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Portland, Oregon

Portland is the largest city in Oregon, and county seat of Multnomah County. It is located within the Pacific Northwest, straddling the Willamette River and just south of its confluence with the Columbia River. According to the U.S. Census Bureau as of July 2003, the city's population was estimated to be 538,544, a growth of 1.7% over the April 2000 census figure of 529,121.

The Portland metropolitan area spans Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties, as well as parts of Columbia and Yamhill counties in Oregon, and Clark County in Washington. The immediate metropolitan area has a population of 2,016,357 as of July 2003, which is 5.2% more than the 2000 census figure for the area. The area includes the neighboring cities of Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Fairview, Wood Village, Troutdale, Tualatin and Tigard, as well as Vancouver, Washington.

Portland, Oregon
(Flag of Portland ) (Seal of Portland )

Tom Potter


Multnomah County

Population (2003) 538,544
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7)

The city and the region

Portland is often cited as an example of a well-planned city. The credit for this starts with Oregon's proactive land use policies, particularly the establishment of an urban growth boundary (UGB) in 1974. The boundary preserved agricultural land in the mold of 19th Century farming techniques. This was atypical in an era when automobile use led many areas to neglect their core cities in favor of development along interstate highways, in suburbs, and satellite cities.

Portland's success in urban planning continues with the Metropolitan Service District (Metro for short), a regional government directly elected by voters. Metro's charter includes land use and transportation planning, solid waste management, and map development. Metro manages the UGB by coordinating with the cities and counties in the area to ensure a 20-year-supply of developable land with the infrastructure that land needs.

Portland also uses a City Agency called The Portland Development Commission to control development in the city.

Metro's master plan for the Portland region includes transit-oriented development: this approach, part of the new urbanism, promotes mixed-use and high-density development around light-rail stops and transit centers, and the investment of the metropolitan area's share of federal tax dollars into multiple modes of transportation. Metro's master plan also includes multiple town centers, smaller versions of the city center, scattered throughout the metropolitan area.

In 1995 Metro introduced the 2040 plan as a way to define long term growth planning. The 2040 Growth Concept is designed to accommodate 780,000 additional people and 350,000 jobs by 2040. This plan has created some criticism from environmentalists, but few consider it a threat to Portland's legacy of urban growth management.

An April 2004 study in the Journal of the American Planning Association tried to quantify the effects of Metro's plans on Portland's urban form. While the report cautioned against finding a direct link between any single one policy and any improvements in Portland's urban form, it showed strong correlation between Metro's 2040 plan and various west-side changes in Portland. Changes cited include increased density and mixed-use development as well as improved pedestrian/non-automobile accessibility.

City nicknames

Portland has various nicknames whose popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years. The City of Roses and Rose City originated during the 1905 Lewis and Clark centennial. The climate is ideal for growing roses and the city is home to the annual Rose Festival, the International Rose Test Garden, and the Rose Garden Arena.

One of the oldest nicknames, "Stumptown", comes from the period of phenomenal growth after 1847. The city was growing so rapidly that the stumps of trees cut down to make way for roads were left until manpower could be spared to remove them. In some areas, the stumps remained for so long that locals painted them white to make them more visible, and used them to cross the street without sinking into the mud.

Other nicknames include:


Portland started as a spot known as "The Clearing" which was on the Willamette about half-way between Oregon City and Fort Vancouver. In 1843, William Overton saw great commercial potential for this land; his only problem was that he lacked the quarter needed to file a land claim. So, he struck a bargain with his partner Asa Lovejoy : for 25, Overton would share his claim to the 640 acre (2.6 km²) site.

Bored with clearing trees and building roads, Overton sold his half of the claim to Francis W. Pettygrove. When it came time to name their new town, Pettygrove and Lovejoy each wanted to name it after his home town. They settled the argument with a coin toss. Pettygrove won, and named it after Portland, Maine; had Lovejoy won, he intended to name it after Boston, Massachusetts.

