Portland: A Lot of People Have Lived Here

Portland, June, 1858. 5488

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A Digital Exhibit by The Oregon Encyclopedia and the Oregon History Project

Call it the Clearing, Stumptown, City of Roses, P-Town, PDX, Ripcity, Bridgetown, or Little Beirut—Portland answers to them all.

The city sits on the Willamette River, both sleepy and overwrought, dominating Oregon in population and voting trends. Obama loved it, George H.W. did not, Teddy Roosevelt slept here, and the Queen of Romania stopped by for dinner.

“Although of a different order, the history of the modern city should be no less interesting than that of an ancient metropolis like Jerusalem or Athens. It treats no less of human endeavor, and no less segregates and epitomizes human life. If that in which men busy themselves, and that which they produce is anywhere, or at any time, calculated to attract attention and demand investigation and analysis, why not here in Oregon, on the banks of the Willamette, as well as five to ten thousand miles away, in Spain or in Turkey?”

—Harvey Scott, History of Portland, 1890

If Scott’s Portland is the Spain or Turkey of North America, the Oregon Historical Society is especially pleased to present many of its wonders in the hundreds of digital pages on The Oregon Encyclopedia and Oregon History Project. The history of Portland has “attracted the attention” of the state’s historians, scholars, writers, and other experts, and they share what they know. Follow the links below.

Featured Entry:

Portland, by Carl Abbott

Portland waterfront, about 1900-1910. Oregonian, Willamette Landings 3rd ed. p. 31. OrHi 28306 

Portland, with a 2010 population of 583,776 within its city limits and 2,226,009 in the seven-county metropolitan area, was platted on the west bank of the Willamette River in 1845 on lands utilized by the Multnomah Chinooks. The area received its first few dozen English-speaking settlers in 1846. Maine native Francis Pettygrove, one of its first proprietors, chose the name. During the 1850s, Portland would pass Oregon City to become the largest city in Oregon, a position it has held ever since. The metropolitan area is twenty-third in size in the United States.

During its first three decades, Portland depended on trade by water. Its first substantial growth came when the California Gold Rush created a huge market for Oregon wheat and lumber, much of it shipped from Portland by river and ocean to San Francisco. Willamette River steamboats brought farm products from the state’s agricultural heartland, while steamer links connected by portage railroads on the Columbia River allowed Portland merchants to supply miners in Idaho and Montana. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company, which had consolidated and monopolized the Columbia River trade by 1860, was the basis for several sizable fortunes.

Oregon History Wayfinder


Where We Go To Think About the Meaning of It All

Places To Speak Your Mind

She/He/They is/are from/lived/lives in Portland?

The Consciences of the City


Gooooooooo Team!


Totally not-meh architecture

Places we burned down, tore down, or filled in

On a clear day…