The Park Blocks
The South Park Blocks - In 1852, the farsighted pioneers set aside 25 blocks of parkland running north to south through Portland intending the blocks to serve as both a promenade and possibly a firebreak between real estate investments and the wooded hills above the new townsite. By the 1870s, the South Park Blocks had become a prestigious residential district lined with Italianate mansions and churches.
Through the end of the nineteenth century, the Park Blocks developed as a "promenade ground," complete with Dutch elms planted in rows and even, briefly, a racetrack.
Now known as the Cultural District, as the city moved westward, the "South Park Blocks" were chosen as the ideal place to locate some of the citys most important institutions like...
The Oregon History Center & Sovereign Hotel, on our right, from 1966 & 1923. The far building has 2 huge murals, one depicting the Lewis & Clark Expedition on the west side, and the South side, the Pioneer Period.
In 1966, the Oregon Historical Society built its new Oregon History Center, and in later years, bought the historic Sovereign Hotel to house the society's offices.
Permanent exhibits at the museum include:
Oregon's 1st car--The Benson, cobbled together across the river in someone's garage in 1904.
The massive guestbook of the 1905 World's Fair.
The Portland Penny.
FOLLOW ALONG WITH PICTURES.
See Pictures, Portland Penny.
Let me know if you want to view or learn more about the Portland Penny.
And last, Oregon My Oregon, a 7,000-square-foot display covering Oregon’s history from early settlement to current times. Significant items include a reproduction of a ship's hull, a 1940s-era mercantile store, a complete lunch counter from a diner, and a 9,000-year-old sandal.
And, the 1st Congregational Church, in front of us, on the right, is from eighteen ninety five.
The lovely Venetian Gothic First Congregational Church is a serene and stately presence on the South Park Blocks. Designed by the swiss Henry Hefty, at a cost of 110,000 dollars, over a 5 year Period. It is Venetian Gothic, resembling Boston’s New, Old South Church. Originally had 3 towers in the 1940s, only the main 185 foot one remains in a modernization attempt. The main floor slopes downward, and seats 1100 people.
Other sights along the Park Blocks include, the Heroic statues of Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln
The elegant, diminutive Rebecca at the Well fountain.
The Calumet (esquire) Hotel from 1907
The Historic Cornelius Hotel from 1908
The Masonic Temple from 1924)
the Portland Art Museum from 1930
And Saint James Lutheran Church from 1891
Let me know if you want to learn more about any of these institutions.
To our left, is Lincoln High School (built in eighteen sixty nine) -
It's one of the oldest high schools west of the Mississippi. In 1952, Lincoln High, the City's 1st high school, was transformed into Lincoln Hall, the 1st building on the Park Blocks campus of Portland State University.
The American Renaissance Revival building was designed by the same designers of the Rockefeller Center (Whitehouse & Fouilhoux).
Our next stop on the park blocks, is the Simon Benson House -
Simon Benson was a wealthy Portland lumberman and was the principal benefactor of the Columbia River Historic Highway. He donated Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls to Portland in 1915. The home is in the Queen Anne style with detailed ornamentation. Currently is part of the Portland State campus.
Let me know if you want to know more about Queen Anne architecture.
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See Picture #, Simon Benson.
In the photograph Simon Benson poses in front of one of the twenty bronze drinking fountains he donated to the city. He hoped that the fountains, which cost $317 apiece, would encourage temperance.
Benson was an inventive lumberman, concerned with efficiency. At his lumber company, Benson replaced oxen, used to drag timber, with railroad engines made of salvaged parts thereby reducing both labor costs and saving time. When Benson decided to send his logs directly to San Diego, he designed log rafts, 835-feet in length, in order to avoid what he considered exorbitant freight rates. A wise decision—Benson’s company saved $150,000 dollars a year with this alteration in business standards.
Benson’s legacy lives on in Portland with the once derelict 100-year-old Benson family home (built in 1900), was renovated and moved in 2000 to the campus of Portland State University. Outside the stately home stands another Benson legacy: a Benson Bubbler fountain, installed all over downtown, and continues to splash fresh water for passers-by to enjoy.
Also here, is the home to the biggest Farmers Market in Portland, every Saturday from 8:30-2pm.
Our last stop along the park blocks is THE OLD CHURCH.
THE OLD CHURCH, to our right, is from 1882. It is now a concert hall.
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See Picture #, Old Church.
Calvary Presbyterian Church (Old Church)-1882- Designed by a premier architect of the time, Warren Williams, is arguably the finest example of a late Victorian-era church in the state. The exterior is carpenter Gothic, with slender pointed arches, elegant window tracery, a belfry tower, and buttresses. Details of an eclectic interior include Gothic vaulted ceilings of gilt wooden ribs and white plaster, Renaissance-style cast-iron columns, Victorian furniture and stained glass, and ornate plaster window moldings in the Baroque style. There is a historic Hook and Hastings Tracker organ and a free concert is given every Wednesday at noon.
The Old Church, has outlasted all the other churches before it. A self-guided tour is possible between 11 and 3 Tuesday through Saturday. Free admission.
For more info, go to, the old church dot org.
More Portland Historical Architecture.
NEXT is the Portland Building and Portlandia
With many more
But before that, what makes Portland unique?