In its early years, Portland existed in the shadow of Oregon City, the territorial capital 12 miles (19 km) upstream on the falls of the Willamette. However, Portland was located at the Willamette's head of navigation, the furthest point inland one could reliably reach by ship. This gave it a key advantage over its older peer. It also triumphed over early rivals like Milwaukie. By 1850 Portland had approximately 800 inhabitants, a steam sawmill, a log cabin hotel, and a newspaper, called the Weekly Oregonian.

Portland was the major port in the Pacific Northwest for much of the 19th century, until the 1890s when direct railroad access between the deep water harbor in Seattle and points east by way of Stampede Pass were built. Goods could then be transported from the northwest coast to inland cities without needing to navigate the dangerous bar at the mouth of the Columbia.

Like other west coast ports such as San Francisco, California, Astoria, Oregon, and Port Townsend, Washington, Portland was home to frequest acts of of shanghaiing. Tunnels under city blocks stretching for blocks from the Willamette River, built perhaps for legitimate business reasons, became known as shanghai tunnels for their more clandestine use.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 376.5 km² (145.4 mi²). 347.9 km² (134.3 mi²) of it is land and 28.6 km² (11.1 mi²), or 7.6%, is water.

The Portland metropolitan area is located within the Willamette Valley, which follows the Willamette River and the I-5 Corridor. The valley consists of suburban municipalities sprawled around patches of farmland further south. The further north you travel, towards Portland, the thicker the population density becomes. The vast majority of Oregon's population lives in the Willamette Valley. Interstate 5 bisects the valley and a significant number of commuters travel the I-5 Corridor daily.

Portland's five "quadrants" (sic)

As a result of a "great renumbering" on September 2, 1931, Portland is divided into five sections [1]. Burnside Street bisects it into northern and southern halves. Below Burnside are the Southwest and Southeast sections, divided by the Willamette River. Above it, are Northwest, North, and Northeast sections; a separate North section is due to a bend in the Willamette which splits what would otherwise be a northwest quadrant into North Portland and Northwest sections of town. Williams Avenue divides North Portland from Northeast Portland. Locals refer to these areas by their section names (such as "Northwest"), with the exception of "North Portland", for which the full name is typically used, although it is commonly called "The Portland Peninsula" or "The Peninsula" by the locals, and infrequently called "NoPo" by tourists from California or from the other "quadrants". The more densely populated parts of the city proper are somewhat asymmetrical, with the west side hemmed in by the West Hills, while the flatter east side stretches on for about 170 blocks, until it meets Gresham. There are some 300 city blocks that are numbered, such as 282nd street in Gresham. They extend from the beginning of East Portland, at the Willamette River, to the outer fringes of the suburbs of Gresham, one of the largest suburbs containing 100,000 residents. Passed 300 blocks east, you will find yourself in rural Multnomah County.

As with many cities, the various areas of Portland have developed a (generally) friendly rivalry, with "west-siders" described high-class, refined, snobby, or elite and east-siders described as relaxed, comfortable, low-classed or unrefined. As always, there are some seeds of truth to these descriptions, but generally, most Portlanders are friendly and welcoming to each other and outsiders.

Probably the most prominent factor that sets Portland apart from other major cities, like those on the East Coast, is its integration of cultures. Portland is one of the most integrated cities in the world. Unlike the racially segregated neighborhoods of Chicago and New York, Portlanders of all ethnicities tend to live amongst each other with limited segregation and few cultural "boundary lines". Portland is the ideal city for the integration of cultures because races are integrated, which fuels the presence of racial harmony.


Northwest includes the Pearl District, a fairly recent name for what originally was an old warehouse area. Since the late 1980s, many of the existing warehouses have been converted into lofts, and new multi-story condominiums have also been developed. The increasing density has attracted an urban mix of restaurants, brewpubs, shops, and art galleries, though in some cases pioneering tenants have been priced out of the area. Its galleries sponsor artists' receptions on the first Thursday of every month. The Pearl District serves as a model for returning polluted land to worthwhile economic use. Classified by the Federal Government as a "Brownfield" site, the polluted land is topped by high rise buildings which feature condominiums which regularly sell in excess of six or seven figures. The pollution remediation is incentivized by full property tax abatements for one or two decades for the condominium owners.

