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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

1921-1940

1921
The City leased a 12-acre tract of land near Albina and Portland Boulevard for a new auto campground. The Parks Bureau built an administration building on the site with an assembly room and comfort stations. The new campground hosted 6,686 cars that year. The earwig infestation had not abated; in fact it had spread, so the Bureau worked with State Board of Horticulture to test an effective poisoned bait. In August, the Bureau distributed a pamphlet with a recipe containing bran, molasses, water, glycerin, and sodium fluoride - the only drawback to which was that it was also poisonous to birds and small animals. The earwigs, like the elm leaf beetles, continued to be a problem, spreading finally to 12-square-mile area.

The Community House program began in earnest this year, offering recreation and gym classes, dance classes, social dances, and handicraft work classes, as well as Boy Scout and Campfire Girl programs. Also available was the Children's Free Employment Bureau that brought together people who needed chores or babysitting performed with children interested in such work.

The public showed great interest in the zoo, yet it was in chronic disrepair; the Bureau required money from a general tax not only to extend it, but simply to maintain it. The Bureau still had limited control over street trees, and Superintendent Keyser suggested the city create the position of City Forester to oversee the trees. Eastmoreland Golf Links finally flourished this year with greens fees offsetting expenses.

1922
The Parks Bureau acquired 12 more acres for their auto campground, adding kitchenettes, laundry facilities, drinking fountains, electric lights, garbage receptacles, and more comfort stations. This new site was considered ideal since it was right across the street from Peninsula Park, making all the features of that park readily available to campers as well. The charge was 50 cents per day limited to a ten-day stay. People in 11,149 autos stayed at the campground that year.

In the spring, a group named Portland Community Services provided an Industrial Recreation program, a Community Club program, a Junior Work program, and various recreational programs throughout the city. They sponsored basketball, baseball, tennis, music, drama, and social events. The group began a merger with the Bureau in 1924, but dissolved quickly due to a lack of space and funds, and because Superintendent Keyser stated that the City should not organize industrial and community club activities.

Dr. Henry Waldo Coe donated a bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, dressed as a Rough Rider. Sculpted by Alexander Phimister Proctor, the statue is 18-feet-tall and cost $40,000. Vice President Calvin Coolidge broke ground in the South Park Blocks for the memorial.

1923
Title to Eastmoreland Golf Links was finally transferred to the Parks Bureau. The City acquired Rose City Race Track, formerly for dog racing, and Aaron Gould and some neighbors mowed the lawns and laid out a nine-hole golf course with tee sand and tin-can holes. Five new comfort stations were built downtown, with a total attendance of 3,585,367! A Community House was built at Duniway Park and attendance was high. The majority of people using such facilities throughout the city were women.

Superintendent Keyser complained about the condition of the zoo, and suggested in his annual report that the Bureau should acquire a sector between Washington Park and Canyon Road to develop a park for the zoo. Although the Bureau had been continually purchasing and developing small neighborhood parks, Keyser was worried that the three large tracts of land recommended by Olmsted Brothers still had not been purchased. He believed the diminished interest in large city parks was due to an increase in the number of automobiles owned, resulting in people driving out of the city for large park excursions; in the city, people wanted small neighborhood parks.

1924
The Parks Bureau began development of a nine-hole golf course at the old County Poor Farm, eventually to be named West Hills Golf Course. Funds were finally set aside for work on the zoo. In honor of the American Doughboy, soldiers closely allied with the French in World War I, Dr. Henry Waldo Coe donated the statue of Jeanne D'Arc (Joan of Arc) who sits atop her horse at the intersection of NE 39 and Glisan (now called Coe Circle). It appeared the elm leaf beetle was finally defeated.

1925
Nine more holes were added to the Rose City Golf Links. The Parks Bureau acquired 12 more acres of land for the auto camp, but an ordinance was passed prohibiting auto camps within city limits by the end of 1926, so the camp was closed the following year. The new menagerie building at the zoo was completed, and the zoo was officially moved to its new site (the present location of the Japanese Garden). Admiral Dewey's flagship, Battleship Oregon, was donated to the City. This year Edna Kennedy, later known as the Storyteller Lady, teamed up with the Bureau to begin providing storytelling to children in the parks during the summer months. She would become one of the most well-known and well-loved people working for Portland Parks & Recreation.

