately building, and is still attractive, but is now towered over by the heavier and taller- erections of later years. It has for a long time afforded rooms on its upper floor for the uses of the Portland Library Association. With great public spirit Mr. W. S. Ladd has furnished this space free of rent. On the east side of First street, coming on Washington, stands the massive stone and brick building of the First National Bank. It is finished with full columns in Doric style, and its heavy plate glass windows, and its finely inlaid floor of varicolored stones and marble give the structure on a whole a look of costliness and magnificence not exceeded by any in the city. Following out Washington to Second, one of the largest and handsomest of all appears, being the Commercial National Bank of four stories; adjoining this is a very handsome five story building of pressed brick. This is indeed the quarter of the finest structures, ending in the Abington, on Third street, of five stories.

Alder street next beginning with the five-story Gilman house, labors under the disadvantage of leading through the Chinese quarter, and not until Third street is reached does it emerge into splendor. There, however, appears the Masonic Temple, built about twelve years ago. Although but three stories in height, its great amplitude of reach causes it to rise above all else in the vicinity. It is constructed of stone with Corinthian columns set upon the walls and dividing the stories.


Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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