Further west is the tiny NW 21st and 23rd Avenue neighborhood and shopping area. When Portland natives say Northwest, they often mean this area, which is also called Uptown and Nob Hill. This area has a mix of Victorian-era houses, apartment buildings from throughout the 20th century, and various businesses centered around Legacy Samaritan Medical Center. The City Streetcar connects this area to downtown.

Even further northwest lies part of what is known as Portland's "West Hills", including the majority of Forest Park. The MAX Line runs through a tunnel in the West Hills and has a full station in the center of the tunnel known as the "Zoo stop". The Zoo stop has a zoo, an arboretum, beautiful hiking trails, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Some lucky homeowners commute to downtown by walking through the Park to the Zoo stop to ride the Max. The West Hills underwent rapid expansion starting in the 1960's and continuing through the 1970's. The West Hills features many split levels which are lovingly maintained.

Portland's Old Chinatown neighborhood is marked by a pair of lions at the corner of NW 4th and Burnside, and includes the district along the Willamette River between Burnside and Union Station. Before World War II, this area also had a Japan Town.

Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Pioneer Courthouse Square.


Southwest includes

Downtown Portland has compact city blocks and narrow streets. Each block is 200 ft (60 m) square; by comparison, Seattle's city blocks are 240 by 320 feet (70 by 100 m), and Manhattan's east-west streets are divided into blocks that are from 600 to 800 feet (180 to 240 m) long. In addition, most streets are 64 feet (20 m) wide, so the combination of compact blocks and narrow streets make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly. The 264 foot (80 m) long combined blocks divide one mile (1.6 km) of road into exactly 20 separate blocks.

The city of Portland is hoping to redevelop the south riverfront into a mixed-use, high-density neighborhood, with 2700 residential units and 5,000 high-tech jobs after build-out. It is estimated that it would cost about two billion dollars to build.

North Portland

North Portland, another working-class area, contains the St. Johns neighborhood adjacent to the St. Johns Bridge. St. Johns has been described as having an old-fashioned and slightly run-down feeling; North Portland overall has been accredited with a cozy "small town" charm by some inhabitants. North Portland is racially mixed. It is home to a large population of African Americans as well as Hispanics and Caucasians.

During World War II, a planned development named Vanport was constructed to the north of this section between the city limits and the Columbia River. It grew to be the second largest city in Oregon, but was wiped out by a disastrous flood in 1948. The old Housing Authority of Portland's Columbia Villa in the Portsmouth Neighborhood is being rebuilt; the new, $150 million community will be known as New Columbia and will offer public housing, rental housing, and single family home ownership units.

As of 2004, the area includes a new addition to the light-rail line along Interstate Avenue, which parallels Interstate 5. It is also home to the University of Portland. North Portland also has other various public transportation routes with several frequent service lines.


Northeast contains a diverse collection of neighborhoods, both sociologically and ethnically, and is one of the most diverse areas of the city. For example, while Irvington and the Alameda Ridge boast some of the most expensive homes in Portland, nearby Albina is a more working-class neighborhood. Because it is so large, Northeast Portland can essentially be divided into two sections ethnically, culturally, and geographically. There is an inner Northeast Portland and an outer Northeast Portland. The inner Northeast neighborhoods that surround Martin Luther King jr. Blvd. (MLK) are predominately African American. These neighborhoods resemble typical urban inner-city environments found in most U.S. major cities. Outer Northeast is mostly Caucasian, but is also integrated with Asians, Hispanics, and Blacks. The further you go into inner Northeast, the more segregated it becomes with African Americans. New thousand-unit high-rise public housing projects are currently being constructed in this area. Inner Northeast includes several shopping districts such as the Lloyd and Hollywood Districts. The city plan targets Lloyd District as another mixed-use area, with high-rise residential development. Developers are waiting for the success of a seed project before intensive development occurs. No development occurs anywhere in Portland without significant involvement and approval by the city and one of its major agencies, the Portland Development Commission (PDC).

