4 things Germans brought to Portland

See the German influence on the city, from green parks to group workouts

A historic photo shows a wooden bridge and waterfall in Washington Park around 1908

Until 1912, Washington Park was simply called City Park.

University of Washington: Special Collections

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As one of the largest European immigrant groups in the Portland metro area, Germans have definitely helped shape the city into what it is today. Here are a few of Portland’s ties to “Das Land der Dichter und Denker” — the Land of Poets and Thinkers.

Washington Park

Munich-born Bernard Goldsmith, the 19th mayor of Portland, made a very green decision back in 1871. For $32,000, he purchased 40 wooded acres in the Southwest Hills, which later became the city’s crown jewel: Washington Park.

Goldsmith not only had a heart for the outdoors, but was also a well-established businessman who was one of the first to ship grain from Portland directly to England.

Fitness culture

Being physically and mentally fit was a growing trend in 19th-century Germany. Many Turnvereine (athletics + gymnastics associations) were founded to keep the nation healthy. German political refugees introduced the Turnverein movement to the United States in the late 1840s; the Portland Turnverein opened in 1872 on the third floor of the New Market Theatre.

In addition to their focus on physical education, Turners — as they were referred to in the US — were involved in civic + social matters within their communities. In Portland, for example, the Turners hosted post-parade Thanksgiving dinners and musical events.

Classical music

Closely linked to the Turners, immigrant Germans also started singing clubsGesangsvereine — dedicated to their home country’s classical music. The Portland branch is the Liedertafel Harmonie and has kept this tradition alive since 1923.

These groups are still a vital link in the city’s German community, preserving the culture through concerts and dances. Join their annual Weihnachtskonzert (Christmas concert) or sing along at their meetings every Friday.

Craft beer + brewing art

Who other than a German brewer would have had the idea of pumping beer through a public fountain back in 19th-century Portland? Henry Weinhard, a brewer from south Germany, didn’t just craft refreshing beers, he also supplied two huge beer gardens that functioned as social centers of the city at the time.

Today, a large number of breweries and brewers (who are often trained in Germany) keep up with the tradition of making tasty beers and bringing people together.

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