The City of Roses
Known as the City of Roses, or the Rose City, Portland lies at the junction of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Above the city, you can wander through fragrant paths of rose bushes at the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden (over 8,000 rose plantings). You can also visit the Peninsula Park and Rose Garden in NE Portland (about 10,000 rose plantings) and Ladd’s Addition in SE Portland (over 2,000 rose brushes). For all of you trivia fans, the City of Portland has never adopted the rose (or any other flower) as the official city flower. Mt. Hood can be seen from the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, and viewpoints throughout Forest Park, the 4,836 acre park running along the ridge of the west hills.
How Portland Got Its Name
Portland got its name from a coin toss in 1845. In 1843, two men by the name of Asa Lovejoy and William Overton filed a land claim for an area known as The Clearing. Overton soon sold his shares to Francis Pettygrove and the two of them couldn’t agree on a name. To resolve the deadlock, they flipped a coin, known as the Portland penny, to decide. Lovejoy, who was from Massachusetts, wanted the name Boston. But Pettygrove, who won, chose Portland, the city in his native Maine.
In addition to being called the Rose City, Portland is also known as Rip City, Stumptown (from its lumbering past), and Bridgetown (for the 12 bridges that unite east and west Portland).
A Short History of Portland
At the time of its incorporation on February 8, 1851, Portland had over 800 inhabitants, a steam sawmill, a log cabin hotel, and a newspaper, the Weekly Oregonian. By 1879, the population had grown to 17,500. The city merged with Albina and East Portland in 1891, and annexed the cities of Linnton and St. Johns in 1915.
Portland’s location, with access both to the Pacific Ocean via the Willamette and the Columbia rivers, and to the agricultural Tualatin Valley via the “Great Plank Road” through a canyon in the West Hills (the route of current-day U.S. Route 26), gave it an advantage over nearby ports, spurring its rapid expansion. It remained the major port in the Pacific Northwest for much of the 19th century, until the 1890s, when Seattle’s deepwater harbor was connected to the rest of the mainland by rail, affording an inland route without the treacherous navigation of the Columbia River.
As reported in the 2020 census, 652,503 people reside in Portland. Portland is 69.5% White, 9.8% Hispanic or Latino, 8.7% Asian, and 5.9% Black or African American. Median gross rent is $1,325 and median monthly homeowner costs (with a mortgage) are $2,046. The median household income (in 2020 dollars) is $73,159.
Parks and Green Spaces
If you love the outdoors, Portland is your kind of place. The city is home to more than 275 parks and natural areas. Portland also has the most dog parks per capita with 33 throughout the city. Forest Park in NW Portland is one of the largest wooded urban parks in the United States and boasts more than 70 miles of biking and hiking trails. Numerous waterways welcome those who enjoy rafting, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, boating, and fly fishing. And if there’s not enough to keep you occupied in the city itself, you won’t have to travel far to find more gorgeous scenery and outdoor pursuits.
Portland and its Trees
About 26% of Portland is covered by tree leaves, branches and trunks, when viewed from above. Portland has thousands of trees in the city and organizations like the Friends of Trees continue planting more. There is a city agency, Portland Parks Urban Forestry, that is responsible for the protection of trees.
Permits are required to cut or remove all trees over 12 inches in diameter on all properties in the city of Portland prior to the issuance of a building permit. Exceptions include single-family residential properties that cannot be further developed and include an existing single-family home used exclusively as a single-family residence.
Portland is a tree hugging place and they proved it on July 20, 2013, when more than 950 people hugged trees at Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum to make the Book of Guinness World Records for the greatest number of people hugging trees at the same time and place. The event was organized by Hoyt Arboretum and Treecology, with assistance from Friends of Trees neighborhood trees senior specialist Jesse Batty.
Portland Public Transportation
TriMet provides bus, light rail, and streetcar commuter rail service across the Portland Metro area. The MAX Light Rail tracks stretch for 60+ miles and include over 90 stations that connect downtown, airport, and the greater Portland area. The Portland Streetcar is perfect for navigating through downtown neighborhoods quickly and reliably. The TriMet bus service covers the city and its suburbs with more than 12 lines, many arriving every 15 minutes for most of the day. You can bring your bike with you on all buses, MAX trains, and the Portland streetcar line.
Biking in Portland
Biking is fundamental to Portland’s modern culture. There’s over 385 miles of bikeways in Portland, with more than 95 miles expected to be installed over the next five years. The 385 miles include 94 miles of Neighborhood Greenways, 162 miles of bike lanes, and 85 miles of paths.
Whether you’re interested in music, dance, stage, film, or art, you will find it in Portland. The Portland‘5 Center for the Arts dominates the performing arts scene in Portland. The organization has been known for decades as Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA) and rebranded itself in 2013. It manages five downtown performance spaces: the Schnitzer, Brunish, Keller, Newmark, and Winningstad theaters.The Portland Art Museum (founded in 1892), has a mission to engage diverse communities through art and film of enduring quality, and to collect, preserve, and educate for the enrichment of present and future generations.
Professional Sports in Portland
Portland is home to several professional sports teams – The Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Timbers (MLS), Thorns (NWSL), and the Winterhawks (Western Hockey League). If racing is more your speed, you can catch horse racing at Portland Meadows, or a variety of motorsport racing at Portland International Raceway. Portland also has a thriving roller derby community with the Rose City Rollers.
Keep Portland Weird
Driving around Portland, you will notice bumper stickers that say, “Keep Portland Weird”. The bumper stickers that started to appear in 2004 seem to suggest that Portland is uniquely and unquestionably weird among American cities. Terry Currier, owner of Music Millennium on East Burnside Street, says he got the idea for the Weird bumper stickers from a friend in Austin, Texas who said the bumper stickers were designed to get people to support local independent businesses, which Currier says leads to a more diverse and unique city landscape.
Oregon Vote by Mail
The Oregon Legislature approved mail voting as an option for local elections in 1981. In November 1998, Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 60, making it the first and only state to go to a complete mail-voting system.