1926
Dr. Henry Waldo Coe donated another statue this year: a ten-foot, bronze Abraham Lincoln situated in the South Park Blocks between SW Main and Madison. Also in the South Park Blocks, but between SW Salmon and Main, a fountain of Oregon sandstone featuring a bronze female figure entitled Rebecca at the Well was donated by Joseph Shemanski. Despite earlier efforts, plans for an arboretum did not officially get underway until this year. It would take two more years before the City Council adopted the Parks Bureau's resolutions to create an arboretum for Portland. The Bureau purchased land to extend Rose City Golf Links using a $10,000 surplus loaned from Eastmoreland Golf Links until the new bond issue passed. Unfortunately, the electorate rejected the new $600,000 bond measure for more land acquisition.

1927
Because of the defeat of the 1926 bond measure, the year's work was mostly relegated to maintenance. Superintendent Keyser, in his annual report, again noted that parks increase property value and recommended the submission of a $1 million bond issue accompanied by a consistent campaign to get it passed. Showing a great reverence for past Presidents, Dr. Henry Waldo Coe donated a bronze statue of George Washington, sculpted by Pompeii Coppini, that was placed at the intersection of NE 57 and Sandy.

1928
Funded by donations from the public at large through promotion by the Portland Telegram newspaper to honor Fire Chief David Campbell who lost his life in the line of duty, the Campbell Memorial Fountain was placed in the triangle at West 19 and Burnside. (It has since been dedicated as a memorial to all Portland firefighters killed in the line of duty.) The bronze plaque features a portrait of Campbell and was created by American artist Avard Fairbanks.

When the Parks Bureau inherited 600 feet of waterfront at the foot of Miles Street this year, Superintendent Keyser suggested the acquisition of yet more waterfront property to develop municipally controlled yacht harbors and pleasure piers. More tennis courts and baseball diamonds were added bringing the respective totals of such sites to 55 and 13. The Portland Nursery Club prepared a bill to give the Bureau control over shade trees.

Keyser began efforts to expand Macleay Park up and down Balch Creek. The Portland Garden Club wanted a wildflower garden, so the City Council's Delinquent Tax Committee inexpensively transferred to the Parks Bureau a piece of land from the north boundary to connect under Thurman Bridge to Upshur for this purpose. The Audubon Society was working to establish a bird sanctuary on 40 acres west of Macleay Park across Cornell Road that had remained unused for 40 years. During National Forestry Week, the Forestry Committee of the Chamber of Commerce convinced the City Council to establish an arboretum in Washington Park to preserve evergreens for educational and recreational purposes. It was named Hoyt Arboretum in honor of Ralph Warren Hoyt, the county commissioner who championed the formation of the arboretum. Multnomah County gave the Bureau perpetual use of approximately 145 acres of land north of Washington Park. In addition to these changes, Keyser was intent on acquiring even more land in what is now the Forest Park area noting, "Portland could easily attain one of the largest and I daresay one of the most notable parks in the country containing a world famous rose garden, a well-situated zoo, a bird sanctuary, a distinctive Arboretum, a wildflower preserve, a forest primeval, trails, viewpoints and glens, not miles away but within our urban borders."

1929
The shade tree bill failed, one more defeat in the decades-long battle by the Parks Bureau to gain control over the planting, trimming, and removal of street trees. Work on the Arboretum consisted mainly of extensive clearing, but the main trail was built and several Oregon specimens of gymnosperm were planted. A long-needed brick bathhouse was built in Sellwood. A Shakespeare Garden was planted on the island in Eastmoreland Park. At this time, the Bureau controlled the area at Multnomah Falls (part of the gift from Simon Benson), and they extended the lodge and constructed concession and comfort stations when the outhouse burned.

1930
Commissioner Stanhope S. Pier outlined several improvements planned, including a pool in Albina, the expansion of both Mt. Scott and Lents Parks, and the development of Pier Park in the style of Laurelhurst, then considered perhaps the most beautiful park in the city. Portland's Parks Bureau and its parks were commended in the October 1930 issue of American Landscape Architect, "the only officially recognized trade magazine of that profession." The story included thirteen large photographs and noted how the City, despite having many rich surrounding recreational areas, provided so many wonderful playgrounds and parks of beauty within city limits. Especially praised were Laurelhurst, Washington, Mt. Tabor, and Sellwood Parks.

1931
In 1931, the Parks Bureau boasted the following list of properties: Alberta Park, Buckman Field, Creston Park, Columbia Park, Belmont Park (now Col. Summers Park), Duniway Park, Dawson Park, Eastmoreland Golf Links, Forestry Building, Fulton Park (undeveloped), Governor's Park (undeveloped), Gammans Park, Holladay Park, Hoyt Arboretum (under development), Irving Park, Lair Hill Park, Johnson Creek Park, Kenilworth Park, Ladd's Circle & Squares, Laurelhurst Park, Laurelwood Park, Lents Park, Linnton Park, Macleay Park, Madrona Park (undeveloped), Montavilla Park, Mt. Scott Park, Mt. Tabor Park, North Park Blocks, Overlook Park (under development), Pier Park, Patton Square Park, Peninsula Park and Community Building, Powell Park, Plaza Blocks, Rose City Golf Links, South Park Blocks, Sellwood Park, Sellwood Community Building, Terwilliger Park, Grant Park, Wallace Park, Washington Park, West Hills Golf Links, Woodstock Park, and Benson Park near Multnomah Falls.

