Washington Park (Portland, Oregon)

Washington Park

Garden near north entrance
Nearest city Portland, Oregon
Coordinates 45°30′57″N 122°42′27″W / 45.51583°N 122.70750°W / 45.51583; -122.70750Coordinates: 45°30′57″N 122°42′27″W / 45.51583°N 122.70750°W / 45.51583; -122.70750
Area 410 acres (170 ha)
Created 1909
Operated by Portland Parks & Recreation

Washington Park is a public urban park in Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon. It includes a zoo, forestry museum, arboretum, children's museum, rose garden, Japanese garden, amphitheatre, memorials, archery range, tennis courts, soccer field, picnic areas, playgrounds, public art and many acres of wild forest with miles of trails. Washington Park covers more than 410 acres (166 hectares) on mostly steep, wooded hillsides which range in elevation from 200 feet (61 m) at 24th & W Burnside to 870 feet (265 m) at SW Fairview Blvd. It comprises 159.7 acres (64.63 hectares) of city park land that has been officially designated as "Washington Park" by the City of Portland,[1] as well as the adjacent 64-acre (26 ha) Oregon Zoo and the 189-acre (76 ha) Hoyt Arboretum, which together make up the area described as "Washington Park" on signs and maps.[2]


The City of Portland purchased the original 40.78 acres (16.5 hectares) in 1871 from Amos King for $32,624, a controversially high price for the time.[3][4] The area, designated "City Park", was wilderness with few roads. Thick brush, trees and roaming cougar discouraged access. In the mid-1880s, Charles M. Meyers was hired as park keeper. A former seaman without landscape training, he transformed the park by drawing on memories of his native Germany and European parks. By 1900, there were roads, trails, landscaped areas with lawns, manicured hedges, flower gardens, and a zoo. Cable cars were added in 1890 and operated until the 1930s. The City of Portland constructed two reservoirs in the park in 1893 and 1894.[5]

In 1903, John Charles Olmsted of Olmsted Brothers, a nationally known landscape architecture firm, recommended several changes to the park including the present name, location of the entrance, separate roads and pedestrian paths, and replacement of formal gardens with native species. The name was officially changed from City Park to Washington Park in 1909.[6]

When the Multnomah County Poor Farm Hillside Farm west of Washington Park closed in 1922, the 160 acres (64.75 hectares) were donated to the City of Portland to be used as a park, which later became Hoyt Arboretum. [7]

Portland's zoo was founded in Washington Park in 1888 near where the reservoirs are presently located. It moved in 1925 to what is now the Japanese Garden, and moved again in 1959 to its present location at the park's southern edge. The only surviving structure from the old zoo is the elephant barn, now converted into a picnic shelter and decorated with tile mosaic of various animals and a life-size brick relief sculpture of an elephant and calf.

The City of Portland plans to demolish the two existing outdoor reservoirs, then replace them with underground reservoirs covered by reflecting pools, due to their age and a federal mandate to cover all reservoirs.[8] The $67 million project has attracted opposition from historical preservationists and residents concerned about construction impacts.[9]

Notable features

Les AuCoin Plaza

The veterans memorial, zoo, children's museum, forestry center and the MAX station surround a large parking lot in the southwestern portion of the park. The arboretum is located just to the north of these. The gardens, amphitheater, playgrounds and the Holocaust Memorial are in the northeast section of the park.

Statues and fountains

In 2001, a memorial bench and plaque north of the Lewis and Clark Memorial were created to honor the Portland born journalist John Reed. The plaque has a quotation by Reed on his native city:

Portlanders understand and appreciate how differently beautiful is this part of the world—the white city against the deep evergreen of the hills, the snow mountains to the east, the everchanging river and its boat life—and the grays, blues and greens, the smoke dimmed sunsets and pearly hazes of August, so characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. You don’t have to point out these things to our people. Walters, I think, paints them with more affection and understanding than they have yet been painted.[20]

Public access

The Washington Park light rail station provides regional public transit access to the park's west end, including the Oregon Zoo. Seasonal public transit service within the park is provided by the Washington Park Shuttle, which connects with MAX light rail at the Washington Park station and operates from May through October, running seven days a week from June through Labor Day (early September) and otherwise on weekends.[21] Additionally, bus route 63-Washington Park, which runs seven days a week year-round, serves stops at the west and east ends of the park (including at the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden), but does not pass through most of the park.[22] The northeastern corner of the park, at NW 23rd Place and W. Burnside, is served by bus route 20-Burnside/Stark, which runs seven days a week.[23]

See also


  1. "Washington Park". Portland Parks & Recreation. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  2. "Washington Park, Portland, Oregon website". Washington Park Alliance. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  3. MacColl, E. Kimbark (November 1976). The Shaping of a City: Business and politics in Portland, Oregon 1885 to 1915. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. OCLC 2645815.
  4. "Washington Park". Portland Parks & Recreation. Retrieved November 22, 2006.
  5. "Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project". Portland Water Bureau. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  6. "Summary of park's board minutes 1901–1920". Portland Parks and Recreation. Retrieved November 22, 2006.
  7. "History of the Arboretum Part I". Portland Parks and Recreation. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  8. "Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project". Portland Water Bureau. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  9. "Protests echo as council approves reservoir demolition". Portland Tribune. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  10. "About the Oregon Zoo". Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  11. "Washington Park Summer Festival opens with record attendance". Portland Parks & Recreation. August 4, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  12. "North America's Best Japanese Gardens" (PDF). Sukiya Living Magazine (JOJG). Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Washington Park". Portland Parks & Recreation. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  14. "Westside MAX Tour Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. November 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  15. "Washington Park and Zoo Railway". Oregon Zoo. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  16. "Sculpture of Sacagawea and Jean Baptiste". Lclark.edu. September 5, 2004. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  17. "Art Inventories Catalog". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  18. "International Rose Test Garden – Washington Park". Portland Parks & Recreation. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  19. Hottle, Molly (October 9, 2011). "Royal Rosarians unveil bronze statue to mark upcoming centennial year". The Oregonian. Advance Publications. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  20. http://www.lclark.edu/~polyecon/reed.htm FIRST MEMORIAL TO JOHN REED TO BE DEDICATED MAY 6 by Michael Munk, The Portland Alliance, May 2001
  21. "Explore Washington Park". Washington Park Transportation Management Association. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  22. Bus Line 63-Washington Park TriMet. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  23. Bus Line 20-Burnside/Stark TriMet. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
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