Rose Quarter is another district within the area. It is named after the Rose Garden, which is the home of the Portland Trail Blazers, and includes the Blazers' former home, the Memorial Coliseum. The Rose Quarter was created by the city using eminent domain to acquire the houses and eliminating a full neighborhood of middle income people of color. The Memorial Coliseum is the home to Portland's hockey team, the Winterhawks, though many of their games are played at the Rose Garden. The city still holds the lease to the land, but the buildings were owned by private business interests until they went into receivership. During both teams' home games, the area is quite active, with spectators for the game mixing with local restaurant and bar patrons (particularly when both teams play the same night at the same time). The city hopes to expand this area beyond game-time entertainment, by promoting a major increase in residential units in the quarter using zoning and tax incentives, but the easy accessabilty of the MAX Lines (rapid transit) as well as numerous bus lines clears this quarter pretty quickly after events.


Southeast stretches from the warehouses by the river, through the historic Ladd's Addition, to hippie/Generation X Hawthorne and Belmont districts over Mt. Tabor. Then the area extends into miles of "working-class" neighborhoods beyond 82nd Avenue. Southeast is also an ethnically diverse neighborhood home to many Russians and Hispanics.

Farther south, the Brooklyn, Sellwood, Woodstock, and Brentwood-Darlington neighborhoods and wealthy areas near Reed College are close to the Willamette, with Clackamas Town Center acting as a hub for business further east, where I-205 splits the region. Mall 205 attracts numerous Washington residents daily, taking advantage of Oregon's lack of sales tax and easy access from Vancouver's eastern suburbs.

St. Phillip Neri Church, located at SE 18th and Division, just South of Ladd's Addition, is one of Portland's many architectural treasures. Constructed in the 1920's, the main church building features Deco and characteristics of the great movie houses of the Western US of that period.

Between the 1920s and the 1960s, Southeast was home to Lambert Gardens.

Southeast Portland is usually regarded as the home of many of Portland's more colorful characters (of which there are no shortages). Portland features a myriad of active political movements including a chapter of the IWW (Wobblies), as well as other more mundane Socialist, Socialist Workers, Communists, Environmental Socialists, etc. In some neighborhoods in Southeast, a Progressive getting coffee at Starbucks can feel like a cousin to Sean Hannity.

Southeast Portland also features Mt. Tabor, which is known for its beautiful walking paths.



The metropolitan area is served by the following highways:

Mass transit

Portland is well-known for its comprehensive public transportation system. The major bus and rail system is named TriMet, reflecting the three metropolitan counties it serves (Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington).

A bus mall (known as the Portland Transit Mall) dominates 5th and 6th Avenues downtown. Almost all TriMet buses route through the mall, with bus stops grouped geographically by destination. Since the mall acts as a metro-area-wide hub, it also means riders can often get downtown without changing buses and reach most other destinations with only one change.

At the heart of the downtown area is "Fareless Square" where mass transit systems are free within the square. The original Fareless Square was bounded by the Willamette to the east, Irving Street to the north, and I-405 to the west and south; a spur into the Lloyd District was later included, rendering the fareless area a square in name only.

Portlanders waiting for MAX in downtown Portland
Portlanders waiting for MAX in downtown Portland

The light rail, or MAX consists of three color-coded lines:

  • The Blue Line is 33 miles (53 km) long, and goes from Hillsboro, a western suburb, through Beaverton and downtown, across the Willamette River through NE Portland and East to the city of Gresham.
  • The Red Line incorporates a five mile (8 km) north-south addition between the airport and the Gateway transit center near the northeast Portland neighborhood of Parkrose. From that point the line overlaps with the Blue Line, continuing west through downtown, and terminating at the Beaverton transit center.
  • The Yellow Line adds almost six miles (10 km) to the system. It connects North Portland's Expo Center with downtown. This line is sometimes referred to as "Interstate MAX" because much of it runs along Interstate Avenue.

