The History of Portland, Oregon

Image of Portland, OR

If there’s a city that undeservingly lives in the shadow of its neighbors, it might be Portland, Oregon. Although the third largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and the largest in Oregon, it’s sometimes over-looked for its larger and better known neighbors to the north, Seattle and Vancouver, BC. However, with its storied past and scenic setting at the foot of Mt. Hood, the city has much to offer its residents and visitors.

The “City of Roses” is known for its lush landscapes, outdoorsy residents and, progressive environmental practices. It is situated about 70 miles from the Pacific coast close to the northern border of the state stranding the Willamette River. Mount Hood looms on its eastern horizon providing the city with a dramatic backdrop.


The city of Portland is not small by any means. It covers about 145 square miles with an urban population of about 619,360 making it the 28th most populous city in the U.S. In all, there are almost 2.5 million people living in what makes up the Portland metropolitan area. When you combine both metropolitan and city populations, it moves to 17th in the U.S. with a combined population just over 3 million. However, most of Oregon’s population actually resides within the Portland metro area.


Lewis & Clark spent about two years in the area known as Oregon in 1804 before returning to Washington, DC to extoll the virtues of the pristine land they’d found. However, it would be almost half a century later before two other men arrived in the area.

William Overton, a drifter from Tennessee, and his friend Asa Lovejoy, a Boston lawyer, were floating down the Willamette River arrived by canoe down the Willamette River. Drawn to the area’s beauty, they decided to file land claims and stay. The two men began clearing land, erecting buildings and roads. Soon, though, Overton decided to move on and sold his half of the land claim to another man, Francis Pettygrove.

It was the toss of a coin between Pettygrove and Lovejoy that would decide the name of the new town. Pettygrove being from Portland, Maine wanted to name it Portland, while Lovejoy being from Boston vied for Boston. Pettygrove want the coin toss and the town has been called Portland ever since!

Within five years, the town boasted 800 residents, and a well established infrastructure including a hotel and weekly newspaper. In 1851, Portland was incorporated, and what was then known as the Oregon Territory (what is modern day Oregon, Idaho and Washington state) became the 33rd state to join the union.

The Civil War brought tremendous need for lumber which Portland had plenty to sell. To accommodate more efficient transport for the logging, the train system was expanded.

In 1905, in order to better compete with its rapidly growing neighbor neighbor to the north, Seattle, the city’s leaders brought the World’s Fair and the Lewis & Clark Exposition brought millions to Portland. It worked. The city’s population doubled within five years. The railroads, and eventually streetcars, allowed neighborhoods and surrounding communities to build up around the rail lines.

The City of Roses got its name became known for its beautiful, late spring blooms throughout the city and its celebratory Rose Festival. The month-long festival usually takes place in June and includes parades and numerous events.

Touch to Call!