Downtown, Portland

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  • The 1875 Pioneer Courthouse, seen from the square
    The 1875 Pioneer Courthouse, seen from...
    by Jefie
  • The park runs through Portland State University
    The park runs through Portland State...
    by Jefie
  • The Old Church's tracker-action organ
    The Old Church's tracker-action organ
    by Jefie
  • Gypsystravels's Profile Photo

    Skidmore Fountain

    by Gypsystravels Updated Sep 25, 2006

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    Skidmore Fountain

    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.

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    Portland's Pioneer Square

    by ZanieOR Updated Feb 6, 2005

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    Pioneer Square at the end of November, 2004

    Pioneer Square is rightfully called Portland’s living room and is at the heart of Portland’s busy downtown shopping district, which features free light rail transportation and lots of activity.

    It is basically a huge brick amphitheater occupying 40,000 with a big water fountain in the middle. It incorporates all kinds of sculptures, a Weather Machine which announces the weather every day at noon in musical and symbolic form, bronze and mosaic tiles …. In the winter the city Christmas tree is put up here and all kinds of cultural festivals are held here. All year round the square attracts commuters waiting for MAX, shoppers, tourists and students. A friend of my daughter held her wedding in the square a few years ago.

    The block used to be home to a hotel and later was owned by Meier and Frank Co. which sold it to the city in 1979 and donated half a million for a public square; it was officially opened in 1984.

    I think Pioneer Square gives Portland a public heart, a gathering place for everyone. Portland’s downtown is fun to visit and the square is one of the reasons. It is said to be the single most visited place in the city.

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    Pioneer Courthouse Square: Tourist Information

    by glabah Updated May 29, 2009

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    March 2003: Pioneer Courthouse Square, looking NW
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    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!

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    "Best of Portland" walking tour

    by Jefie Updated Dec 28, 2010

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    Our guide Jared at Pioneer Courthouse Square

    The best way to discover Portland without actually moving there is probably to go on the "Best of Portland" walking tour. In about 2 1/2 hours, this tour takes you all over the downtown area and gives you the inside scoop on Portland, highlighting the city's uniqueness and quirkiness. There's a bit of history, but what I thought was especially interesting and different from other walking tours I've been on is that it mostly focuses on modern day Portland. This has a lot to do with the fact that downtown Portland has changed a lot over the past few decades - the creation of Pioneer Courthouse Square in particular has transformed downtown from a dull and slightly decaying area to a lively, happening place full of restaurants, shops and bars. Our tour guide Jared was amazing - he's obviously passionate about Portland, and he had a wicked sense of humour! Going on this tour was a great way to kick off our trip to Portland, and several of the following tips actually include stuff we saw during the tour.

    The "Best of Portland" tour runs daily, rain or shine (well, that goes without saying!), and starts at 10:00 am. Tickets cost $19, and it was definitely worth the price.

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    Get lost in Powells Books

    by TrvlnGrrl Written May 31, 2006

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    Spend and afternoon working your way through Powells Books entire city block.. 3? story book store. Its huge and overwhelming, and somehow haphazard and organized at the same time. They have a great bargin section, so you can always find something at the right price. Enjoy some coffee or oregon chai to help you get through it all or enjoy the books you found. They also have some cool gifts ideas, candles, cards, asian stuff, trinkets ect. You can take the street car strait to it or away, as it stops on opposite sides of the block.

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    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

    by glabah Updated Nov 7, 2007

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    Gravitram: OMSI's famous mechanical monstrosity
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    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.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    Pioneer Courthouse Square

    by Jefie Updated Dec 12, 2010

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    The 1875 Pioneer Courthouse, seen from the square
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    Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known as "Portland's living room", is at the heart of the big movement that took place in the 1980s to revitalize downtown Portland. City officials wanted to create a space that would be similar to the popular plazas found in Europe, a place where Portlanders would automatically converge to celebrate special events or simply hang out on a sunny day, and it worked! With over 300 big and small events held every year, it seems like there's always something going at the square. I really enjoyed walking around the city's "living room" to look at the different pieces of public art that were included in its design. I especially liked the chess boards sculptures, where people sometimes come to play with their own pieces, the whispering theatre, the guidepost (always useful to know that you're "a long way" from Tipperary!), and Seward Johnson's "Allow Me" statue. Our "Best of Portland" guide actually poked fun at the statue, saying that it was clearly a tourist: no Portlander would ever hail a cab (it's illegal in Portland) while carrying an umbrella and wearing a three-piece suit!! Pioneer Courthouse Square is also home to Portland's Visitors Center, which makes it a good starting point if it's your first time in the city.

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    Sightseeing - That's Why You Came Isn't It?

    by Geoff_Wright Updated Feb 13, 2004

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    South Park Block Gardens

    Get yourself into the centre of the City, somewhere around the Park Blocks - delightfully kept gardens and tree-lined pedestrian walkways that run in a northerly direction from Portland State University. There is metered parking available, but space is scarce!

