Mill Ends in Portland is the Smallest Park in the WORLD!

The Smallest Park in the World!

The Smallest Park in the World!

Another Portland landmark, this one falls within the whimsically peculiar category, that should be visited by both locals and visitors alike, is Mill Ends Park.

Acknowledged by The Guinness Book of World Records as the Smallest Park in the World, Mill Ends has a whimsical history and a peculiar location.

On the west side of the river nestled between opposing traffic lanes, flanked by two posts on Natio Parkway at Tayler St., is Mill Ends Park. 899 SW Natio Parkway.

Roughly 2 feet in diameter the smallest park in the world is the quirky and nationally famous park created by a newspaperman, Dick Fagan, back in 1946.
From his office window at the Oregon Journal newspaper Dick had a view of a hole in the street where a lamp post was suppose to be installed. When the lamp post failed to be installed Dick decided to beautify his office window view. He filled the hole in with dirt and planted flowers.

As a journalist and an Irishman with a colorful imagination, Dick began incorporating the park in his column, Mill Ends (rough, irregular pieces of lumber left over at lumber mills). He wrote tales about a village of leprechauns who inhabited the park and announced park events like, snail races! Dick proclaimed the park the “World’s Smallest Park” and it was dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day in 1948. Officially Mill Ends became a city park on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976. And in 1971 Guinness proclaimed Mill Ends Park the world’s smallest park.

Depending on the season and the creativity of the people who visit the park, a plethora of foliage, animals ( horses, unicorns, turtles) and design elements (swimming pools, ferris wheels, fences, benches) and even a UFO sighting was documented at this tiny park. Big people have been seen taking their lives in their hands ( it does sit between two very highly trafficked lanes of traffic) catching some rays, reading a book, celebrating during the wee hours of the morning, and one yelper had this to say about the park “I almost want my boyfriend to propose in this park just to say it happened…”

To this day this park and the area along Natio Parkway continues to host one of the city of Portland’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, the Shamrock Run. A plague briefly detailing the history of the park is located on the sidewalk intersection of Tayler St at Natio Parkway.

Nestled between two busy lanes of traffic.

Nestled between two busy lanes of traffic.

Mill Ends park

Foliage changes with the seasons

Mill Ends

Big People enjoying a day at the park!

Photo Aug 30, 9 12 32 AM

The plaque at the corner of Tayler St and Natio Parkway.


Portlandia, She’s Not Just a TV Show


The second largest copper sculpture in the world, next to Lady Liberty

The second largest copper sculpture in the world, next to Lady Liberty

When you say Portlandia, most immediately think of Fred and Carrie and the dream of the 90’s is alive in Portland. Portlandia is so much more than a hit TV show about Northwest hipsters and angry cyclists.

Portlandia is a copper sculpture created by Raymond Kaskey perched above the entrance to the Michael Graves’ building, home to the Portland’s parks and rec department, in downtown Portland. For being the second largest copper statue in the world, only rivaled by Lady Liberty herself, she’s very inconspicuous, many including myself have walked past her dozens of times.

Portlandia was built in sections in Washington D.C. and shipped to Portland by ship. She was then assembled, measuring 34 feet,10 inches ( if standing upright she would measure 50 feet tall) and floated on a barge up the Willamette River. On October 6, 1985 she was installed in her cozy alcove on the 3rd floor of the Portland Building like the world’s largest tchotchke.

The statue design is based on the Portland seal. She is dressed in classical clothes, holding a trident in her left hand symbolizing the abundance of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, and her right hand is reaching down to greet visitors. She is massive yet she is easily walked past without the slightest glance upward.

People have questioned why not move her to a more prominent location? The answer given, she was built for that particular building space and will not be moved. The sculpture is a product of Portland’s Public Art Program.

Next time you’re downtown, look her “up” – otherwise you’ll walk right past her.

Portland Building 1120 SW 5th Avenue.

1120 SW 5th Ave

1120 SW 5th Ave

Virginia Cafe, Nearly 100 Years of History in Portland


Recently when my plans were derailed at the last minute, leaving me too annoyed to turn around and head back home so quickly, I walked into the first watering hole that intersected with my agitated footsteps. I walked into the Virginia Cafe on SW 10th Ave.  It was dark, the music was loud, and the joint seemed unexpectedly packed for this late hour on a Monday night. I ordered a Pendleton on the rocks and after those first few sips  which took my irritated edge off, I began to look around at this dark bar that was now my new haven.  It wasn’t fancy, the vibe was more like a well-worn and much loved sweater, the kind with a few small holes here and there, the style might not be to the liking of most but to you, slipping on that sweater makes you feel good, comfortable or just simply warm. That was the vibe that hung in the dimly lit, casually comfortable and surprisingly crowded atmosphere of The Virginia Cafe. I left The Virginia Cafe with a pleased, instead of  perturbed, frame of mind and felt like I stumbled upon a new version of that lived-in, feel-good sweater I could put on when I need a little comforting. My Monday night at The Virginia Cafe left me with such a good memory I looked them up on the web, for no other reason than I wanted to learn more good things, and that I did. Below is an account of the Virginia Cafe’s rich, colorful and long history here in Portland.  Maybe I’ll see you there some Monday night, cheers!

