Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Sunny Morning in Portland's North Park Blocks--my inspiration during the winter.
When I walk down NW Everett from 22nd to 3rd and Couch on my way to work, I walk through the middle of this beautifully kept park. You can see a person blowing leaves from the sidewalk on the right of the tree--that's going on every morning I've walked, not that I walk 1.22 miles five days a week, yet.
Here's some information for you about Park Blocks--I particulary love that the land was acquired in 1869--in the middle of a city. Wow.
Wikipedia: Portland's downtown also features two groups of contiguous city blocks dedicated for park space; they are referred to as the North and South Park Blocks.
City of Portland: North Park Blocks NW Park Ave from Ankeny St to Glisan St., General Info, Acreage: 3.11, Acquired in 1869
Amenities - Includes basketball court – outdoor, bocce court, disabled access restroom, historical site, paths – paved, playground, statue or public art, and WiFi. Special Information - Park hours: 5:00am-10:00pm
This park has been "adopted" by JohnsonSheen Advertising. To volunteer at your neighborhood park, call 503-823-5121.
These blocks were some of the original park properties in the city. Captain John Couch dedicated the blocks to the City in 1869. City plats show the park blocks continuing to Front Street, but Tanner Creek and poor drainage were obstacles to development and land north of Glisan remained vacant. The original design concept for the North Park Blocks was for a continuation of the South Park Blocks promenade. However, the linking was impeded early on by Benjamin Stark's reluctance to give the city the two blocks between Ankeny and Stark. The six blocks between Salmon and Stark donated by Daniel Lownsdale became part of a legal battle with his second wife's heirs. The court ruled in their favor and the property was eventually sold and developed. On the remaining blocks, trees were planted in rows like those in the South Park Blocks, using Big leaf maples and Black locusts with American elms at the street edge.
By the 1880s, the area was predominantly residential, but not fashionable like the South Park Blocks. Modest one- and two-story houses were built. From the turn of the century, more commercial and light industrial businesses and residential hotels were developed in the area. The railroad purchased the land north of Park to Front and expanded its rail yards.
In 1908, the People's Institute operated a playground and welfare program in the North Park Blocks. The next year the Park Commission added play equipment and took over. This became the Portland's first supervised playground, separating the boys from the girls. It became popular citywide. In 1920, tennis courts were built in the northernmost block and play areas were developed between Everett and Glisan. Also built around this time were two brick restrooms in the Ankeny block. As more playgrounds were developed in other parks, and commercial and industrial uses pushed out residential use, the park began to decline. Many large trees were damaged in the 1962 Columbus Day storm and were removed, changing the character of the park.
In 1992, a series of improvements was completed in the North Parks Blocks. Pains were taken to protect and preserve the remaining historic trees that had stood there since the park's inception. Light fixtures were replaced with the same style of ornamental ones now in the South Park Blocks. Different colored paving stones were used on the pathways to create bright, winding lanes. In 1993, a new playground was built and its popularity brought some vitality back to the park.
In February 2002, a fountain, designed by the famous weimaraner dog photographer William Wegman, was unveiled in the North Park Blocks. Commissioned by the Pearl Arts Foundation, Portland Dog Bowl resembles a patch of linoleum kitchen floor with a bowl on the side, as if it were pushed there by a dog nose. It measures 8x10 feet with checkerboard black and white granite tiles. To lend visual interest, four of the squares are artificial turf. Wegman designed the cast-bronze bowl, with water burbling up from an underground source, to be reminiscent of the Benson bubbler drinking fountains placed around town in 1912 by philanthropist Simon Benson. When interviewed about the design concept, Wegman stated, "If it didn't work for the dogs, it wouldn't work for me." He donated part of his fee to the Oregon Humane Society, Foster Pets, and the Delta Society, which promotes animal-assisted therapy.
In October 2002, a 12-foot bronze sculpture titled Da Tung (Universal Peace), a replica of a Chinese antique dating from the late Shang Dynasty (1200-1100 BC), was installed in the park between Burnside and Couch streets. The elephant is embellished with figures from ancient Chinese mythology, and carries a baby elephant, Xiang bao bao (Baby Elephant), symbolizing that offspring shall be safe and prosperous. The statue was a gift to the city from Chinese businessman Huo Baozhu, whose foundry in Xi’an, China, is licensed by the national government to reproduce Chinese antiquities. Huo, who visited Portland a number of times, said he was motivated by a love of Chinese history and admiration for Portland.
If you're interested in more about the South Park Blocks, here's the city's link to that: http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/finder/index.cfm?PropertyID=674&action=ViewPark