David A. Johnson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History



Physical Description

1 online resource (115 p.)


Waterfronts -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Urban land use -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Portland (Or.) -- History




Between 1845 and 1980 the Portland waterfront between southwest Washington and Clay Streets, east of Front Street, metamorphosed from wilderness to trade center, to highway, to inner-city vacant lot. No place in Portland has more graphically illustrated the rapidly changing forces of the modern age in which the city has grown.

For much of its history this stretch of waterfront was mired in law suits. The struggles centered on public versus private ownership. Originally dedicated as public property, but left unimproved by the city, the waterfront was usurped by private investors. Eventually, private owners allowed their property to decay prompting the public to encourage improvements. The legal battles even became reversed as private investors sought to force the sale of the waterfront to the city.

Through all the confusion of legal battles this stretch of waterfront played a central role in the development and identity of Portland. It has finally become, undisputed public territory. The tension and greed of private investment have been replaced by the lack of municipal funds for aesthetic improvement and have left this stretch of land, a potentially fine and important urban park, a vacant lot.


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