Changing Cityscape

There I stood overlooking the soothing river separating the city. The remanence of the 1800’s hidden between the modern buildings leaving reminders of the number of souls currently and once occupying the city. The number of homes and businesses that have come and gone along with the people. The change of the cityscape. Like it was something alive, living and breathing – growing and changing with us. While late, in honor of Portland, Oregon’s “birth day,” February 8, 1851, we can appreciate all that has become of the city in the last 172 years that Portland has been “alive.”

Portland, Oregon has a long history though still a baby in comparison to other international cities around the United States and Europe. Pockets all over gaining plaques as the city continues to age. It will be interesting to see what the city council does in making decisions regarding preservations of important historical artifacts and buildings and often difficult decisions in consideration of the necessary changes in order to ensure public safety which too has contributed to the ever changing cityscape. It has been interesting to watch the skyline and intercity scapes evolve and change by human construction, destruction, and reconstruction.

Unforeseen events also caused major damage to city which in-turn resulted in change. One of those events is now known as the Great Fire of 1873. It has been documented that at “4:20 am on the morning of August 2, 1873, a fire started on First Street near Taylor…” (Wikipedia1). While it was never confirmed, foul play was suspected. The damages resulted in estimate of millions and with as little as less than a fifth of city insured. Eventually the city was rebuilt with time and effort but not without leaving its imprint in the ever-evolving cityscape. You would think in such a time an appropriate response by city officials would be to encourage raising funds to help in rebuilding the city rather “the only immediate official response was to purchase of a louder 4,000-pound bell.” (Oregon History Project2). However, they did replace the bell in 1875 “with a system of telegraph wires, signal boxes and engine gongs.” (Firefighting in Portland Through the Years3). I would like to think with all of the last fires we have experienced we can be proud and feel a little bit safer in the event of a fire than if it were to occur in 1880’s. In the event of a fire, some of the changes from technological advances has helped us progress in ways that allows to us as a community to connect and respond with efficiency and allows us to act faster and minimize the potential damage than prior to the evolution of the tools used in our daily lives and in the event of such emergencies. Not that fire alarms systems, cell phones and computers alone will solve all our problems, however, it has been proven to make handling such emergencies easier.

Portland’s first building to be considered a “skyscraper” was the historic Wells Fargo Building. “Completed in 1907, the steel-framed building is considered the city’s first true skyscraper.” (Wikipedia4). At the time of its construction this building was considered the tallest building in Portland and from which was only the beginning of the growth and expansion of Portland, not just outward but upward. This expansion allowed local artists and architects to “have had a large influence on Portland’s architecture …. (combined works include over 270 buildings from 1882 to 1960s).” (Wikipedia5). Giving life and in a sense contributing to Portland’s own culture and style uniquely distinguishable to this beautiful city.

Some other examples of Portland’s architecture can be found in some of the older historical residential and business districts. In some of these pocketes you will find what is known as “Craftsman” style architecture. “The Craftsman style is the most predominant residential style represented in the study area, appearing in approximately 1905.” (Bureau of Planning6). You can also find Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and English Cottage architectural styles correlating to trends from various historical periods and moving into more modern and contemporary styles that can be seen in both newly constructed skyscrapers and homes as well as some of the historical buildings that have been restored and preservable. Both commercial and residential. From the old Courthouse to Pittock Mansion to the World Trade Building to the new Multnomah County Circuit Court to the Yard Luxury Apartments there is a lot to see and experience as well as apperciate in the City of Bridges.

Stay curious and keep exploring! Until next time.

Table of Content

  1. Wikipedia. (2022, 24 October). Great Fire of 1873. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2023 from
  2. Oregon History Project. (n.d.). Portland Fire, 1873. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2023 from
  3. The City of Portland Oregon, Fire & Rescue. (n.d.). Firefighting in Portland Through the Retrieved Feb. 12, 2020 from
  4. Wikipedia. (2022, 22 September). Wells Fargo Building (Portland, Oregon). Retrieved Feb. 12, 2023 from,_Oregon)
  5. Wikipedia. (2020, 30 December). Architecture of Portland, Oregon. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2023 from,_Oregon#Architects
  6. Bureau of Planning. (2003, February). Historic Context – Hawthorne Boulevard from SE 20th to SE 55th Avenues. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2023 from

Published by Ms. Selective

Writer, traveler, and photographer from the Northwest.

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