1932
The Parks Bureau began chlorinating its pools and providing health inspections of the bath houses at approximately $7,000 over regular budget, yet the hygienic benefits were thought to outweigh the costs. High unemployment during the Depression seriously affected the Bureau in several ways. Attendance in free activities increased dramatically while golf attendance dropped by half. Superintendent Keyser suggested reducing the golf fees so people could play again, stating, "Golf is a good antidote for unrest." In addition, Civic Emergency Relief Forces, which provided the unemployed with work, brought much manpower to park projects. Hundreds of relief workers hard-surfaced drives in Washington and Mt. Tabor Parks, cleared land and planted specimens in Hoyt Arboretum, drained the swampy area of Westmoreland Park, and cleaned up the "jungle" between the highway and the river in Benson Park.

1933
The Scott family donated a statue of Harvey W. Scott, former editor of The Oregonian, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, and accompanied by $1,000 - the interest on which was to be used for repairs and maintenance of the statue. It was placed at the summit of Mt. Tabor Park.

The Playground and Parks Fund was overdrawn and the bond issue money was used up, so for the first time since the $1,000,000 bond issue of 1907, the Parks Bureau had no money. Eastmoreland Golf Links hosted the National Public Links Championship Tournament, marking the first time the tournament was played west of the Mississippi. Golf attendance continued to drop dramatically nonetheless. The greens fees at the golf links were lowered from 30 cents to 25 cents, but the result was a mere decrease in revenue rather than an increase in attendance. Playground attendance decreased as well although it seemed partly due to a decrease in supervision necessitated by the low budget. Community center and swimming activities were maintained at their usual rate despite the budget, and attendance increased. Superintendent Keyser attended two conferences that focused on the state of parks departments across the country, and he deemed Portland in better shape than most cities.

1934
Budgetary restrictions increased. FDR's New Deal projects - the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) - were not allowed to be used for maintenance, but provided much of the manpower to improve Portland's parks. The CWA augmented golf courses, planted in the Arboretum, and provided much needed drainage in Mt. Tabor Park. One CWA project called for the Parks Bureau and the School Board to provide 12 weeks of recreation activities in five grade schools employing 33 workers and five musicians; this project was "especially significant as it demonstrated an extension of our recreation facilities by use of school houses," a cooperative agreement that still exists today. The CCC unit constructed trails, bridges, and drives, picnic areas, stone buildings, and picnic fireplaces in Benson, Oneonta, and McLoughlin Parks. The State Emergency Relief Administration project allowed a much-needed 348-person increase in playground and community center staff. The Portland Softball Association was formally organized this year.

1935
J.E. Bennett from the Commission for Public Affairs, as part of a plan to reduce Parks Bureau debt, sold 100 life certificates at $100 each and granted to those who held them free access to the golf courses. Continued assistance from federal relief programs allowed improvements to Benson Park, the Arboretum, golf courses, and Duniway Park playground. The Annual Convention of the American Institute of Park Executives was held in Portland at the Multnomah Hotel, and Keyser was elected to a two-year term as president of the Institute. By this year, the average age of Bureau employees was 52, and Superintendent Keyser acknowledged that a retirement plan was in order.

The City Council asked the Planning Commission to produce an action report on open spaces. The investigation discovered 10,000 parcels of vacant property that was largely city-owned due to delinquency. In their report, the Commission recommended that every district in the city should have a 40-acre park within walking distance with space for athletics, flowers, trees, and grass. The schools should have playgrounds and buildings for common use. Portland needed more public facilities for water sports. Street trees and parking strips should be under municipal control. Finally, either the city should have one acre of park space per every hundred people, or 10% of city space should be devoted to parks.

1936
The City Planning Commission followed up their report with a Plan for a System of Public Recreation Areas. While similar to the Olmsted Plan, it expanded and updated the list of projects as follows: 1) protected play areas for small children; 2) supervised playgrounds; 3) playfields; 4) neighborhood parks and community centers; and 5) large parks and pleasureways (a pleasure drive system including Fairmont and Skyline Boulevards). Under the proposed plan, the total acreage of parks would increase from 2,784 to 7,485 acres. Financing would be provided by general obligation bonds, local improvement district bonds, and special tax levies. Gertrude Russell, daughter of Governor Pennoyer, donated 1.5 acres as an addition to Governor's Park.

