Portland is the largest city in Oregon. Portland’s name was decided on a coin toss between the names Portland and Boston. Prior to the toss, the area was merely called “The Clearing.” Portland received the nickname, “Stumptown,” when it experienced rapid growth in the mid-19th century. To make more room for the growing population, they cleared land and felled many trees quickly leaving the stumps behind. Today, Portland is still a city that is growing very quickly as more and more people relocate to the city.
Portland is a very progressive city and has a great history of gender equality, as the city was home to the first female officer in the country in the 1920s, the first female mayor in the country in the 1950s, and can boast that over 50 percent of local businesses are owned by women.
On our first full day in Portland, our daughter, Ashley, took us on a walking tour. The downtown area is very well developed and is pedestrian and bicycle friendly. There are many broad bricked sidewalks and bike paths everywhere. Portland has a very good public transportation system, too. We saw many lovely fountains, green parks, beautifully kept public squares, and sidewalks adorned with flowers.
We visited the Ira Keller fountain that was built in 1970. The fountain’s designer was inspired by the waterfalls in the Columbia River gorge. Also, we learned that some of the water fountains – “Benson Bubblers” – you see around Portland were donated to the city as a means of giving early settlers an alternative to drinking at the pubs. Portland’s streets and sidewalks still feature horse rings – iron or brass installations anchored to provide a place for tethering your horse.
Portland is full of many different types of art. There are paintings on the sides of many buildings and there are small sculptures along the sidewalks and larger ones in the parks.
Perhaps the most famous sculpture is called “Portlandia.” “Portlandia” is a hammered copper statue that is 36 feet tall and graces the entrance of the Portland building. It is the second-largest copper statue in the United States, after the Statue of Liberty. It is a very impressive work of art.
Another iconic place in Portland is Powell’s City of Books. This bookstore occupies a full city block and has over a million books in its retail store. It is so large that they publish a map to help you locate particular sections and each section is color-coded. They have both new and used books in their store. During our first visit, we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books as well as the number of people in the store. They had books and maps that we had not seen anywhere else. Over the past week, we have visited Powell’s several more times and it is not as daunting as it was initially. If you are ever in Portland, it is a “must see.”