Category: Portland

Five Historic Portland Neighborhoods Nearly Destroyed by Highway Projects

Five Historic Portland Neighborhoods Nearly Destroyed by Highway Projects

The rise of the automobile as the most common form of transportation after World War II made building highways a top post-war priority. As cities were connected by larger highways with higher capacities, and the suburbs blossomed on the edges of urban areas, the need for high-capacity corridors through major cities became more acute. Before 1950, most highways were routed on city streets in urban areas, streets that often were designed for a fraction of the traffic.

Lents Town Center

Historic postcard of downtown Lents, before annexation by Portland (image via Vintage Portland

With Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway plan, the die was cast. Urban planners such as Robert Moses saw their visions of grade-separated thoroughfares to carry traffic through cities quickly come to life. The promise of living in the idyllic suburbs and working in the city seemed to justify the cost. Unfortunately, as the first wave of construction tore through cities, it became apparent there was another cost. Historic neighborhoods, some over a hundred years old, were suddenly torn apart, divided by six to ten lanes of speeding traffic. It is hard to imagine how different life in these neighborhoods was before the freeways were built. Here are five examples of Portland neighborhoods that fell victim to the all-mighty automobile.

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Five of Portland’s Biggest Mistakes

Five of Portland’s Biggest Mistakes

As you can probably guess, I love Portland. More than that, I firmly believe that, as a community, Portland does more things right than it does wrong. No city is perfect, though, the Rose City included. Here are five big mistakes that we have made as a community in the past.

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Sellwood’s Disappearing History

Sellwood’s Disappearing History

In a sleepy corner of Sellwood, nestled against the city limits and the Waverly Golf Club, is a disappearing part of Portland’s extensive history of rail transportation. The non-descript entrance to the hidden Garthwick neighborhood and the extant buildings don’t give a lot of clues to the bustling activity you would have seen here one hundred years ago. While many people know Portland once had an extensive streetcar system, they often don’t know that Portland also had the nation’s first interurban railway, what we today would call “light rail”. These trains connected urban town centers (hence “interurban”) such as Oregon City, Milwaukee, Troutdale and Gresham to Portland and each other. This differed from the streetcar system, which connected close-in neighborhoods such as Buckman, Kerns, Montvilla, Woodstock, King’s Heights, Council Crest, etc. to the city center.

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Five Ideas for the Future of Portland’s Freeways

Five Ideas for the Future of Portland’s Freeways

Marquam Bridge

The Marquam Bridge looms over SW Portland

It’s been over 40 years since the Freeway Revolts helped keep Portland from following other American cities into the tangled abyss of massive freeway infrastructures. In what may be the major turning point in Portland’s modern history, residents of Portland began to reject the plan put forward by the Godfather of freeways in America, Robert Moses. That plan had already led to the I-5, I-84, I-405 and Highway 26 freeways, the construction of which did major damage to several Portland neighborhoods, and separated residents from the river and each other.

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Portlandia (the Statue) and The Portland Building

Portlandia (the Statue) and The Portland Building

Portlandia Statue - Side View

Portlandia Statue, viewed from the south

In 1980, Portland was planning a new building to house many of its public workers, and decided to hold a design competition (a fairly novel ideal at the time). The winner, famed architect (and designer of snazzy Target blenders) Michael Graves, produced what is considered the first major “postmodern” building, the Portland Building (apparently, a contest to name the building was not a priority). At the time, glass curtain boxes with little personality had begun to dominate urban skylines…Graves building was a strong, and many would say ill-considered, reaction to that movement. Using a variety of surfaces, colors and decorative flourishes, the building would definitely not be confused with the modern glass office towers nearby.

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Ten of Portland’s Top Architectural Landmarks

Ten of Portland’s Top Architectural Landmarks

Portland Building, SW corner

SW Corner of the Portland Building

Portland lands on a lot of internet top ten lists these days, but one list it might not make is one of top architectural cities. The Rose City hasn’t been graced by a plethora of major architectural works from the likes of a Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry or I.M. Pei. Portland is a city that likes to let its nature due to the talking, and I think most of us are OK with that. Still, the city isn’t bereft of interesting buildings created by talented, if not world-famous, architects. This list isn’t a top ten nor is it presented in any particular order. It is simply a list of some of Portland’s best-known and most interesting architectural treasures.

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Exploring Churches in Downtown Portland

Exploring Churches in Downtown Portland

Portland Korean Church, Portland, OR

Portland Korean Church from the west

When you think of Portland, religion may not be the first thing that springs to mind, but like most cities, a lot of Portland’s most interesting historical buildings are churches. I’ve been trying to capture as many as possible while walking around the city. In this post, we visit several churches in the southwest corner of downtown, generally in the area from the South Park Blocks to the Stadium Freeway (I-405). Almost all of the churches are over a hundred years old, and they display a wide variety of architectural styles and building materials.

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Where is the Highest Point in Portland?

Where is the Highest Point in Portland?

View from Council Crest

The view from Council Crest is amazing, but it isn’t the highest point in Portland.

A question often asked by visitors and newcomers to the city is “where is the highest point in Portland?”. It isn’t obvious where the highest point is, even if you’ve lived here for years. While Mt. Tabor and Rocky Butte are among the most prominent, they both fall well under the height of the West Hills. In many cities, a good guess is “whichever hill has all the radio towers on it”, and in Portland’s case, that is Healy Heights, at 1043 feet. While it appears to be the tallest of the West Hills due to its location on the eastern edge of the range (and the radio towers don’t hurt), it is not the highest point.

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Five of Portland’s Best Outdoor Viewpoints

Five of Portland’s Best Outdoor Viewpoints

Mt. Hood from Rocky Butte Park, WPA stonework in foreground

Mt. Hood from Rocky Butte Park, WPA stonework in foreground

Catching a great view has always been one of my favorite pastimes. There are very few people who don’t enjoy a magnificent view from a high vantage point, and Portland is chock full of fantastic spots to indulge. On this list, we are looking at outdoor viewpoints; there are several buildings that also have great views located around town but it can often feel weird to enter a building just to get a view. To get the maximum enjoyment, you would want to visit all of these viewpoints on an ultra-clear day when you know the mountains are “out” and the haze level is low. Not all clear days are created equal, particularly in the summer, so look for those rare days when the air seems completely invisible for miles around. See the map below for directions!

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