Subtopic : Starting a Second Century: The Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition, 1905: Designing the Fair Grounds
Themes: People and the Environment, Social Relations, Arts
The site of the Exposition covered 182 acres of land and 220 acres of stagnant water beyond the edge of development in Northwest Portland. The road to St. Helens (now U.S. 30) followed the edge of a low bluff that crossed the south end of the site. The remainder of the area consisted of marshes, market gardens, and a dairy farm. Although ownership was divided among dozens of parcels, the land was undeveloped and cheap to lease. The plans came from John Olmsted, stepson of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York’s Central Park. John Olmsted, who was himself a noted landscape architect in the family firm, was in Portland on a dual mission. In town to plan a city wide park system, he provided a basic plan for the fair for an additional $5,000 fee.
The formal layout imitated the “White City” of Chicago’s magnificent Columbian Exposition of 1893. The majority of the exhibition buildings overlooked the lake from the ridge where the Montgomery Ward (now Montgomery Park) building would later stand. A wide staircase led downslope to the lake, the amusements, and the U.S. government buildings on a peninsula in the middle of the lake. The buildings (which were cheaply made from lath and plaster and intended for quick demolition) were in the “Spanish Renaissance” style with domes, cupolas, arched doorways, and red roofs. The federal building looked like a cross between a railroad depot and a Mexican cathedral.
© Carl Abbott, 2004
Themes: People and the Environment,Social Relations,Arts
Regions: Portland Metropolitan Area
Author: Carl Abbott
Landscape architect John Olmsted designed the Exposition grounds on leased and undeveloped land around Guild’s Lake in Northwest Portland.
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