a.k.a. Plaza Blocks, 1852
Young roughnecks loitering hereabouts resulted in the passing of a 1924
ordinance segregating the use of these two parks: children and women got one square and men the other. (By checking the location of the squares' respective restrooms, you'll learn which was which.) But as of 1971, members of any gender can enjoy the elms, gingko trees, and sequoia. And if you listen quietly, you can sometimes hear the prisoners exercising in the Justice Center to the east.
These two blocks flank an octagonal fountain with an immense bronze statue of a bull elk (Roland Perry, 1900), which traffic flows around. Supposedly, a bull elk had once been seen grazing in the area early in the city's history. As elks symbolized majesty to Victorian society, a statue was born.
Donated to the city by two-time Portland mayor David Thompson, the elk was immediately controversial. The local chapter of the Elks organization reviled the beast as a long-necked "monstrosity of art" that was anatomically incorrect. (Other parties called it a "fossilized stag" and a "gargoyle quadruped.") There has also been local debate over whether its hindquarters should face oncoming traffic. In any event, the statue symbolizes "the conquest of wild nature by the forces of civilization" (choke, gag, sputter), according to the Portland Municipal Report of 1900.
* David Thompson walked to Oregon from Ohio in 1853 at the age of nineteen, driving a herd of sheep before him.
Both Daniel Lownsdale and William Chapman were early landowners of downtown Portland real estate. Lownsdale staked a square-mile claim just west of the original William Overton claim. He subsequently established a tannery and purchased Francis Pettygrove's half-interest in the Portland township for $5,000-worth of leather in 1848. Chapman was a lawyer, who was arrested in 1851 for offering to slit a judge's throat in his own courtroom. It was a rough and intolerant time; in fact, demonstrations against Portland's Chinese population were held in these squares thirty-five years after Chapman's death threat.
Lownsdale Square commemorates the Spanish-American War. The list of Portland notables who served in this gentlemen's war reads like a "Who's Who" of Portland society. They were not in much danger; there were only 385 U.S. battle deaths in the war, compared to Spain's approximately seven thousand.Less Text