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    See The Wonderful Buildings

    by Geoff_Wright Updated Jul 25, 2003

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    Oregon History Center

    Around the Park Blocks you will see many wondeful buildings. The one in this photo is of the Oregon History Center building, in East park Avenue. The building was being renovated when I took the photo. The beautiful mural, depicting scenes from Historic Oregon, gives the impression that the building has many facets, but it is a wonderful illusion! Go and see for yourself.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    Mill Ends Park, the world's smallest park!

    by Jefie Updated Dec 28, 2010

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    Going for a quick walk around Mill Ends Park
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    Here's another attraction that makes Portland so delightfully weird! Covering a total surface area of a little less than 300 square centimeters, Mill Ends Park is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's smallest park. It was created back in 1948 by local journalist Dick Fagan whose office overlooked a street in which a hole had been dug out to install a lamp post. When the lamp post failed to appear and weeds took over, Fagan got tired of staring at the unsightly hole day after day and decided to add some flowers. He wrote funny stories about the park in his newspaper column, claiming that Mill Ends Park was home to the only Leprechaun colony west of Ireland! The tiny park became more and more popular, to the point where after Fagan passed away, the city decided to turn his park into an official city park. Today, Mill Ends Park is part of Portland Parks & Recreation just like all the other parks in the city, and it remains a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

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    Portland's Central Library

    by Jefie Updated Dec 21, 2010

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    Central Library in Portland, OR
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    As an avid book lover, I always try to stop by libraries whenever I'm visiting a new city, and Portland was no exception. The city's Georgian-style Central Library was built between 1911 and 1913. It features a beautiful central staircase along with some very nice wood and marble architectural details. It's not as big as some of the other American libraries I've had a chance to visit, but the library's collection still covers about 27 km of shelf space, spread over three floors. Of course, room has also been made for 130 computers, which I thought were a bit of an eyesore, but I guess there's just no way to get around it in this day and age.

    The library also features a writer's room (Sterling Room), an impressive rare book collection (John Wilson Room), and a gallery on the top floor (Collins Gallery). Since they obviously knew the Janeites were coming to town, they had set up a very interesting exhibition on "Lit Chicks: Verbal and Visual Satire in the Age of Jane Austen", focusing on 18th century women writers. Several manuscripts and first editions were on display, along with some letters and mementoes (including a shawl that may have belonged to Jane Austen).

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    waterfall in front of Keller Auditorium

    by vjoe Written Aug 13, 2005

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    If you visit the theater for a matenee show on a hot summer day, you'll see a bunch of kids playing in and around the waterfall outside of the Keller auditorium. The pool on top is a nice spot to lounge and you can go behind the lower right waterfall at the bottom.
    Fun for the kids and afterward you can just go down to the waterfront and jump in the Salmon street fountain since you're already wet.

    The picture was taken in the fall so nobody was splashing around. 8)

    Portland water is pretty good.

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  • phildeni's Profile Photo

    Walk downtown and along the...

    by phildeni Updated Jun 13, 2003

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    Bronze Statue

    Walk downtown and along the river. See Washington Park,shop on 23rd street, and also on Hawthorne street for hip and retro stuff. Go to the Zoo(in the summer there are concerts on the lawn at the zoo)Nba basketball in the winter and ice hockey at the Rose Garden. Hike,camp,bike trails,fish,hunt,whitewater rafting,wind surfing......and there is more! The 'Man' with the umbrella is a bronze statue in Pioneer Square in downtown.
    Lush,green,clean,friendly. Not too cold not too hot. Wonderful cleansing rain.Plenty of sunshine.

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    Chapman and Lownsdale Squares

    by Jefie Updated Dec 27, 2010

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    Thompson's elk fountain on Main Street
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    Dating back to 1869, Chapman and Lownsdale Squares are two of Portland's earliest public parks. The first was designed to be used exclusively by women and their children in an effort to attract more female citizens to Portland, which then had a reputation for being a rather rowdy town. Female Ginko trees were even planted all around Chapman Square to symbolize the fact that the park was off limits to male residents and that women would therefore be free to enjoy a stroll without being hassled by drunken sailors and lumberjacks. Instead, men were invited to gather around Lownsdale Square, the two identical squares being separated by Main Street (of course, the two squares are now open to both men and women). Between the two parks, it's also possible to see the infamous Thompson Elk fountain, a gift donated to the city of Portland in 1900 by David P. Thompson. The fountain features drinking troughs for horses and dogs, as well as a bronze statue of an elk designed by Roland Hinton Perry. Perry was a successful artist at the time, but unfortunately he had never seen an elk and had to rely on a painting to create his sculpture. As a result, the statue looks fine from the side, but if you see it from the front it's completely out of proportions! No wonder the Order of Elks flatly refused to participate in the dedication ceremony :o)

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    Portland Center for the Performing Arts

    by Jefie Updated Dec 27, 2010

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    Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR
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    If you're looking for something to do while in Portland, you might want to take a look at the PCPA's website - with its four concert halls, the PCPA puts on performances ranging from Broadway theatre to rock shows, operas and lectures on an almost daily basis. The most famous of the PCPA's theaters is the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, or "The Schnitz" as locals usually call it. This theatre was originally built as the Portland Public Theater in 1928, and it became the Paramount Theater in 1930. A huge "Paramount" sign was then installed in front of the luxurious movie theater, which could sit about 3000 people. In 1972, as movies became somewhat less popular, plans were made to convert the decaying movie theater into a concert hall. In 1984, after a period of extensive restoration that included replacing the Paramount sign with one that reads "Portland", the Schnitz finally opened. A few years later, in 1987, a new theater (now called the Antoinette Hatfield Hall) opened right next to it. It features an Elizabethan-style concert hall and an Edwardian-style theater, and it's truly worth taking a quick look inside - the lobby was designed to make visitors feel like they're standing on a Shakespearian stage as they walk through the main doors! For those interested in finding out more about the PCPA, volunteers run free guided tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11:00 am.

    The Keller Auditorium, the fourth concert hall making up the PCPA complex, is located on SW Clay St.

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