The Port of Portland lies on the banks of the Willamette River as it flows into the Columbia River about 160 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean in northwestern Oregon. It is the seat of Multnomah County and the largest city in the State as well as the heart of a large metropolitan area. This city of forests contains more than 3600 hectares of parkland, and the view from the city includes Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams in Washington. In 2000, over 529 thousand people called the Port of Portland home, and more 1.9 million than lived in the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metropolitan area.
Until the late 19th Century, the Port of Portland was the leading port in the Pacific Northwest with access to the Pacific via the Columbia River and to the fertile agricultural lands in the Tualatin Valley by road The Port of Portland contains many microbreweries and micro-distilleries, and wine is produced in the nearby Willamette River valley. The Port of Portland is well known as a progressive city where an urban growth boundary has kept it reasonably small, and protecting the environment is a high priority.
While the Lewis and Clark Expedition came near the site of the future Port of Portland in the early 19th Century, when William Overton recognized the potential for the area. Unfortunately, Overton did not have the money to file a land claim, so he brought in his partner, Asa Lovejoy (from Boston, Massachusetts), to share the 2.6 kilometer site in 1843. Overton then sold his half of the property to Francis W. Pettygrove (from Portland, Maine).
Arguing whether to name the new settlement after Boston or Portland, Lovejoy and Pettygrove flipped a coin. The penny that decided the Port of Portland's name is now on display at the Oregon Historical Society's headquarters. When the town was incorporated in 1851, more than 800 people lived there, and it has a newspaper, a sawmill, and a hotel.
In 1851, Congress passed the Oregon Land Act, entitling every person the right to 320 acres of land. The settlers made their living by fishing, logging, farming, and raising cattle. Due to its location near both railroads and rivers, the Port of Portland became an important transportation hub for the Pacific Northwest.
In 1860, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company starting shipping gold bullion to the Port of Portland, demonstrating its strategic importance as a trade and transportation center. After the American Civil War ended, the Port of Portland began to grow quickly. Docks were built to ship lumber, wheat, fish, and produce to San Francisco, and the farmers started asking for better roads to bring their goods to the Port of Portland for shipment to external markets.
In 1865, the city purchased dredging equipment that it loaned to the US Army Corps of Engineers to do work on the Willamette River. Work was started on the Oregon Central Railroad with ground-breaking ceremonies in 1868.
By 1879, more than 17 thousand people lived in the Port of Portland. Many had come as immigrants traveling the Oregon Trail westward, and the city attracted many Asians. In 1891, the Oregon Legislature created the Port of Portland to improve navigation on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
By the end of the 1800s, the Port of Portland was home to 90 thousand people, and it was the biggest city in the Northwest between San Francisco and Seattle . With the Alaska Gold Rush of the late 1890s, the city experienced a boom. To promote growth, city leaders held a World's Fair, the Lewis and Clark Exposition, along the waterfront in the Port of Portland in 1905.
The arrival of electricity brought new growth to the area as well. New towns sprang up along trolley car lines, and Portland's streets were lighted. New power plants were constructed as the Port of Portland moved into the 20th Century.
In 1906, recognizing the Port of Portland's importance for trade, the Chinese government appointed Moy Back, a local millionaire, as consul for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. In 1910, the city amended its charter to create the Public Dock Commission to manage the growing Port of Portland. The harbor wall was completed in 1929. In 1933, a public market was opened on the waterfront.
In 1941, Henry Kaiser opened three new shipyards in the Port of Portland, bringing workers to the city by train from New York and Chicago. World War II transformed the city into an important shipbuilding center, and the United States government built housing for the 67 thousand new workers that moved to the Port of Portland. By 1944, the Port of Portland employed about 150 thousand workers who supported the war effort.
In 1968, the Downtown Waterfront Development Plan proposed actions to beautify the Port of Portland's riverfront areas, and the city demolished the old public market in order to expand Harbor Drive.In 1999, the city announced a long-term strategy to link the city's neighborhoods, businesses, and industry to the natural river system in a River Renaissance program. In 2000, the Port of Portland was declared the first ranked city to live in by Money Magazine.
In the late 1990s during the " dot-com boom ," many young adults moved to the Port of Portland, attracted by the natural beauty, restrictions on growth, and blossoming internet and graphic arts industries. When the boom busted, the Port of Portland attracted young artists and musicians due to its relatively low cost of living. By 2000, more than 10 thousand artists lived in the Port of Portland, and the arts community was vibrant and productive.