Proposed extensions to MAX include:

  • The proposed route would run from Clackamas Town Center near Clackamas, north along I-205, up to Gateway transit center, where the Blue and Red Lines meet. There, it would travel westwards towards downtown Portland along the Blue Line's existing tracks and then run along a proposed light-rail addition to the Portland Transit Mall . This proposed route is referred to as the I-205 Light Rail Project or the Green Line. The Portland Transit Mall segment of this line is in many ways a separate but synchronous project. Once both are complete (again, proposed to be complete in 2009), the Yellow Line would also run on the new Portland Mall light rail tracks.
  • Longer term, the Yellow Line is proposed to be extended past the transit mall, continuing through Southeast Portland along existing rights-of-way to downtown Milwaukie. No construction date for this extension has been proposed yet.

In addition, the Portland Streetcar began operation in 2001, with a five mile (8 km) loop from downtown's Portland State University (PSU), past Powell's City of Books, through the Pearl District, to the NW 23rd neighborhood. In 2005, a 0.6 mile (1 km) extension to the streetcar line was built. It connects PSU with RiverPlace, and is a step towards continuing into the South Waterfront/North Macadam area and utilizing the right-of-way preserved by the Willamette Shore Trolley to reach Lake Oswego. This 0.6 mile extension is scheduled to open on March 11, 2005.

A more unusual form of public transportation, the Portland Aerial Tram, is an aerial tramway planned to connect the South Waterfront with Oregon Health and Science University and the surrounding Marquam Hill area. This plan encountered significant opposition from the citizens living underneath its planned route, though resulting changes in design have addressed their most serious concerns.


Portland has earned more than one "most bicycle friendly city" award. An important hallmark for bicycle-friendly infrastructure was the expansion of the sidewalks of Hawthorne Bridge in 1997. Other bicycle-friendly projects include the blue bike lanes project, and the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. A more-recent project will bring covered bicycle parking to the popular southeast Hawthorne Boulevard shopping district.


The Portland International Airport (PDX) serves residents of the Portland metropolitan area as well as residents of southern Washington state. Flights from the airport go to destinations throughout the United States, and to a few international destinations.


Portland is proud of its parks and its legacy of preserving open spaces. In fact, it has one of the highest parks-per-capita ratios among cities in the United States.

Forest Park is one of the largest wilderness park within city limits in the United States, with over 5,000 acres (20 km²).

Portland is also home to Mill Ends Park, the world's smallest park (being a two-foot diameter circle, its area is only about 0.3 square meters). Washington Park (web site) is west of downtown, home to the Oregon Zoo, a Japanese Garden, the International Rose Test Garden, all accessible from a MAX stop which is the deepest subway station in the country.

Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park runs along west bank of the Willamette for the length of downtown. The 37 acre (150,000 m²) park was built in 1974 after a freeway was removed. Today it plays host to large events throughout the year, including the Waterfront Blues Festival, Oregon Brewers Festival, Bite of Oregon, and several Rose Festival events.

In addition, within Portland's downtown, two groups of contiguous city blocks are dedicated for park space; they are referred to as the North and South Park Blocks.

Portland is also home to Portland Classical Chinese Garden, an authentic representation of a Suzhou-style walled garden. Local construction workers provided the site preparation and foundation and dozens of workers from Suzhou, using material from China, constructed its walls and other structures, including a tea house.

The only state park in the area is Tryon Creek State Park ; its creek still has a run of steelhead.


Portland and certain other Oregon cities (like Hood River and Bend), are well-known for their good beer. It is often said that Portland is the home of the microbrew revolution. Some illustrate Portlanders' interest in the beverage by an offer made in 1888, when local brewer Henry Weinhard volunteered to pump beer from his brewery into the pipes of the newly dedicated Skidmore Fountain. However, the renown for quality beer dates to the 1980s, when microbreweries and brewpubs began to pop up all over the city. Their growth was supported by the abundance of local ingredients, including two-row barley, over a dozen varieties of hops, and the pure water from Bull Run and other watersheds of nearby Mount Hood.