The history of the Virginia Cafe can be traced back as far as 1906, the year that Theodore, William and Christopher Dussin emigrated from Argos, Greece to Portland. In 1914, after heavy mountain snows caused them to be laid off their jobs laying railroad ties, the brothers entered the restaurant business and opened the first Virginia Cafe at the corner of S.W. 10th and Stark. In the heart of the city’s once notorious “tenderloin,” the brothers offered “Quick Service and Best Coffee” to a clientele heavily studded with characters that frequented the area. Many of the hotels in that area were sporting houses, and on an average day 50 trays were carried by two “runners” from the “Virginia to the girls’ rooms – gals who ate well and tipped lavishly.” [Read more…]


Legendary long distance runner from Coos Bay, OR. Mural is located on NW Park & Everette.

Legendary long distance runner from Coos Bay, OR. Mural is located on NW Park & Everette.

[box] Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative. ~ Steve Prefontaine [/box]












The Star Theater


As I make my plans for a festive Halloween celebration at the Star Theater, I am intrigued by the storied past of this, recently refurbished, venue that sits between West Burnside and Portland’s Chinatown.

May 19, 1911 The Princess Theater, renamed the Star Theater in 1939, was a silent film theater that could accommodate 300 “silent” movie viewers . In 1940 the movies were removed and so were the ladies gloves, stocking and brassieres! The theater became home to live burlesque shows with well known dancers such as, Tempest Storm, Betty Roth as Candy Renee, and Arabella Andre.

The late 60’s, brought another change and even less clothing. The Star Theater became an adult theater that showed erotic movies with live strip shows on the stage. The 70’s brought yet more change and experimenting. Everything from classic comedy to underground films, as well as, controversial “live sex shows” took place on the Star stage.

1979-1983 The Star went back to it’s less contentious form of adult entertainment and became just another run-of-the-mill Portland strip bar. However, this strip bar had a very well known,although not at the time, teenage stripper shaking her ta-tas, her name was Courtney Love.

[Read more…]


50 square blocks in Portland’s Northwest Alphabet District has been historically referred to as Slabtown. Why? Well it’s not because it was the birthplace of ribs basted in bitchin’ BBQ sauce, I can tell you that much! For tasty, fall-off-the-bone ribs and a selection of  finger-licking-good barbecue  sauces head over to Smokehouse 21 on NW 21st Ave.  It’s only blocks away, go there for ribs, you can thank me later. Back to Slabtown. In the 1880’s, the working class and poor residents in this area used slabs of cheap wood from the local sawmills as fuel for their fireplaces. The term “Slabtown” was the semi-derogatory term developed by the rich, who could afford cordwood that was cut to size for their fireplaces.

The prominent Slabtown sign at the corner of Northwest Lovejoy Street and NW 15th Avenue, erected in the 70’s, is one of the remaining scraps of evidence of this neighborhood’s past. The sign was the inspiration for the bar/music venue of the same name, Slabtown, located at 1033 NW 16th Avenue and is famously known as the birthplace of the Portland band, The Dandy Warhols.

Slabtown, the bar, has quite a colorful history. During my months of researching and photographing Portland’s funky & fabulous bathrooms, which resulted in a book: The Porcelain Diaries, due out at the end of 2012; I became acquainted with Doug Rogers, Slabtown’s new owner. Doug shared some pretty wild stories about Slabtown’s past and what lives within its walls and at the core of this Eternal Dive Bar. Read on to hear what Doug shared with me. [Read more…]

Do you know where to find theTikitotomoniki?

