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Portland decades: the 1910s

We’re traveling all the way back to the 1910s in Portland, when the Pittocks were still alive and the city’s famous rose test garden was still just a seed.

A black and white image showing horsedrawn carriages and wagons surrounded by two-story buildings.

Portland’s old Front Street in 1910.

Photo by HesperianBot

Despite being early in the 20th century, the 1910s brought big changes to Portland in the form of an explosive population boom, the advent of iconic institutions, and local reactions to war and a global pandemic.

Let’s turn back time and take a deep dive into this decade of Rose City history.

Population: 207,214

Mayors: Joseph Simon (1909-1911), Allen G. Rushlight (1911-1913), H. Russell Albee (1913-1917), George L. Baker (1917-1933)

1910 — The Hawthorne Bridge, named for a physician and politician who founded the PNW’s first treatment center for asylum medicine, opened to traffic on Dec. 19.

1911 — On the morning of June 26, a fire broke out at the Union Oil distributing plant at Southeast Salmon Street and Water Avenue. Firefighters brought the explosive blaze under control within hours, but Chief David Campbell was killed. Two days later, 150,000 people attended his funeral procession to River View Cemetery.

An undated archival photo of the historic David Campbell Memorial (built in 1928) at Portland Firefighters Park, compared to a photo taken in 2010. | Photos via Portland Archives/Ian Poellet, Wikimedia Commons

1912 — Portland’s first Benson Bubbler was installed at Southwest Fifth Avenue + Washington Street. It was the first of 20 bronze drinking fountains funded by a $10,000 gift from Norwegian immigrant and philanthropist Simon Benson.

1913 — On Sept. 6, downtown Portland’s Central Library opened its doors. Prominent local architect Albert E. Doyle designed the building and would later design Multnomah Stadium (now Providence Park).

City Auditor - Archives & Records Management - Auditor s Historical Records - A2004-002.2504   Bird s eye view business section from Hawthorne Bridge Portland Oregon.png

A bird’s eye view of waterfront businesses looking west from the Hawthorne Bridge in December 1914.

Photo via Portland Archives

1914 — Henry and Georgiana Pittock moved into their “mansion on the hill,” spending just a handful of years there before their deaths in 1919 and 1918, respectively.

1915 — The towns of St. Johns and Linnton were annexed into Portland and the city installed its first electric traffic signal at Southwest Third Avenue and Morrison Street.

City Auditor - Archives & Records Management - Auditor s Historical Records - A2011-032.4   Silver Thaw 1916 blacksmith powerlines down.png

Snowstorms brought down power lines near a blacksmith’s shop, circa Feb. 1, 1916.

Photo via Portland Archives

1916 — Winter storms in January and February dumped nearly 28 combined inches of snow in the city, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

1917 — Tens of thousands of people attend the grand opening of the Interstate Bridge — the first automobile bridge spanning the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon. Portland’s Park Bureau also approved the concept of a rose test garden where plants from Europe could be grown far from the World War I war front


Members of Benson Polytechnic School’s Student Army Training Corps wearing influenza masks, circa Oct. 1918.

Photo via National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons

1918 — Cases of Spanish flu at Benson Polytechnic School (the first documented in the city) prompted the quarantine of the school’s 300 Student Army Training Corps students.

1919 — Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, billed as “the oldest family-owned seafood restaurant in Portland,” opened on Southwest Ankeny Street.