Water Front Park, Portland
Sometimes urban renewal works, sometimes it doesn't. Here, the long held dreams of reuniting the City with the Willamette River have come to a very successful fruition. In the 1920's a seawall was built along the river's west bank to provide flood protection for the downtown area. Along the riverfront a large Market Building used to dominate the scene. The market failed over time and the building became home to one of the City's two newspapers (that paper has since been sold and incorporated into the one and only Oregonian). A long the seawall, used to run Harbor Drive, a very busy street. Harbor Drive was not as important a street after the State Transportation Department installed the Eastbank Freeway. So, in 1974, Harbor Drive was torn up, the Journal Building was demolished and the area between Front and Harbor became the 37-acre Waterfront Park, renamed after the popular governor who put the forces in place.
The Park is a vast public open space that serves as a center for many festivals - including the Rose Festival - in the warmer months. A huge sewer project is underway at present at two ends of the Park - ongoing till 2006. Upon completion some changes are in store for the Park that serves as Portland's living room. Walkers, joggers, bicyclists all enjoy the vast promenade above the River along the sea wall. Up close views of many of Portland's bridges are afforded. At the north end of the Park is the Japanese-American Memorial - in memory of those Japanese-Americans who were interred during WWII. At the south end of the Park, is another product of urban change, the RiverPlace district. Walking the Westbank Promenade, you can link over to the Eastbank Esplanade via the Hawthorne and Steel Bridges and make a pleasant three-mile walk.
Over one hundred ornamental cherry trees surround the Japanese American Historical Plaza giving a wonderful impression in early spring or mid fall. One of Portland’s longtime Sister Cities is Sapporo, Japan. There is a strong link between both America and Japan here in Portland – a link commemorated here.
The older of the two inner city double-leaf bascule drawspans, the Burnside Bridge was built in 1926 replacing an older 1896 structure. One of the designers involved was Joseph Strauss, better known as the bridge designer for San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The Burnside Bridge is the only bridge designed with the help of an architect, which maybe explain the Italian Renaissance-inspired bridge towers. Busy Burnside Street crosses the bridge serving to separate the City on a north - south axis. Streets to the north are either northwest or southwest (or north in one smaller region of the City) and to the south are either southwest or southeast - the Willamette River serving as the east-west axis.
Located in Waterfront Park opposite the Oregon Maritime Museum, the mainmast of the USS Oregon, one of America's first battleships, is all that remains of this historic ship. The ship was found glory during the Spanish-American War of 1899 when it broke the record for transiting from the Pacific to the Atlantic - a time that was still so long that it underscored the need to develop a trans-isthmus canal in Central America. The Oregon made it to Cuba in time for the Battle of Santiago Bay in which the Spanish fleet was destroyed outside of the entrance to Guantanamo Bay. The Oregon had been restored as a museum berthed along the Willamette River for many years following it’s decommission at the end of WWI. With the dramatic entrance of the US into WWII, the Oregon governor offered the museum ship to the US Navy with the misguided thought that the Navy would be able to use the ship in the War against Japan. The ship was far to outdated to be of service to the Navy. Not sure what to do with the gift, the Navy began operations to scrap the ship. When it was learned that the Navy was scrapping the ship - the only one of its era left - the 'gift' was rescinded, but it was too late. The only part left is here.
For more on the history of 'McKinley's Bulldog', see
Visitors might like to experience Portland from the waters of the Willamette, itself. Several tour boats take guests – mostly in the warmer months – on a series of different cruises – sightseeing, dinner, partying. The Portland Spirit is one of the larger vessels and is docked next to the Salmon Street Springs on the westbank near the Hawthorne Bridge. Other tour boats include the Portland Rose Sternwheeler and a couple of jet boats that had earlier lives on the waters of the Rogue River in southwestern Oregon.
Dedicated in 1990 to the memory of all Japanese Americans who suffered inland internment during WWII because of fears that these people would help potential invading Japanese forces. The garden and artwork is at the north end of Waterfront Park next to the west end of the Steel Bridge. See my TL for more on this unique Park.
Replacing two earlier bridges, the Morrison was completed in 1958 with minimalist architecture in mind. The bridge is a very busy conduit into the central city - some 50000 vehicles a day. Like the Burnside Bridge, the Morrison is a double-leaf bascule draw span - opening about 30 times a month on average. It makes an interesting counterpoint to its neighbor - the Burnside - to the north.
Owned by Multnomah County - as are six of Portland’s other Bridges - this is the City's oldest, dating back to 1910. The bridge features a 244-foot steel through truss vertical lift span, which can lift 110 feet. The Hawthorne Bridge has undergone several major modifications during its lifetime, the most recent during 1999. The bridge serves the heart of the central business district and provides a dramatic foreground to the city towers beyond, when viewed from the eastbank. The bridge is also one of the lower bridges, which means that the lift operation gets to be operated on a more frequent basis.
