Portland Oregon history.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Roosevelt Mysteries


Theodore Roosevelt had a cordial long distance relationship with Portland and Oregon. By pressing a gold telegraph key from the East Room of the White House he signaled the start of Portland’s Lewis & Clark Exposition on June 1st 1905. More significantly, it was Roosevelt’s embrace of Portlander William Gladstone Steele’s dream which created, with his signature, Crater Lake National Park on May 22, 1902.
On May 21st 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt visited Portland. His stay would set the pattern for three more to come and set the stage for the first of three mysteries in Portland associated with him.






President Theodore Roosevelt in Salem, May 21st 1903. A few hours later he would arrive in Portland. -Courtesy of the Salem Public Library.



The President woke early that morning to greet a large crowd gathered at Junction City from the platform of his private railroad car at ten minutes to seven. Despite sporadic rain, crowds awaited him in every town. At eight he passed through Albany before stopping at Salem to greet local dignitaries. He arrived at Union Station at two to an ecstatic welcome from Portlanders who lined the route of the parade in his honor with a crowd estimated at 75,000 people.




At 4:30 his procession reached City Park (now a part of Washington Park) where a monument to Lewis & Clark was being built in anticipation of the centennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. As the rain fell, he gave a speech in honor of the explorers and the western course of empire. Then, rolling up his sleeves, he laid the cornerstone of the monument, working the cement with a silver trowel, while the crowds on the hillside and from the branches of nearby fir trees cheered.

“Today the Secretary of the Navy spoke of the great pride we take in the feats of the mighty battleship which bears the name of this state – the Oregon. It is a good thing to cheer her, but it is a better thing to see that we keep on building other ships like her, but even better.”
-Theodore Roosevelt in Portland at the Lewis & Clark Monument, May 21st 1903,

Beneath the large granite cornerstone a small copper box was sealed in cement, a time capsule, stating the purpose of the monument, a history of the expedition and the regions progress and items such as stamps, pennies, the Portland city charter and a portrait of Roosevelt.
His work completed, the President left for the Portland Hotel where was feted into the evening before continuing on to Puget Sound the next day.

The time capsule is still there.
But where exactly?
As the laying of the cornerstone preceded the construction of the monument, it is not clear whether the “cornerstone” is, at, near or under the monument. The exact location is lost to history. A wave of interest revived at the time of the monuments centennial, but the efforts of historians, stonemasons and psychics were fruitless.




The Lewis & Clark monument in Washington Park.








In 1911, the former President Theodore Roosevelt, seen here at the Portland Hotel, (the present site of Pioneer Courthouse Square) returned to Portland to another enthusiastic welcome. The visit went off without a hitch. Unlike the next one that followed one year later…



In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt was back in the game. Estranged from the Republican Party establishment and unhappy with his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, Roosevelt was once again a presidential candidate, this time with the Progressive or “Bull Moose” Party.

At seven o’clock on a bright, sunny September 11th 1912 morning, the former President arrived at Union Station to the customary crowds an enthusiastic welcome. There he was met by an old Montana friend and the local chairman of the Progressive Party, Henry Waldo Coe.

Roosevelt was whisked away to the Oregon Hotel, off of Seventh Street (later Broadway) to breakfast on cantaloupe, strawberries, ham, lamb chops, bacon, eggs, potatoes and coffee with the local party faithful. Sometime between his arrival at Union Station and breakfast, the former President made it very clear to Mr. Coe that there was to be no public speaking outdoors, at parks and such. The Colonel (as he was often referred as) was tired and so was his voice.
This would present some problems.




The Oregon Hotel was Colonel Roosevelt’s Portland bivouac for his day trip of September 11th 1912.

After an extended session of meet and greet, Roosevelt and his entourage went to the Hotel Multnomah for a luncheon. Then he joined a motorcade of dignitaries, Spanish American War veterans and a large police escort for a parade through Portland streets in an open topped car. At Chapman and Lownsdale Squares (the Plaza Blocks) a crowd of 5,000 waited, seeded by party committee with published promises the former President would speak. Tipping his hat and nodding Roosevelt greeted with “hello” and left with “goodbyes” as his car rushed by the crowds.




The Plaza Blocks.

The motorcade crossed the Hawthorne Bridge and continued up Grand to arrive at Holladay Park. There he was greeted by at least a thousand men and women, with hundreds of children and scores of babies grouped around the speakers stand.