1937
The Parks Bureau still relied heavily on federal relief programs. The WPA cleared and graded Council Crest Park and rebuilt the road. The first nine holes at Rose City Golf Course were redesigned, and improvements were made at the other golf courses as well. Auxiliary groups also provided aid; for example, the Mantle Club graded the ballfield in Overlook Park with their own funds. Dr. Dorothea Lensch was appointed Playground Supervisor in June and began handling the Recreation Division of the Bureau. She immediately began to work at building a coalition between the Bureau and Portland Public Schools. She started a program by which neighborhoods without community centers could still be served by a local school opening its gym and four to five classrooms for public use one night a week. Buckman was the first, and within a year, three more schools were added to the program. The average age of park employees was now 57, and Superintendent Keyser reiterated the need for a retirement plan.

1938
Dr. Dorothea Lensch officially became the Recreation Director, supervising 11 community center directors, 48 playground directors, 14 swim directors, as well as 59 relief workers. Her philosophy was that recreation would impart discipline, enthusiasm, and satisfaction. Many activities were free and she increased the number of classes and activities offered for adults. During the Depression, adults had much leisure time, but not much money. Exercise classes, contract bridge classes, ping pong, sports, dances, and dance lessons all helped keep the community engaged in positive pastimes. Headed by Edna Kennedy (the Storyteller Lady), dance and drama programs offered courses for children and adults and produced well-attended performances. A remarkable array of arts & crafts courses were offered, from photography to cork novelties to block printing. Summer camps began this year, offering hiking, first aid, and rope tying for boys, and crafts, dance, and nature lore for girls. Archery, badminton, and field hockey were new additions to the 1937-38 season. The junior basketball tournament known as Goldenball began this year with 400 players, 42 games, and 1,200 spectators. Adult sports in community, industrial, and club/church divisions included basketball, softball, and baseball. Softball was the most popular with 100 teams. Voters approved a .4-mill tax levy referendum sponsored and promoted by Federated Community Clubs.

1939
The City Planning Commission produced a Recommended Ten-Year Park Program, essentially an update of the 1936-37 plan, which proposed to spend $1 million over a ten-year period. Funds would be provided by the .4-mill tax levy. The money would pay for 50 playgrounds, seven playfields, and 14 neighborhood parks. Ironically, this year the City faced severe budget cuts, and the City Council stripped the Parks Bureau of 18% of its budget. Nevertheless, the Recreation Division added more arts activities, scientific experimentation hobbies groups, speech courses, and current events courses. Funding was maintained for filtering systems for two parks, softball field lights, improvements at Pier Park, and a community house at Columbia Park. Because theft and loss of items at the swimming tanks had become a huge problem, $2,800 was allotted for checkers to check in items at the tanks. WPA workers completed a 375-foot tunnel at the south entrance of Rocky Butte.

A struggle ensued throughout the year between the Bureau and the citizens of the Moreland area over the unfinished state of Westmoreland Park. Citizens complained that the park resembled a "buffalo wallow" and had become basically a "slime pool." After many complaints, the WPA allocated $27,000 to complete the project. By November, with the addition of $7,000 in Bureau funds, Westmoreland Park became an enjoyable park, with a casting pool and model yacht basin featuring a concrete bottom, and two sub-drained playfields. Further funding was made available for comfort stations, lights, and playground equipment.

1940
The Recreation Division began the New Little Theater program that featured productions of Our Town, as well as assorted Shakespeare plays and Greek tragedies. This was the first year the Portland Softball Association allowed women and juniors to play in its leagues, boosting the total number of teams to 188. The Portland Basketball Association and the Portland Women's Basketball League offered adult basketball, and Goldenball continued to be popular among youth. Soccer, boxing, and wrestling were now made available by community groups in conjunction with community centers. The Parks Bureau began sponsoring zoo tours that took visitors to restricted areas and educated them about zoo procedures, animals, and animal care. Improving upon relations with Portland Public Schools, the Bureau used fifteen school buildings for courses and activities while granting schools the use of sports fields and tennis courts, and offering archery and dance instruction to PPS students. Dorothea Lensch worked tirelessly to advocate the cause of parks and recreation. In 1940, she gave 95 talks about parks and recreation development and its importance in the community; she also sponsored 15 radio lectures and eight guest programs on the subject. Superintendent Keyser did his part to publicize the cause as well; for example, he gave an 11-page speech on recreation to the Convention of the Oregon State Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.

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