Due to safety concerns, and after years of close monitoring, Portland Parks & Recreation has closed the popular wooden play structure and wooden stage at the Couch Park playground. Demolition of the structure will be completed by May 16, 2014. For more information, please see the FAQ and the press release.
This park is named after Captain John Heard Couch, who first sailed for Portland from Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1839. His first home in Portland was near where Union Station is today, but he owned all the land from the river to approximately NW 23rd Avenue and from Burnside north for a mile. Captain Couch developed this land and named the blocks alphabetically (A Street, B Street, and so forth). During the last half of the 1800s, Couch's land was known as the Alphabet District. The captain was a well-liked, civic-minded man, so it's only appropriate that one of Portland's beautiful parks be named in his honor.
The site of today's Couch Park was once the estate of 19th century merchant prince Cicero Hunt Lewis, who married Captain Couch's daughter Clementine. The estate consisted of an elegant mansion, stables, and a greenhouse, all of which were built in 1881. The Lewises raised eleven children on these grounds.
After the Lewis house was demolished, the Portland School District acquired the property in 1913 and built a new Couch School to replace the first one built in 1882 located at NW 17th & Kearney. The block east of the school, now the park, was used as a playground.
In 1970 the Captain John Brown house (built in 1890 at 2035 NW Everett) was moved onto the northeast corner of the site to save it from demolition. Private citizens donated money to restore the building as a center for senior citizens and medical services. A HUD Historic Preservation Agency grant of $100,000 was insufficient to complete the restoration and when the additional funds couldn't be raised, the project was abandoned. By 1973 the house had been severely vandalized and was finally demolished.
Couch School became a special school in 1968 and in 1974 its name changed to the Metropolitan Learning Center (MLC), leaving only the park with Couch's name.