Council Crest…Glass Hill…Talbot’s Mountain…
All names that described the high point above
Of them, Council Crest is the best known, Talbot’s Mountain the most legitimate. But Dreamland, the most appropriate.
The site of today’s
The woods above Portland were so impassable that upon their arrival, the Talbots, their two children and all their possessions had to boat up river to near Johns Landing to begin a three day ascent to reach their new homestead from the east.
They had two more children. The youngest, Ella Talbot, would attract notice by racing every day down the steep wooded trails on a small black pony to school at St Helen’s Hall, (a “boarding and day school for young women and girls”) located where City Hall is today.
The dreamer of the family was her brother, Charles B. Talbot, a sort of backwoods Tom Swift, who was said to have invented the typewriter and the sewing machine in isolation at the homestead. Later, in his early twenties, he was rumored to have conceived the idea of bringing Bull Run water to
Looking south on Council Crest towards Raleigh Hills (center) and
Publisher George H. Himes was the apostle of Council Crest.
He was instrumental in its naming and as early as the turn of the century he was advocating his dream of a city park. By his own reckoning he had climbed the crest over two thousand times on foot or horse back since his first visit on September 8, 1866:
“In my diary of that date the hope is expressed that some time in the not to distant future there might be some means of easy and cheap transportation to this wonderful vantage ground of observation, from which one can see in to or across 21 counties in Oregon and Washington.”
-George H. Himes, in The Oregonian, September 16, 1906.
George Himes guided many people up to share the view, some with national stature such as cartoonist Thomas Nast and poet Joaquin Miller.
On the evening of July 12, 1898 he was there with a national council of Congregationalist Ministers. As the sun set behind the
By the turn of the century, the climb to Council Crest was in
“The transition from city scenes to wild rugged mountain scenery is so sudden as to be almost startling, and after passing the spring at the foot of the hill, one can scarcely realize that the city is hardly a stones through away.”
Later in the narrative, directions to the crest are given:
“After the roads join one follows the single road southward a few hundred yards where it divides again, one branch going to the right and the other to the left. The road to Council Crest is the newer of these. It is an obscure, dimly marked road indicated by a sign “Council Crest” on a tree to the left. One follows this road to the summit of the hill. Here one must hitch ones horses, cross a rude fence turning sharply to the left. Go eastward about 300 to 400 yards to a point where a huge stump has been taken up, and there is Council Crest- Inimitable in combination of beauty and grandeur.”
"Big Tree", also known as the Lewis & Clark observatory.
-Courtesy of Mark Moore, PDXhistory.com.
It was the Lewis & Clark Exposition of 1905 that made Council Crest a popular attraction. The “Lewis & Clark Observatory” was created by hollowing a large tree and incredibly, if accounts are to be believed, installing an elevator (!)
Later known as “Big Tree,” it was destroyed by a lightning strike.
A car on the Council Crest line climbs
In 1906 the Portland Railway’s Portland Heights Streetcar line reached Council Crest. Because of the steepness of the grades up
Car #502 on the Council Crest line near
Much of Tri Met’s Route #51 still follows the original streetcar route to Council Crest.
Until the 1930s the Council Crest line ran to Union Station on
Pictures of the Council Crest cars and Union Station are a rarity but a similar view, using the Portland Vintage Trolley replicas of the Council Crest cars, will be possible when the Max line up the transit mall on Fifth and Sixth opens in 2009.
The streetcar line brought with it new ideas on how to best take advantage of
Instead, an amusement park was built.
In the early 1900s it was common for streetcar/utility companies to place attractions such as amusement parks at various end points on their systems to generate ridership on lightly traveled commuter-free weekend days. Amazingly, like the coelacanth, one still survives;
The Council Crest amusement park, operated by the Finely Amusement Company featured an observatory tower, a carrousel, a roller coaster, a miniature railway, a dance pavilion, a shooting gallery, a fun house, animal attractions, a ferris wheel and log flume ride called “A Trip Up the Columbia” which was boarded from a full size steamboat replica named the “Crest.”
The amusement park was soon referred to as “the Dreamland of the
The name “Dreamland” was used to invite comparison with
An advertisement by the Finley Amusement Company proclaiming the opening of “a New Mammoth Fun House”. -Courtesy of Mark Moore, PDXhistory.com.
The dance pavilion was a scene of controversy, an alleged site of scandal and debauchery, (the exact nature of which was never actually specified in the newspaper accounts) that lead to nearby residents to unsuccessfully lobbying for its closure.
“Council Crest Dances Must Go”
“With this Objectionable Feature Removed, Other Amusements May Open”
The steamboat “Crest” atop Council Crest. From there the floating log flume ride “Trip up the
“The car had passed through the tunnel and was emerging when it struck the sharp curve, leaped into the air and overturned, hurling the passengers with terrific force against the rough timbers of the outer wall and floor.”
-The Oregonian, May 17, 1909.