“We want a speech” they began to chant in unison.
The site of so many mothers, children and babies weekend his resolve. He stood up in his car and began to speak:

“It’s a pleasure to be here and say a word of greeting. And as I am in the grandfather class now, I know you understand my attitude on the baby question. It pleases me to see so many children here. I believe in good citizens, but I believe that the best citizen is the one who carries in arms a little citizen. Goodbye and good luck to you all.”
-The speech, in its entirety, given by Theodore Roosevelt at Holladay Park, Portland Oregon, September 11 1912.

“Where are we going next?” asked the President.
“Another park.” replied Henry Waldo Coe, referring to a gathering of at least 2,000 (including much of Portland’s small African-American population) waiting in the North Park blocks near the corner of Flanders and Park.

It was too much.
Too much speaking, too many parks.
Theodore Roosevelt was not a man used to having his instructions disregarded. He commanded his driver to break with his motorcade and head out, somewhere far from the crowds and chaos. His car sped off, leaving the rest of the dignitaries, his police escort and his veteran honor guards in dust and confusion. Roosevelt spent the next couple hours speeding through the bucolic countryside near Kenton and St. Johns.

“After we left Holladay Park, the Colonel asked where we were going. I told him another park. He would not go saying to turn aside to some place where he could get some air. So we left the main party and drove down to Kenton and St. Johns.”
-Henry Waldo Coe, Progressive Party committeeman in the Oregonian, September 12, 1912.

Things got worse when Roosevelt re-appeared at the Hotel Oregon



The Oregon Hotel’s annex, attached to the original building was nearing completion at the time of Roosevelt’s visit and would open a year later. Today it is the Benson Hotel.


His joy ride through North Portland finished, Roosevelt returned to the Hotel Oregon for some rest before resuming his itinerary with speeches at the Gipsy Smith Tabernacle and the Moose Lodge. As he settled down in his suite, he looked forward to relaxing with a book, “The Second Roman Republic” by Paul Hermit” a favorite gift from his wife.

The book was gone.

He was sure he had it when he arrived in his suite. Someone had to have taken it. Enraged, he summoned M.K. McRea, the manager of the Hotel Oregon.

“That book I prize very highly. You had no right to allow anyone in my rooms while I was out. I want that book advertised as lost in the morning papers; you get it and send it to me either in San Francisco or Chicago. It was a volume of essays by Paul Hermit –one that I value highly. I think it was taken by some “jack” and I want it back.”
-Theodore Roosevelt to M.K. McRae at the Oregon Hotel.


The lost book, the heat, the slog of parks –Theodore Roosevelt had enough.
He did a quick speech at the Gipsy Smith Tabernacle then went back to the hotel. The book was still missing. He returned to his car and ordered his driver to take him to the Moose Lodge. It was forty five minutes before his scheduled appearance so he spoke to a largely empty room. When he finished, he ordered his driver to take him to Union Station. By the time his audience was arriving at the Moose Lodge, Roosevelt was in his private railroad car, reading. Within the hour his train departed for LaGrande.


In Portland the search continued. A mini-scandal erupted when it was suggested that Mrs. A.W. Nicholson, a prominent member of the local Progressive committee might have taken the book by mistake while Roosevelt signed items she had presented to him (the misunderstanding would be cleared up when Roosevelt returned to Portland in 1915).

The book was never found.

The very title seems to have vanished. There is no sign of “The Second Roman Republic by Paul Hermit” on Google, or Amazon, or ABE, or Bookfinder. In the nearly fifteen years that Powell’s has catalogued its inventory, the book has never “come over the counter” at any Powell’s location.
Not once.



Theodore Roosevelt died on January 6th 1919, but his final arrival in Portland was at 1:00 in the afternoon on Friday, October 13th 1922, when a large crate was lowered off the steamship S.S.Ohioan onto Municipal Pier #1 at the foot of 17th Street in Northwest Portland. There he was greeted by his old friend and political associate Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, who true to form, installed him in a park.






The Theodore Roosevelt statue in the South Park blocks donated by his friend and political allie, Henry Waldo Coe.



There was another memorial, of sorts, to Theodore Roosevelt in Portland.
A memorial to the Veterans of the Spanish American War, 18 feet high and weighing 16 tons stood near the Battleship Oregon, just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, from 1939 to 1942.






The former President’s profile adorns the side of the monument “Dedicated to the Perpetual Memory of Theodore Roosevelt.” A mast of the Battleship Oregon can be seen in the background.
-Courtesy of Donald R. Nelson from “Progressive Portland II, Stop and Go.”


A “Colossus of Portland” built of Central Oregon rock, it looked like a gigantic Oscar statue (or as some said, Benito Mussolini). The monument was a work by Oliver Barrett, head of the University of Oregon’s sculpture department. The figure was meant to symbolize Roosevelt’s and the veteran’s spirit, “fighting, but constructive” rather than any single person.

