Portland is great at preserving history and there is no shortage of interesting landmarks and stories. On your next visit to Portland, be sure to check out these historical sites.
In downtown Portland you'll notice bronze water fountains that continuously flow water. This is the city's iconic drinking fountains, that may or may not still flow water to this date. There are 52 fountains in the city along with 74 individual fountains.
So, how did these fountains come about? In 1912, a local lumber baron, Simon Benson, noticed alcohol on his worker's breath. They claimed there was no fresh drinking water and resorted to alcohol. Benson donated $10,000 to the city to build 20 bronze drinking fountains. Supposedly beer consumption decreased by 25% after the installation. See a map of the fountain locations here.
Simon Benson House
For those who admired Benson and his philanthropy be sure to check out his 1900 Queen Anne Style House. It was condemned in 1991, but later moved to the Portland State Campus, and now serves as the office to the Alumni Association.
Finding religious people in Portland is nearly an endangered species. Downtown features several old churches in operation, but one of the most prominent sites is The Old Church. Once a Presbyterian church is now the "sanctuary of sound" and operates as a concert venue hall. Built in 1883, the church features European architectural influences with a Gothic design, pipe organ, vaulted ceilings and Corinthian columns.
Nearby the Amtrak station is the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood of the city, which is sandwiched between the Willamette River and the Pearl District. It's an interesting neighborhood to say the least. Many homeless camps pop up from time to time on the city streets, but it is a good place to savor a tasty Asian meal.
Below the city streets are the Shanghai Tunnels, which connected the shops and hotels to the waterfront. The purpose was to avoid traffic, but the darker side of the Victorian life was used to kidnap or "Shanghai" (also called "crimping") people through trapdoors, which are found in many buildings still to this date. Most victims were sold into some form of labor slaves.
To learn more take the historic Shanghai Tunnel walking tour.
Back in the day, Ankeny Plaza was the epicenter for entertainment and commerce. Skidmore Fountain was built in 1888 and known as Portland's oldest public art piece. In its inauguration local brewer, Henry Weinhard, offered to pump beer through a fire hose to the fountain, but the idea was vetoed by civic leaders. Today its a place for Portlanders to stay cool during the summer months.
The waterfront is worth exploring through a historical walking tour in Portland's Old Town. From chilling stories, or historic architecture, so many things have once happened on these city streets. The docks were the gateway of the "port life," receiving shipments of lumbar and supplies to nearby warehouses.
The most popular place to explore on the weekends is the Portland Saturday Market. Located on the Willamette River, explore a myriad of food, craft and clothing stalls. The market has been in operation since 1973 from two local artist women, Sheri Teasdale and Andrea Scharf. The market operates March through Christmas Eve every weekend.
I recommend a historical walking tour offered by Know Your City, Slabtown Tours and the Architectural Heritage Center.
The historic Alphabet District is zoned between NW 17th and 24th Avenues, and between W Burnside and NW Marshall Streets. âIt's a fun neighborhood to get lost in to admire historic architecture. The district got its name in 1865 when Captain John H. Couch platted his first subdivision labeling each street name by a letter. By 1869, the area featured streets A through O.
Nob Hill has been home to the wealthier class since the origins of the city. It gots its name from San Francisco's "Nob Hill," in hopes to attract the wealthy, upper class nobles to the neighborhood. The neighborhood features plenty of Portland Victorian, Craftsman-style homes, some of which were the grand merchant homes of the 1890's. Many people marvel at the adorable apartments, most of which were built after the 1905 Louis and Clark building boom. Most people find themselves shopping or dining on 23rd street (aka Trendy-Third Street), which is where most of the retail resides. You'll certainly find trendy boutiques and sophisticated dining spots here.