With the amusement park came dreams of even grander proportions. In 1909 an “
“Mountains in View.” -Even with the amusement park, the scenery was still the main attraction on Council Crest. At times the city would be under clouds while the crest was in sunshine and vice versa. In the early years of the century, it was the responsibility of the Council Crest car crews to post a yellow and black “Mountains in View” sign, if the peaks of the Cascades were visible from Council Crest. Thus down the line on Vista,
The amusement park remained popular until the mid 1920s when revenues began to decline. Then, in 1928 a spectacular new use for the observation tower was found...
On the evening of October 14, 1928 at 7:20, Oregon Governor Isaac Lee Patterson pressed a key from the KGW radio studios inside the old
The rotating beacon, installed by Standard Oil, was accompanied by giant red neon letters reading SO (for Standard-Oregon) on three sides of the tower, which were visible from great distances. The beacon itself could be seen by airplains over one hundred and fifty miles away. (Unike the advertisement above, the SO letters were in a horizontal rather than vertical alingment.)
Standard Oil was very interested in the progress of civil aviation as a new outlet for fuel sales. Along with the SO beacon to protect airplanes to and from Portland’s new airport on Swan Island, there were five identical beacons installed on towers along the west coast: SW (Standard-Washington) above Seattle, SD on Mt. Diablo east of San Francisco, SL east of Los Angeles in the Merced Hills and SM above San Diego, as well as a chain of smaller beacons running the length of the Pacific Coast.
The amusement park closed in 1929 after half a decade of declining finances. Even so, there was a serious effort to establish a “year round amusement resort,” featuring a new 200 foot art deco styled observation tower, an indoor swimming pool and toboggan and ski slides (?) on the northwest slopes.
Instead, as the depression progressed, the abandoned amusement park buildings were gradually cleared, to be replaced by neighborhood vegetable gardens.
At dusk, the giant red SO letters would blink on and the beacon would rotate above the decrepit observation tower and the rows of cabbage, lettuce and squash.
George H. Himes’s dream came true in 1937 when the top portion of the crest was acquired by the city for use as a park. The following year the Standard Oil beacon was removed due to the condition of the observation tower and the fact that the new airport was further away.
City plans for the park included a new observation tower, an observatory, and (seriously considered) the moving of the Lewis and
The Lewis & Clark Exposition’s
On December 12, 1941 the old observation tower was finally pulled down, its condition so bad as to eliminate its consideration for even wartime contingencies.
Robert Moses’s take on
The dream of an observation tower above
The city hoped that by charging fees for its use, the massive antenna and transmitting equipment, as well as a restaurant, would pay for itself. With the installation of more antennas around the city, the idea faded from view.
Looking like nothing so much as a James Bond villains headquarters, the 1952 tower proposal called for a huge television and radio and microwave antennas, an observation deck, a restaurant as well as radio and television studios.
-From the Oregonian, August 24, 1952.
The interior of the complex, radiating out from the water tank and service core.
-From the Oregonian, August 24, 1952.
...On reaching the crest he stood for a long time without saying a word.
His eyes slowly traveled from
“Well George, I have been all over the world since you printed my first poems thirty years ago and it seems very strange that I should come back to Oregon and have you show me the grandest scenery I have ever saw in my life.”
-The poet Joaquin Miller to George Himes, from the Oregonian, June 16 1896.
The view from Council Crest is still impressive, but less so than it was in the logged-over 1890s when George H. Himes and Joaquin Miller surveyed the countryside from the summit.
Trees are slowly obscuring large portions of the view, much of downtown is obscured and a good deal of
The grand vista however still exists, just seventy five feet above the ground where the water tank sits on the site of the old amusement park observation tower. Higher still, the spectacle increases exponentially.
A new observation tower would return to
It could be as simple as a frame built around the existent water tank topped by a platform, or something more impressive- but it would be pointless to design a building to outshine the views to surround it.
A dream? Perhaps, but certainly one less an extravagant one than water from Bull Run, an amusement park, a resort hotel, a hollowed out tree with an elevator in it, or a tunnel under the Tualatin Mountains.
It was, after all, Dreamland.
“As the sun dropped low over the western hills, the solar rays lengthened and by some peculiar atmospheric quirk cut through the low lying haze to permit a view, not only of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier, but of the Olympic peninsula range, something old-timers say seldom happens.”
-The Oregonian, March 23, 1937.
Portland Belles are Claimed Most Fair
Besides the one for Council Crest, the acclaimed belles of
Bridging the Decades
City Has Another Bridge Headache:
More than 30,000 motors crossed
Many of the 30,000 crossed at morning and evening rush hours.
The steps by traffic authorities to keep cars and trucks moving and to prevent jams deserve al commendation.
Let’s just be sure the remedies are strong enough. For instance, the plans for the west
Helping the incompetent old
With the great recent increase of traffic –gasoline consumption is locally 25 per cent greater –Portland people can only be sorry the lacked the foresight to build the Fremont (Interstate Avenue) Bridge- or to have place so fine a span as the St. Johns Bridge at a place where it would best serve even the St. Johns and Peninsula traffic.
“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” -William Faulkner.A