It was not popular with either the Spanish American War veterans or by and large, the people of Portland. When Harbor Drive was being constructed over its location there was little concern when it was announced that the statue would be placed in storage across the river at Stanton Yard, until a new home could be found for it.


Somewhere between Harbor Drive and Stanton Yard the monument vanishes from all record. It appears on no city inventory thereafter.
Sources sheepishly mentionend a “bulldozer accident.”


“I think I remember it cracked when they were taking it apart. Anyway, Stanton Yard does not have any record of it, and nobody seems to know what finally happened.”
- Don Eckton a Portland property control officer in the The Oregonian January 9 1972.


Years later, those in the know speculated that the monument was not hauled away, but knocked down and covered by Harbor Drive. If that is the case, Portland’s Memnon could be under Waterfront Park today, south of the Hawthorne Bridge on in the slope between Front Avenue (Naito Parkway) and the River.


Along with a book and a box, Theodore Roosevelt’s colossus awaits discovery.















Hail to the Fleet




The tradition of navy ships visiting the Rose Festival dates to June 1907, when the cruiser U.S.S. Charleston, gleaming in white and spar paint, and the torpedo boat U.S.S. John Paul Jones, in utilitarian black, seamed up the Willamette into Portland’s harbor. It was the first Rose Festival, “The Rose Carnival.”

Upon arrival, the Charleston anchored mid-channel north of the (original) Steel Bridge. Officers and crew were ferried to the rose bedecked Stark Street dock while Portlanders arrived by the launch load to the sound of the cruiser’s Marine Band. The visitors were treated to tours of the bridge, wheel-house and decks, with up close views of the ships six and three inch caliber gun batteries. For sailors, the city waited with its festivities and many entertainments that included, but were not limited to, the block long bar at Erickson’s Saloon and a civic reception at the Portland Hotel.







Sleek and fast, the U.S.S. Charleston was a recent addition to Theodore Roosevelt’s modern steel-hulled navy. It was painted in the white garb soon to be made famous by “the Great White Fleet” of battleships and cruisers dispatched later that year by the President to show the flag (and newly acquired military might) on a three year voyage around the world.





The “Great White Fleet” passing the mouth of the Columbia River on May 18th 1908, the closest it came to Portland, on the second leg of the world cruise, a round trip from San Francisco to Puget Sound before continuing on to Asia.






The U.S.S. Charleston in Portland during the "Rose Carnival." Note the tall trees on the bluff to the right, where Overlook Park is today, the last of the original forest that covered The Peninsula. (click on images to expand).

Aboard the Charleston was Admiral William T. Swinburne, who had chosen the cruiser for his flagship. He was suffering from rheumatism in a knee, aggravated by a recent tennis game, but was expected to be able the Rose Carnival’s committees planned events. Arriving from Washington was Commodore F.E. Beatty, the Charleston’s new captain, who took command of the ship in a ceremony that took place at its mid-river anchorage.

As the week wore on, the Rose Carnival ran its course and the sailors returned to their ships. The U.S.S. Charleston and U.S.S. Paul Jones steamed down the Willamette and Columbia rivers to resume duty with the Pacific Squadron. The mutual admiration between the city and the navy brought on by the visit was enough to establish the tradition of the Rose Festival fleet which continues to this day.







The U.S.S. Charleston in Portland Harbor. The hull of this, the first Rose Festival ship still exists, run aground, used as a breakwater at Kelsey Bay on Vancouver Island.


The white ships of the navy would be a regular sight in Portland harbor until the start of World War I, when the U.S. Navy would follow Great Britain’s lead in painting their fleet “battleship” gray.



The best known of Portland’s early navy visitors, the Battleship Oregon was laid up in reserve at its Bremerton Washington base in 1907, the year of the Rose Carnival and the start of the Great White Fleet’s voyage. Only eleven years old, the famed veteran of the Spanish American war was already obsolete due to the armament innovations that followed the launch of the H.M.S. Dreadnaught. The Oregon returned to service in 1911 as a training vessel in San Francisco and visited the Rose Festival in 1916. During World War I the Oregon was flag ship of the Pacific Fleet. After the war the U.S.S. Oregon visited the Rose Festival a final time in 1925 before being donated to the City of Portland (later to be donated for scrap during World War II).






An unknown navy ship in Portland Harbor. Note the tower of Union Station and the original Steel Bridge.




The Cruiser U.S.S. Boston spent a lot of time in Portland, especially during the Lewis and Clark Expostion in 1905.