Jamison Totem Poles

Trader Vic’s isn’t the only place you’ll spot totem poles in The Pearl. Jamison Square is one of the busiest blocks in The Pearl during these hot summer days. Walking past Jamison today, it wasn’t the red cheeked, mischievous, water bucket toting little rascals that caught my attention, it was the sky-reaching colorful totem poles.  How do totem poles fit into this urban water park? The inquisitive side of me decided to do some quick research. Why? The plain and simple answer, because I wanted to know! And it could come in hand someday if I signed up for one of those urban races; or as an conversation opener with any one of the cute men who walk their dogs in that area! So read on, absorb this information and hopefully one day it will serve you well. [Read more…]

80’s Video Dance Party At The Crystal Ballroom

The Crystal Ballroom

Even if you didn’t grow up in the 80’s most can appreciate the music of the 80’s. The new wave/pop-rock songs that filled the charts and made everyone want to dance, wear headbands and go to great lengths to achieve hair that was 4 x’s the size of our heads. The guitar, punk-pop sounds of Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders; Duran Duran- the boy band that was as much a fashion trendsetter as a chart topper; Culture Club – Boy George the androgynous cross-dresser who’s love of  hats and dredge locks first caught our attention then won us over with his smooth and easily likable voice; Billy Idol -a leader in the British punk-pop phenomenon; The Go-Go’s- one of the first all female successful groups. Such a iconic era in music and also pushed the envelope in regards to social norms. Last Friday night, at The Crystal Ballroom, I was reminded how fun and transcendent this musical era was. People of all ages, beginning at age 21, were singing along, wearing leotards, leg warmers, shirts that loosely hung off one shoulder, MC Hammer pants! dancing and bouncing on the “floating” dance floor and having a sweaty good time till 2am!

I happened to capture a picture from the balcony that night when the lighting was just right. As I looked at it the next day I was in awe at seeing the massive crowd that was gathered on the main floor of The Crystal Ballroom. When I look at this picture I can feel the energy of that crowd, it is an energy of lightheartedness and happiness, easiness and relaxation.

The Crystal Ballroom hosts 80’s video dance nights every Friday night. If you’ve never gone before, gather a group of friends or just your bestie and go! It’s a great way to dance away the stress of your week and to kick-off your weekend with a flash from this fun past! Another great reason to head down to The Crystal Ballroom is to experience the dance floor that is floating atop ball-bearings, giving you the feeling of  “dancing on the clouds.”

The Crystal Ballroom has a past that is rich with historical significance. It’s listed on The National Register of Historical Places. To learn more about it’s history, read this article from McMenamins website.

Still Grooving After All These Years

The Crystal Ballroom enjoys national recognition for a reason. No local venue, and indeed few in the nation, can challenge this elegant ballroom’s 90 years as a premier place to hear live music, dance and have memorable experiences. The hall has seen countless first loves unfold, police raids, visits by silent screen idols and Beat poets, psychedelic light shows, narrow escapes from fire, demolition, and neglect, and a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is a vital, thriving McMenamins owned and operated live music palace that hosts everything from rock ‘n’ roll and country, to hip-hop and big band swing. [Read more…]

Good Food, Ghosts and Hideaways!


While collecting content for Portland’s Funky & Fabulous Bathrooms book, I uncover some really fascinating insights into many of our well-known and well-loved establishments, like NorthWest Public (NWPH) House on Kearney and 23rd.

If you haven’t been yet, he’s a brief description to help you visualize. The house is a two-level craftsman home built in 1906. In 2011 the house opened as a gastropub / sports lounge. Three outdoor decks and 12 HDTV’s, can you say great place to soak up some sun or take in a game! [Read more…]

A Historical Look at Powell’s Books


It never fails, I think to myself: I’m going to run into Powell’s to pick up this specific book and be on my way. Turns out to be exactly like saying “I’m just going to run into Target to buy shampoo” – $80 later and 3 bags full of items, other than shampoo, are in your trunk. Powell’s has a way of persuading you to stay and linger long after you have your sought after book in hand. If you don’t stay focused on your mission and you happen to look up, you are quickly drawn to rows and rows of books, stairs that entice you to see where they lead, rooms and rooms of color, book displays that are unassuming yet still beckon you to their table and novelty items that make you wonder, who can I buy this for? All these attributes converge together and WHAM before you know it, you’ve got 3 bags and $80 worth of books and such, filling up your trunk!  

Knowing you love exploring Powell’s is a well know fact, knowing how Powell’s came to be, is a lesser known fact. Here’s a great piece about the history of Powell’s Books, one of the most famous bookstores in the country.


Powell's 3

 The following article was written by Greg Brian, Yahoo! Contributor Network

What’s interesting is that even though people are looking for bargains in books–one major bookstore in Portland,Oregon that’s famous all around the world is still doing just fine as a walk-in store and longtime internet dealer.

That particular book store is called Powell’s Books. You don’t save much money shopping for books there–though that isn’t the point. It’s a vast universe full of the latest books and out of print books you wouldn’t be able to find in one place anywhere else in the United States.
If you’re one to travel at some point during the year, you might want to be like all other tourists and take in this bookstore at least once in your lifetime of travels. You should know about its history, though (many tourists don’t know a thing about it until getting there), and learn about some examples of the types of books you can find there. I almost have to end the article here and give an exaggerated answer of “nearly everything ever written.” [Read more…]