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Portland decades: the 1970s

Activism, music, a quickly changing urban landscape, and the rise of adult stores marked Portland’s “Me Decade.”

People sit on the upper levels of a sprawling concrete fountain as water flows over its many ledges.

The Auditorium Forecourt Fountain, later renamed the Ira Keller Fountain, was an instant success when it opened in 1970.

Photo via Portland City Archives

Discomania, demolition, and the rise of “youth culture” — these were some of Portland’s defining characteristics during the 1970s. The New York Times described the city as having a “scattered, bomb-site look” as old buildings were torn down for new developments, but amid the urban turmoil, the Portland we know today was finding its feet.

Population: 382,619

Mayor: Terrence Doyle “Terry” Schrunk (1957-1972), Neil Goldschmidt (1973-1979)

A black-and-white aerial image of city roadways, the Fremont Bridge, and the Willamette River.

The Fremont Bridge was Oregon’s longest bridge and the second-longest tied-arch bridge in the world when it opened in 1973.

Photo via Portland City Archives

1970: In May, PSU students occupy the South Park Blocks in protest of the Vietnam War and the killing of students at Kent State University. The replica Liberty Bell outside Portland City Hall is destroyed by a bomb on Nov. 21.

1971: A man calling himself Dan Cooper boards a Seattle-bound plane at Portland International Airport on Nov. 24. He claims to have a bomb on board, ransoms the passengers for $200,000, four parachutes, and a flight to Mexico City, then jumps from the plane somewhere over Southwest Washington and is never seen again.

1972: On April 5, the deadliest tornado ever recorded west of the Rocky Mountains touches down just west of PDX airport, travels across the Columbia River, and rips through Vancouver.

1973: The Fremont Bridge opens on Nov. 15.

1974: Mayor Goldschmidt declares Sept. 20 “James Beard Day” in honor of culinary expert and cookbook author James Beard, who was born in Portland.

1975: Soccer City, USA is born with the Portland Timbers’ formation. The club’s first season ended with 16 wins and six losses.

A small, circular patch of dirt filled with plants within a concrete median bears a tiny sign that reads "Mill Ends Park, World's Smallest."

Mill Ends Park on the day it officially became a city park — St. Patrick’s Day, 1976.

Photo via Portland City Archives

1976: Work begins on the downtown Portland Transit Mall in April 1976 (it’s completed by the end of the following year).

1977: The Portland Trail Blazers win their first-and-only NBA Championship.

1978: Southwest Harbor Drive is replaced by Waterfront Park (it was renamed Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park in 1984).

1979: The Portland Police Bureau reactivates a mounted patrol unit.

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