Portland's old City Hall is an interesting building downtown with self-guided tours (free, of course) available.
Just to the north is the early 1980s Portland Building, a high-rise housing city offices and essentially a newer extension of city hall, but across the street. The old building houses the city council, etc.
The central public library in downtown Portland is a great place. A nice library, it has been fully refurbished to its former glory and is a beautiful building. It's great to visit for a rest and also just to see the place. For kids, it has a great children's area.
Pioneer Courthouse, in Pioneer Courthouse Square, is the old federal building, being US customs house, post office, and now a federal courthouse. It is in the heart of downtown.
The building was constructed between 1869 and 1875 and is the oldest federal building in the Pacific NW. The entire building except for certain offices is open to the public. Its cupola, originally for customs officials to keep an eye on shipping traffic, is open as well and affords some nice views of the square and the city.
Portland's Old Town, with the area around Skidmore Fountain, has been largely saved from decline and decay, and contains a rich collection of Victorian buildings and in particular ironfront buildings from the 1870s-1880s. I have read that Portland in fact has the largest collection of ironfronts on the west coast (with Petaluma, California being 2nd) and this is the place to see them.
This district kinds of blurs the boundaries of Downtown and Chinatown as it kind of runs through both of them. The key is that Old Town-Skidmore proper is the portion right along the river and west to about 3rd Ave., more or less between Oak St in the south and Everett in the north. The area was originally the old downtown core and the whole part, especially the southern portion, is still more or less essentially part of downtown while the northern part run blurs into Chinatown. It also straddles the NW/SW divide by crossing Burnside, the great divider between "north" and "south" in Portland. Downtown proper is all south of Burnside and Chinatown is north.
This area is home to a steadily increasing number of eateries, cafes, etc., as well as to old local establishments. it also has brand-new offices in historic buildings, the great Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the river, flop houses, soup kitchens and sleaze joints - a real urban mix.
First occupied in 1875 by Judge Matthew Meady, the Pioneer Courthouse is a federal courthouse that is still used by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The building includes an octagonal cupola that was previously used by tax collectors to eye the various ships coming into port.
It is a nice walk through some of Portland's history as this building is home to many important decisions which affected the northwest territory.
An excellent way to experience the best of Portland beer culture is to join the folks on Pubs of Portland Tours. Guided tours are conducted by brewing professionals and provide a real beer education. Discussions include grains, hops, yeast, beer evaluation/appreciation and the overall brewing process. Tour participants visit a minimum of 4 breweries/brewpubs and sample a wide variety of beer styles. Many times there is a chance to walk through the brewing production facilities and meet the brewers. Tours last 5 to 5.5 hours and are an excellent value at under $29 per person. Additionally, tours are eco-friendly as transportation is on Portland's light rail and trolley system, one of the finest in the U.S. Some short walks are involved. Not only do the tour guides know their beer but also provide historic information about the brewery buildings and many other sites in beautiful downtown Portland. A very complete tour at a bargain price !!
I was able to catch Martin perform at the sold out show in Long Beach and it was great. I'll be in Portland for a meeting on March 11th and I will mos def check the show out again.
I'm heading over to LiveNation/ticketmaster to get my tix now. I waited late for the LB show and they sold out. I ended up paying an arm and a leg for them over ebay. So I suggest getting them now!
see you there...
The square features include a vast open area, stairs / risers going up the hill, a fountain, a weather indication machine (which changes at noon every day), several sculptures, and a coffee house.
The TriMet ticket office / tourist information office here is ONLY OPEN ON BUSINESS DAYS (weekday, non-holidays). Furthermore, it is almost impossible to get to the square by driving. It is reasonably easy by public transit, as there are a large number of bus lines nearby, plus MAX train stations right at the Square. To get to the tourist information office and TriMet ticket office, go through the walkway in the middle of the fountain and waterfall (see left side of photo 5).
Portland / Oregon Visitors Association office may be open longer hours - some sites report different hours. Check http://www.pova.org
The square hosts a large number of events every year, including such activities as Sand in the City (summer), the Portland Christmas Tree (December) and guest appearances by politicians, sports teams, and local and national celebrities. During the summer months, there are Friday night outdoor movies shown here on a vast temporary screen.
At other times, there is nothing going on here. Check the square web site, below, for a timetable of events.
The square was built on the site of a grand old hotel that had fallen on hard times. Some of the money to construct the square was raised by local residents, who purchased bricks with names on them. If you see people wandering around looking at the paving bricks on the square, they are probably looking for their brick they or a relative or a friend purchased for them. If you are familiar with "who's who" in the Portland area in the 1970s and early 1980s, chances are you might recognize a few names on those bricks too!
The Annual Christmas Tree (or "holiday tree" for those who don't like the name of certain specific holidays) is usually donated by one of the local lumber or paper companies that owns significant forest land nearby. Getting it into the square is usually a complicated operation due to its size, and usually is done on an early Saturday morning when people are less likely to find street closures inconvenient.
