Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

Our History

Original Peninsula Park Pool from 1921 - black and white image of young men and boys standing on the side of pool with tall wood fence behind.

Original Peninsula Park pool from 1921

Amenities

  • Basketball Court
  • Picnic Areas
  • Restrooms
  • Fountain
  • Horseshoe Pit
  • Paths
  • Picnic Site
  • Picnic Tables
  • Playgrounds
  • Public Rose Garden
  • Soccer Field
  • Softball Field
  • Stage
  • Lighted Tennis Court
  • Lighted Water Play Feature
  • Gazebo, and Wedding Site

Historical Information

Peninsula Park is a good example of a formally designed neighborhood park, typical of the early 1900s. It includes the city's first public rose garden and first community center, an historically designated bandstand, and Portland's second oldest playground. The park was purchased by the city in 1909 for the sum of $60,000 with funds raised in a 1908 bond measure. Originally owned by local businesswoman Liverpool Liz, it had been the site for a roadhouse and racetrack for quarter-mile horse racing. An auto park and campground were also included in the original parcel. Planned by renowned Oregon architects Ellis Lawrence and Ormond R. Bean, the park was a result of Portland's 1912 'City Beautiful' movement. Completed in 1913, much remains of the original features, including the lantern-style streetlights, the stone pillars, vast brickwork, and the nearly 100-year-old fountain in the center of the rose garden.

The rose garden, designed by Emanuel L. Mische, is one of Portland's most beautiful formal rose gardens, with 8,900 plantings on a two-acre site. The garden entrance is located on Albina Avenue, between Ainsworth and Rosa Parks Way. Visitors are greeted by magnificent plantings of 65 rose varieties which border the steps leading to the sunken rose garden, the only one in Oregon. The rose garden was the showplace of its time, with 300,000 visitors in the first year alone. The official Portland rose, named Mme. Caroline Testout, was cultivated in the garden. Once planted by the thousands along the streets of Portland, this rose earned Portland the name 'City of Roses.' In 1913, floral enthusiasts selected Peninsula Park as the location for an annual rose show. In 1917, Washington Park on Portland’s west side was selected as the site of the International Rose Test Garden and most of the rose show activities were moved there.

Historical black and white photograph of octagonal bandstand in the middle of the rose garden.

The octagonal bandstand overlooking the rose garden was constructed in 1913. It was used for World War I patriotic demonstrations and is now the site for many summer weddings and concerts. This wonderful gazebo-like structure is a National Heritage historical structure and was designated a Portland Historic Landmark in 1973. It is the last of its kind in Portland.

The Italian villa-style community center is Portland's first and oldest. The Portland Lavender Club, a dance and social group for women over age 50, originated here. In 1957, the city zoo housed its penguins in the center's pool for six months because the zoo lacked the proper facilities when the birds arrived from Antarctica. Many Portlanders still remember calling it Penguin Park! Peninsula Park Community Center is also the home of the Portland Wrestling Club founded in 1971 by Roy Pittman and Marc Spraguein collaboration with 5 cub scouts. Roy and Marc, high school classmates, started the wrestling club as a way to give kids of all ages, sizes, and shapes an opportunity to be successful in athletics and to be able to contribute to the success of a team.