Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcome to Rose City

Downtown Portland-taken from the Portland Aerial Tram
Happy Wednesday, friends, & welcome to Portland, Oregon! As I mentioned last week, Wednesdays here on Robert Frost’s Banjo will be featuring posts about my new hometown. I hope to explore various places, events, & landmarks, with possibly a bit of Portland history & fun facts thrown in. One thing I know will happen: restaurant reviews! This is a great foodie town, & I’ll be checking out some places that look likely to have both good food & fit in my tight budget.

But today’s post is an overview & all about preliminaries—some of the “facts” here have been mentioned in previous blog posts, but as this is the beginning of the series, I think I may be excused for going over them again. Portland is divided into “quadrants,” as you can see from the graphic. The city is divided into “east” & “west” sections by the Willamette River, & divided into north & south sections by Burnside Street. Therefore, street names typically have the SE, NE, SW or NW tag, & people talk about their neighborhoods as being in “the Southeast,” “the Northwest,” etc. However, as you’ll notice from the map, there are actually five “quadrants,” because there’s also “the North.” & as I can’t seem to help being different, I live in that fifth quadrant.

Mississippi Studios - North Portland-my neighborhood
Portland Streetcar on SW Market in - you guessed it - Southwest Portland

Each of these quadrants—or for those who insist on mathematical corretness, sections—are divided into a number of neighborhoods, so it seems to me at least that it’s difficult to make sweeping generalizations about any one of the geographical designations—to say, “the Southeast is thus & so” or “the Northwest is like this.” Two things I should state, one a historical fact, the other personal. Portland originated on the west side of the Willamette, so from 1851 until 1891, the city existed solely on land that now falls within the Northwest & Southwest quadrants. In 1891, Portland absorbed Albina, Oregon & East Portland, Oregon, & these brought in parts of the current North, Northeast & Southeast sections; further expansion in 1915 gave the city most of its present-day territory.

Looking back toward Northwest Portland from the Steel Bridge

The Laurelhurst Theater on E. Burnside - the street that divides North & South

On a personal note? Fact is, I know the east side of Portland better than the west. In my almost 6 months of living here, I’ve been on the east side, & when I used to visit Portland while living in Idaho, I also spent most of the time in the east, & especially the Southeast, because that’s where many of my friends live.

Quonset Hut Bar - NE Alberta
Avalon Theater - SE Belmont

Other fun facts about Portland? It’s the 29th most populous U.S. city with a 2010 census population of 583,776, & the greater Portland metro area—which includes the city of Vancouver, Washington, as well as other areas in Washington just across the Columbia—numbers around 2,260,000, making it the 23rd most populous metro area. Tho Portland is Oregon’s largest city, both Seattle, Washington & Vancouver, British Columbia are larger cities within the Pacific Northwest. The climate? Per Wikipedia, “Portland experiences a temperate climate that is usually described as oceanic with mild, damp winters and relatively dry, warm summers.” Some might note that “damp” is a relatively mild term, & Portland does get a lot of rain, especially in the late fall thru the winter & into the spring. But as a result of its temperate & damp climate, it’s a great spot for gardening—hence, the nickname “Rose City” or “City of Roses.” 

The Portland Aerial Tram arriving at OHSU with the Willamette River in the background

Although Portland is a mid-sized city, it truly has a lot to offer, & I’m very happy & grateful to have the opportunity of living here.  Also looking forward to sharing it with you readers every Wednesday!

Here's the info on the neighborhood graphic: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license by Wiki Commons user Sean Kelly


  1. Thanks for the tour. I'm loving the Laurelhurst Theater; that is soooo '50s!

  2. Oh, I'm loving this! It's great to get a feel for your city, John and your photos are brilliant! I love that one with the red streetcar, particularly.
    The Laurelhurst is showing "The Blob"? How cool is that!

    Looks like a great place to be - a place to really put down roots.

    Can't wait to see what's next!

  3. Now this is going to be a really useful series to a certain man and a dog who are about to pay a virtual visit to your city. And, incidentally, the Guardian did a feature last week entitled "The Ten Best Places To Live In The World" - and guess where was No. 1. Yes, Portland.

  4. I used to live in Raleigh, NC. Oddly enough, they get more rain per year than PDX. They get it in a series of torrential downpours throughout the summer; we get it via 6 months of drizzle in the winter. And "damp" is a much better description of central NC than Portland!
    Looking forward to more about this great city!

  5. Hi Roy, Kat, Alan & Mark!

    Roy: Thanks--also called "The Laurelthirst," because they serve beer!

    Kat: Thanks so much! The streetcars, which are operated by the city itself (as opposed to the buses & trains, which are operated by a metro transit district), are all colorfully painted.

    Alan: Thanks! That's interesting indeed about the Guardian. I will say I consider myself very fortunate to have lived in both San Francisco & Portland, which are both great cities! & yes, hope I can get that certain man & dog grist for his virtual tour mill.

    Mark: This is the first winter for me, of course, & all previous visits had been in late spring or summer, but it is my impression that much of the "rain" is indeed "drizzle" as you say. According to the climate data I've seen, PDX gets just over 37" of rain per year, which is about the same as Seattle. Interestingly, despite their reputations, neither are in the top 10 rainiest US cities! New York, Baltimore & Atlanta e.g. all get more rain. & I agree: Southeast Portland rocks! But I'm liking the North too.

  6. In case anyone is curious about the rain, here are the 10 rainiest cities in the continental US:

    Mobile, Ala.: 67 inches average annual rainfall; 59 average annual rainy days
    Pensacola, Fla.: 65 inches average annual rainfall; 56 average annual rainy days
    New Orleans, La.: 64 inches average annual rainfall; 59 average annual rainy days
    West Palm Beach, Fla.: 63 inches average annual rainfall; 58 average annual rainy days
    Lafayette, La.: 62 inches average annual rainfall; 55 average annual rainy days
    Baton Rouge, La.: 62 inches average annual rainfall; 56 average annual rainy days
    Miami, Fla.: 62 inches average annual rainfall; 57 average annual rainy days
    Port Arthur, Texas: 61 inches average annual rainfall; 51 average annual rainy days
    Tallahassee, Fla.: 61 inches average annual rainfall; 56 average annual rainy days
    Lake Charles, La.: 58 inches average annual rainfall; 50 average annual rainy days

    Portland & Seattle both average 37 inches & a fraction--over 20 inches less than Lake Charles, LA at number 20.

    The difference of course is that many of these cities are subject to downpours, so Portland & Seattle have more "rainy days" because it takes the usual drizzle longer to accumulate.

    I may expand this into one of the Portland posts at some point.

  7. Your pictures really are stunning. What are you using? Not the sort of zoom in zoom out click and shoot digital thing I have for sure. They all seem so sharp they have an unreal edge.

  8. Hi Mairi: Thanks so much! I use a Canon Power Shot SX110, which is a point & shoot camera--but I use Photoshop too!

  9. I'm looking forward to more of these posts, and the photos are large and wonderful. I love the one with the autumn trees.

  10. Hi HKatz: Thanks so much. Interesting--you & Kat Mortensen both liked that photo particularly. Taken while I was at the stop waiting for that very streetcar to arrive!


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