History of Portland, Oregon

History of Portland, Oregon

The History of Portland, Oregon began in 1843 on the Willamette River in what was then called Oregon Country. In 1845 the name of Portland was chosen for this community and on February 8 1851 the city was incorporated. Portland has continued to grow in size and population with the 2000 Census showing 529,121 residents in the city.


The site of the future city of Portland, Oregon was known to American, Canadian, and English traders, trappers and settlers of the 1830s and early 1840s as "The Clearing," a small stopping place along the west bank of the Willamette River used by travelers "en route" between Oregon City and Fort Vancouver. As early as 1840, Massachusetts sea captain John Couch logged an encouraging assessment of the river’s depth adjacent to The Clearing, noting its promise of accommodating large ocean-going vessels, which could not ordinarily travel up-river as far as Oregon City, the largest Oregon settlement at the time. In 1843, Tennessee pioneer William Overton and Asa Lovejoy, a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, filed a 640-acre (2.6 km²) land claim with Oregon's provisional government that encompassed The Clearing and nearby waterfront and timber land. Legend has it that Overton had prior rights to the land but lacked funds, so he agreed to split the claim with Lovejoy, who paid the 25 cent filing fee. Bored with clearing trees and building roads, Overton sold his half of the claim to Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine. When it came time to name their new town, Pettygrove and Lovejoy both had the same idea; to name it after his home town. They flipped a coin to decide, and Pettygrove won.

Portland existed in the shadow of Oregon City, the territorial capital twelve miles (19 km) upstream at Willamette Falls. However, Portland's location at the Willamette's confluence with the Columbia River, accessible to deep-draft vessels, gave it a key advantage over its older peer. It also triumphed over early rivals such as Milwaukie and Linnton. In its first census in 1850, the city’s population was 821 and, like many frontier towns, was predominantly male, with 653 male whites, 164 female whites and four “free colored” individuals. It was already the largest settlement in the Pacific Northwest, and while it could boast about its trading houses, hotels and even a newspaper--the "Weekly Oregonian"--it was still very much a frontier village, derided by outsiders as “Stumptown” and “Mudtown.” It was a place where “stumps from fallen firs lay scattered dangerously about Front and First Streets … humans and animals, carts and wagons slogged through a sludge of mud and water … sidewalks often disappeared during spring floods.” [MacColl, "Merchants, Money and Power": 18-19.]

Late 19th century

Portland was the major port in the Pacific Northwest for much of the 19th century, until the 1890s, when direct railroad access between the deepwater harbor in Seattle and points east, by way of Stampede Pass, were built. Goods could then be transported from the northwest coast to inland cities without the need to navigate the dangerous bar at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Early 20th century

In 1905, Portland was the host city of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, a world fair. This event increased recognition of the city, which contributed to a doubling of the population of Portland, from 90,426 in 1900 to 207,214 in 1910. [Portland Auditor's Office, Portland Historical Timeline, http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=cheai]

Late 20th century

During the dot-com boom of the mid to late 1990s, Portland saw an influx of young, creative peopleFact|date=February 2007, drawn by the promise of a city with abundant nature, urban growth boundaries, and opportunities to work in the graphic design and internet industries, as well as for companies like Doc Martens, Nike, Adidas, and Wieden+Kennedy. When this economic bubble burst, the city was left with a large creative population. Also, when the bubble burst in Seattle and San Francisco, even more artists streamed into Portland, drawn in part by the relatively inexpensive cost of living for the West Coast. In 2000 the U.S. census indicated there were over 10,000 artists in PortlandFact|date=February 2007.

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Like other west coast ports, Portland was home to frequent acts of shanghaiing. It has become urban legend that tunnels under city blocks were used for this practice, although built for legitimate business reasons, became known as shanghai tunnels because of their purported use in such kidnappings. Portland was unique because trap doors (known as "deadfalls") were used to drop the unsuspecting victims into the tunnels where they were held in cells until the ship was ready to set sail. There is no historic evidence that the tunnels existed or were used for this practice. [The Oregonian, Thursday, October 04, 2007 http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1191466510318550.xml&coll=7&thispage=1]

Art in the 21st century

Starting in the mid-1990s, Portland experienced what some consider a renaissance in the local art sceneFact|date=February 2007.

While visual arts had always been important in the Pacific Northwest, this time period saw a dramatic rise in the number of artists, independent galleries, site-specific shows and public discourse about the artsFact|date=February 2007. Several arts publications were born and the city started to take art much more seriously. It was clearly during this decade that Portland went through a fundamental transformation into a city with a rich arts culture that translates internationally.Fact|date=February 2007

The Portland millennial art renaissance has been described, written about and commented on in publications such as ARTnews, Artpapers, Art in America, Modern Painters and Art Forum and discussed on CNNFact|date=February 2007. Former Whitney Museum curator Lawrence Rinder was a notable champion of Portland's transformationFact|date=February 2007. Senior art critic for the Village Voice, Jerry Saltz described the activity of the Portland art scene during a lecture at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in January 2004 as "intimidating".Fact|date=February 2007

ee also

*East Portland, Oregon
*James B. Stephens
*James C. Hawthorne
*James Nesmith
*Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition
*Vanport, Oregon
*A Day Called 'X'
*Columbus Day Storm of 1962
*Mount Hood Freeway
*Mayors of Portland

Further reading

*Gaston, Joseph. "Portland, Oregon: Its History and Builders in Connection with the Antecedent Explorations, Discoveries and Movements of the Pioneers that Selected the Site for the Great City of the Pacific". Portland: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911. 3 vols.
*MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915 to 1950. Portland: The Georgian Press, 1979.
*――. "Merchants, Money, and Power: The Portland Establishment, 1843-19"13. Portland: The Georgian Press, 1988.
*――. "The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1885 to 1915". Portland: The Georgian Press, 1976.
*Merriam, Paul Gilman. "Portland, Oregon, 1840-1890: A Social and Economic History". Ph.D. dissertation. University of Oregon, Department of History, 1971.


External links

*Postcards and snaps from the past at [http://www.pdxhistory.com/ PdxHistory.com]
* [http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=27408 Historical Timeline] at Portland City Auditor's Office
* [http://ohs.org/education/focus_on_oregon_history/Wartime-Portland-Home.cfm Wartime Portland] at Oregon Historical Society
*Portland page at [http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/narratives/index.cfm?nar_ID=0008DCB1-5F8A-1EA5-B96080B05272006C Oregon History Project] (Oregon Historical Society)
* [http://www.wweek.com/html/25-1974.html Capsule histories of years 1974-99] at Willamette Week
* [http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=36416 Transportation history] , Portland Office of Transportation

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