Other features of Pioneer Courthouse Square include some public art. Every day at noon, there is a "weather machine" sculpture that makes noise, sticks out various objects, and eventually puts up an object that is inteded to indicate the weather forcast, based on the latest signal. The square is also the home of "Allow Me", which is a very realistic sculpture of a man with an umbrella. Some people have been seen talking to it, or touching it, expecting it to be a street mime doing some sort of stationary act.
Until recent years, the square was also the home of Powell's Books Travel Store, but this store closed several years ago, and the collection distributed to several other Powell's stores.
The northwest corner of Pioneer Courthouse Square features a Starbucks coffee house - yes, Portland's iconic square has a coffee company from Seattle rather than one of our locally owned coffee houses. Oh well, at least it isn't a California company!
Like what I've said, the downtown portland area is small and easily travelled by walking, it is not as congested as San Francisco or Los Angeles since tourist are not that many here. the attractions include the number of bridges traversing Portland's two rivers, Washington park, Waterfront Park, Portland Museum and the MAX light rail.
OMSI has a number of exhibits. Some are expected, some are unusual, and from time to time traveling exhibits visit.
For decades, one of the favorite exhibits has been the Gravitram, a "gravity powered" sculpture that has inspired many similar falling ball displays in a number of other locations. There are those who will spend an hour or more just watching this interesting contraption.
Exhibits do change from time to time. Right now there is a robot display which wasn't there until fairly recently. At one time there was a hovercraft restored by one of the local gearheads, but that is gone now.
One exhibit that is not moving anywhere: the Turbine Hall was once part of the old power plant that operated in this building, and there is one turbine remaining where it once operated.
Sometimes some of the exhibits include live animals: after all, biology is part of science too. OMSI explores a little bit of everything.
Much of the museum here is designed to appeal to children. Ifyou aren't the type that likes to interact with museum exhibits, this isn't the place for you.
OMSI is nowhere near as large or as well funded as the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, but it is a museum created with the same goals in mind: arouse curousity and interest in science.
Portland has over 500,000 people in the city and some 2 million residents in the metropolitan area. The downtown area is west of the Willamette River but the city spreads to the Columbia River.
Many of Portland's tallest buildings and notable attractions are in the downtown area including Jackson Tower, Pioneer Courthouse and its adjacent square, South Park Blocks, Portland State University, the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, Chinatown, and Waterfront Park.
During our visit, we stayed downtown, ate downtown, and visited many of the attractions listed above. This area of the city was pretty quiet as the night wore on, with very few restaurants and virtually no bars open past 10pm. In fact the only signs of life were in the theater district which was pretty busy.
Jackson Tower, standing next to Pioneer Courthouse Square, is my favorite building in Portland and is known as the "City's Crown Jewel." Its large clock face, brightly lit facade, American flag, and strings of white lights around the roof make this structure stand out in the city. When it was constructed in 1912 for the Oregon Journal newspaper, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. The building was named after C. S. Jackson, the man who founded of the Oregon Journal in 1902. The building is now owned by ScanlanKemperBard, a Portland-based real estate merchant banking firm.
The east bank esplanade was constructed on what used to be a gravel pathway along the east side of the Willamette River. One of the goals was to allow Portland residents to once again feel connected to their river, as even the harbor wall in Waterfront Park doesn't allow for very good river access.
There are several floating piers that allow boaters to dock right next to the trail.
A segment of the trail floats on the river as well. Ramps and floating platforms between them allow the transition from the floating section to the fixed section to meet Americans with Disability Act requirements during most river levels.
The trail is a very popular spot for bicyclist, pedestrians, roller bladers, and many other such uses. Be careful due to the mixed nature of the traffic.
Various signs along the pathway give some of the history of the area.
Most of the waterfront industrial area that served as Portland's old port facilities is gone. On the east side most of it was turned into Interstate 5, and on the west side most of it was turned into Waterfront Park. Going north from downtown, more and more of it is slowly being turned into waterfront condominiums and other high rise high end buildings that have little to do with water commerce.
On the east side of the river, near the Rose Garden Arena (NOT the "Rose Garden" that is in Washington Park and actually has some Roses in it) there is a grain elevator that serves as the link between mid-west grain transported by railroad, eastern Oregon and Washington grain transported on the Columbia River, and the big grain vessels that transport this grain to every corner of the globe.
So, while the big ships don't visit downtown very often, they do still come, and it is still interesting to watch as they are pushed into position at the grain elevator.
Ship arrival and departure information is published every day in the Oregonian (Portland's daily newspaper).
All photos posted here were taken on August 12, 2007 (yes, it was a cold and rainy summer day) as the Hong Kong registered Golden Venture arrived at Portland's downtown grain elevator.
Reading a bit of history on Portland (more on the history soon) I found out exatly what this fountain was used for.
Erected in 1888 this fountain provided refreshment for the "horses, men and dogs" of Portland as provided by "Stephen Skidmore's will". the fountain is inscribed "Good Citizens Are The Riches Of A City," a quote from C.E. S. Wood.
This fountain is now a gathering spot for visitors to the Saturday Market.