Today, the city has more craft brewers than any other city in North America, and for that matter, more breweries than any other city in the world. The McMenamin brothers alone have over thirty brewpubs scattered throughout the metropolitan area, many in renovated theaters and other old buildings otherwise destined for demolition. In 1999, Michael Jackson (the beer hunter, not the musician) called it a candidate for the beer capital of the world because the city had more breweries than Cologne, Germany.

Portland hosts a number of festivals throughout the year in celebration of beer. One of them, the Oregon Brewers Festival, is the largest gathering of independent craft brewers in North America.



Portland is served by a number of local resorts located on nearby Mount Hood: Timberline , Mt. Hood Meadows , Ski Bowl , Cooper Spur , and Ski Bunny . Timberline allows skiers to reach the Mt. Hood Glacier area and allows skiing year round. In the summer months there are many ski and snowboard camps. Timberline remains one of only two resorts in North America to have year-round skiing, Whistler in British Columbia being the other.

Professional Sports

Portland is an annual circiut on the Champ Car World Series. It also features the following professional sports teams:

Tourist Attractions

Museums Etc.


Colleges and Universities in the Metro Area

Notable Portlanders

See: List of Portlanders


As of the census of 2000, there are 529,121 people residing in the city, organized into 223,737 households and 118,356 families. The population density is 1,521/km² (3,939.2/mi²). There are 237,307 housing units at an average density of 682.1/km² (1,766.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 77.91% White, 6.64% African American, 1.06% Native American, 6.33% Asian, 0.38% Pacific Islander, 3.55% from other races, and 4.15% from two or more races. 6.81% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Portland is becoming increasingly diverse. Recent trends have more young people moving into the city as older more established white families with children move to the suburbs. While this has put pressure on the public school system to close schools due to the diminishing population of children, for unmarried people in their twenties and thirties, Portland is like an adult Disneyland. Shared rental housing at good prices is plentiful. Restaurant jobs are easy to get. Concerts play every night of the week. Portland features a higher ratio of Sex Workers per capita than any other city in the US; this includes New York City, LA, and even Las Vegas! Living on the street is strongly discouraged--very strongly discouraged. Open drug use is also discouraged. Residents of varying cultures can live within close vicinities of one another. Although the overwhelming majority of the city's population is still White, 60% of people moving to Oregon are minorities. The public housing units of the city are integrated as well, giving welfare citizens more exposure to city. However, there are still a few high-rise public housing units with dozens of stories within the inner-city.

Out of 223,737 households, 24.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% are married couples living together, 10.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.1% are non-families. 34.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.3 and the average family size is 3.

In the city the population is spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 34.7% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 97.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 95.9 males. Portland is very lesbian friendly.

The median income for a household in the city is $40,146, and the median income for a family is $50,271. Males have a reported median income of $35,279 versus $29,344 reported for females. The per capita income for the city is $22,643. 13.1% of the population and 8.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.7% of those under the age of 18 and 10.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. Oregon has a 9% income tax which tends to suppress accurate reporting. Figures delineating the income levels based on race are not available at this time.

Portland in popular culture

Portland has been the setting or background for books, films, and music, including the following:




Sister cities

Portland has the following sister cities:

See also

List of radio stations in Oregon, The Oregonian newspaper, Portland General Electric, Raleigh Hills, Oregon, West Slope, Oregon, Personal Telco, PDX Wireless, Riverdale High School, the Portland Linux/Unix Group, and the Cacophony Society which has a Portland chapter.

External links


Official and non-profit websites

News coverage

Portland-related wikis

Commercial online guides

Portland-related personal websites


  • Stewart Holbrook, The Far Corner. Comstock Editions ISBN 0-89174-043-0 (1952).
  • E. Kimbark MacColl, The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1885 to 1915. Portland: Georgian Press, 1976.
  • E. Kimbark MacColl, The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915 to 1950. Portland: Georgian Press, 1979. ISBN 0960340815

Last updated: 08-04-2005 17:55:08
Last updated: 09-01-2005 08:31:04