The History Of The South Park Blocks

Portland has been recognized as having one of the most attractive urban landscapes in the United States. One of the reasons for this – although it is not well known is the fact that has the most parks of any city in America. The tradition of Portland setting aside urban space for the enjoyment of its citizens started as long ago as 1852 – only a year after the incorporation of the city. In fact when renowned landscape expert, Frederick Law Olmsted was traveling across the United States lobbying city authorities to set aside land for the enjoyment of urbanites Portland was already advancing its ambitious plans to set aside vast parts of the city for public enjoyment.

However, the dedication of twenty-four narrow blocks by the well-known developer Daniel Lownsdale to be set aside for the development of parks was to become mired in controversy. In fact after the deaths of the Lonsdale’s the city eventually had to surrender title to the blocks which were eventually developed.

By the early 1870’s the South Blocks had become a prestigious residential district, but things were eventually to change. By this time city, authorities were beginning to realize that a lot of the city’s residents would be improved with the creation of public spaces, especially those set aside for playgrounds where children could be free of the mud and squalor that was endemic to many neighborhoods in cities across the nation.

By 1908 the transformation of what was to become the South Park Blocks was well underway. It was transformed into a showcase for intricately designed and maintained flowerbeds with shrubs highlighting the natural beauty of the space. Roses added to the natural (but well planned) attractions of the space. Benches and tranquil walkways drew crowds that would grow to love the natural vistas of the space.

The South Park Blocks were further enhanced by the placement of statues of such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

The development of the spaces around the South Park Blocks continued and by the 1960’s the area had been transformed. It had now become a place where the citizens of Portland could enjoy such attractions as the Portland Art Museum and the Portland State University. It was also home to the Oregon Historical Society.

The development of the area continued into the 1980’s. By this time it becomes the home base of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. It was now officially recognized as Portland’s ‘Cultural District.’

Today development and improvements have maintained the pace set in the 1980’s. There are now 12 South Park Blocks which stretch across the center of downtown Portland. Each of the blocks continues to feature exceptional artistic creations – and more are on the way.

Those who call Portland home are justifiably proud of the history and transformation of this downtown area. It has now become a haven for those who want to immerse themselves in the history of the city and enjoy its modern delights.

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