Wander along the riverside boundary of Waterfront Park and you walk along the edge of a seawall built in the 1920’s to provide flood protection to the central business district. For the one and only time since the seawall was erected, in 1996, a huge plywood/sandbag wall was erected atop the seawall, during the height of a huge flood that threatened to top the wall.
The seawall is also the home of the huge Rose Festival fleet, a centerpiece for the Rose Festival week. A literal fleet of American and Canadian vessels berthed along the wall. Post 9/11 fears of terrorism and sabotage have severely diminished the numbers of vessels visiting in early June. The huge black bollards along the wall belie the docking opportunities still presented by the Rose City.
Annually over 4th of July weekend the fabulous Portland waterfront transforms into the Blue's festival. While I am not a huge fan of Blue's myself, the festival is a good time out.
With four days of continuous music, I believe this is one of the larger festivals in the country. Have a few friends that swear it is a great showcase of talent.
I just love being on the waterfront during any of the summer festivals.
Great time to be here as there are fireworks nightly and the 4th is spectacular.
Only downside it for some reason Safeway is one of the areas biggest promotors - thus the food is mostly by ...Safeway. Hmmm grocery store Chinese food...not so good.
Waterfront Park contains several monuments, including this one dedicated to the Battleship Oregon. For a breif period this ship was on display on the south side of Portland's waterfront, near what is now called "Riverplace", at the far south side of Waterfront Park.
During World War II, the ship was taken back by the US Navy, most of it was broken up and used as scrap metal for the war effort, but the hull itself was used for a number of purposes such as training exercises.
100 years ago, the ship was quite famous for its role in running around Cape Horn to join the Spanish American war, and served as a motive to start construction of the Panama Canal.
These are the last large remnants of the ship, but sometimes I have also occasionally found small remnants of the ship (such as lights) in places such as the very oldest of Portland restaurants.
When it was installed in Waterfront Park, the local newspaper made comments about this likely becoming a commonly used landmark and location for people to meet.
It is a frequently used landmark, and both children and adults love to play in the fountain. However, the mobs of teenagers and others have not shown up. There are some that stay around here, but the crowd is far larger at Pioneer Courthouse Square - most likely because of the nearby shopping malls and department stores.
Originally, the fountain had a large center pillar of water, but it was turned off after several people were injured by running through the fountain and hitting this jet of water.
During certain summer days, the sun light will line up down Salmon Street during sunset, and create some spectacular colors in the fountain.
The photos shown here are from 2003, but the idea behind the Portland Fireworks is pretty much all the same: a barge is moved into the middle of the river, between the Hawthorne Bridge and the Morrison Bridge. Right around sunset, the fireworks start going off.
The fireworks are viewable from a number of locations: East Bank Esplanade and Waterfront Park are the closest to the fireworks. Some of the hills overlooking downtown can be good too, and all of these photos were taken from Mt. Tabor Park - which is far away from the crowds, but also far away from the show too!
One of the odd effects of viewing the fireworks from Mt. Tabor is that, while it is dark in downtown Portland due to the shadow cast from the hills behind the city, the height of Mt. Tabor eliminates the shadow and there is still quite a bit of light. You can see this in photo 3.
Fireworks shows generally happen at least twice a year: 4th of July and on the first Friday of the Rose Festival. Sometimes (but not always) they have also happened on the Friday of the Cinco de Mayo festival. THERE IS USUALLY NO SHOW ON NEW YEARS DAY!!!
Waterfront Park itself (officially named Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park) is a strip of land that was once occupied by Harbor Drive and industrial and port related facilities.
By 1968 Harbor Drive was less important to the transportation in the city, and a study initiated by Tom McCall resulted in the eventual completion, in 1978, of a park along the waterfront that had originally been proposed in 1903. It is fitting that the official name of the park would include the name of the man who initiated its construction.
The park contains a number of memorials, among them the Battleship Oregon memorial, memorials to the Japanese residing in the USA that were held prisoner during World War II, a fountain, the Friendship Circle, the founders stone, and a number of smaller plaques including a note of thanks to the Canadians who housed USA citizens during the Iranian embassy crisis in 1979.
In the warm months, the park is a frequent location of all manner of celebrations, including Cinco de Mayo, the Portland bite, a beer festival, and the Rose Festival Fun Center and Rose Festival Fleet.
Much of the park is a grass corridor, and during quiet days you can find a number of Portland residents relaxing or exercising here. During a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood.
In another excuse for Portlander's to get out when the sun might be out is the waterfront Cinco de Mayo festival.
For five days, thats right F-I-V-E, the waterfront park is transformed into a open festival with parades and food to celebrate the Latino community.
I find the length of the celebration a little funny coming from San Jose where the Hispanic population is hundred of thousands with a one day festival - and a much, much smaller community is in Oregon.
But, so be it for an Oregonian to pass up a chance to lift a pint during the nice season. Well, may be the nice season that early...
May 1-5th, coronas on the waterfron t on me!