Portland History

Portland has quite a full history. Founded in 1842 on the Willamette River, it was originally a resting place, halfway between the original capital, Oregon City, and the then Fort Vancouver (both of these towns are now considered suburbs). Slowly, commercialism and industry found that Portland was a prime spot to build, and soon residents moved into the mix. Now, in 1999, Portland is the largest city in Oregon, with a population of almost 500,000 within city limits, and over 1.5 million within the tri-county area. Portland, like most large cities, has its share of suburbs.

Portland has had many nicknames in its history, including Stumptown, Rip City, and Rose City. The name Portland was decided upon by a coin toss. Had the coin been tails, I'd be living in New Boston, Oregon. The two men who flipped the coin were Asa Lovejoy and Louis Pettygrove, famous enough in the respect that they both have had streets named after them.

Some famous people to grace Portland's history are Ben Holladay, considered the 'King of Portland' in his time, William Ladd, who had a hand in everything, and Clinton Kelly, well recognized renowned Methodist preacher. Look for information on them coming soon. Portland is the home of many firsts, biggests and onlys:

o Mount Tabor, the only volcano within city limits in the United States (Bend, OR now joins us)

o Sturgeon Lake, the biggest lake within an island in the United States

o KPTV, the first station to have a UHF transmitter in the United States

Portland streets and addresses work on a grid system This makes it one of the easiest cities in the world to find your way around in. There are 20 blocks per mile, and each successive block is given a number value 100 higher than the previous block. So, if you saw an address that was 4019, it would be 40 blocks or 2 miles away from the dividing point. Also, all streets on the same parallel have the same name and block number designation. These blocks go north and south from Burnside St. Burnside St. is considered to be 0, meaning that all addresses one block away from Burnside have a number between 0 and 100. The other zero-point is the Willamette River, a once beautiful waterway that divides Portland into east and west. Amazing is the fact that neither Division St, Center St, or Central St. divide anything in particular, nor is Main St. a main street. Another street feature that makes Portland easy is the way streets are labeled. All streets running north-south are numbered and are referred to as avenues. All streets running east-west are named and are referred to as streets. Northwest Portland is even easier yet, because from Burnside St., all streets are alphabetical north to 'W'. This system falls apart when you get into the Nob hill areas, because all those rich people would rather live on an Imperial Terrace instead of a Flanders Street. Who can blame them? At least they've let the numbering system stay consistent. Portland used to work on a grid of 20 instead of 100, but this was changed in 1933.

For all you surveyors, there is a bit of history too. In the late 1800's a team of men led by a gentleman named Preston stuck a stake in the ground just west of what is now Mt. Calvary Cemetary. This stake has now been replaced by a stone, and is part of Willamette Stone Point Park. From this stake, chain gangs set out to section all of Oregon and Washington into square mile sections. This point was chosen so that the survey crews would not have to cross the Columbia River east and west (which would have made for an interesting assignment). The north south line was chosen so as not to traverse Lake Vancouver. Preston did an extraordinary job of selecting his point. His baseline stays well to the south of the Columbia. Every six miles north and south from the stake, a township line was marked, and every six miles east and west, a range line was marked. The line that goes east-west from the stake is called the Willamette Baseline. Stark St. in Portland and Baseline Rd. in Hillsboro, Parkdale and Sherman County run along this line. The line progressing north-south through the stake is called the Willamette Meridian. West 65th Av. runs along this line, as well as part of Interstate 5 and Meridian Rd. in Clackamas and Marion County. This line is also a major boundary between Multnomah and Washington counties. At every mile, the surveyors also marked a line. These lines are called section lines, and they divide the township-range squares into 36 segments called sections. The numbering starts in the NE corner with '1' and proceeds in an S-shaped pattern until it reaches '36' in the SW corner. True, this is kind of odd, but it works. This system covers the entire states of Oregon AND Washington. This is also another way of locating anywhere within the two states. An example of a surveyors co-ordinates would be "Section 3, Township 1 South, Range 1 East". Shorthand would be Sec3 T1S R1E, WM. This would tell where Portland State University is. Most states west of the Mississippi and some to the east are divided up in this fashion.

Both streets and survey lines work together in Portland. I mentioned before that there are 20 blocks to a mile. There is also a section line every mile. On the east side, these section lines run north-south along 5th, 24th, 41st, 82nd, 102nd, 122nd...182nd, 202nd and so on. Most of these avenues are major thoroughfares. On the section lines running east-west are major streets. These streets are (from north to south): Lombard (mostly), Killingsworth, Fremont, Halsey, Stark (the baseline), Division, Holgate, Duke and Clatsop, which is the Multnomah county line. On the west side, the section lines run along the '5's. By this I mean 5th, 25th, 45th...165th, 185th, etc. The major streets that mark off the township lines are (north to south): Quimby, Stark, Sheridan, Hamilton, Vermont, Dolph (mostly), Dickinson, and the Multnomah/Clackamas county line.

If you're still reading I'm amazed. Another use of these section lines is the ease of making county borders. Many counties in Oregon rely on either natural landmarks or section lines. My county, Multnomah is bounded by the Columbia River, quite a few section lines, and the Cascade Divide in the Mt.Hood National Forest. It is also one of the smallest counties in Oregon, covering an area of only 465 square miles. By contrast, the largest county, Harney is a whopping 10,228 square miles. More about counties can be found on the Multnomah County page.