Monday, November 06, 2006

Milestone P2

Milestone P2

This small stone object is very, very old, at least by Portland standards. It's an old 1850's-era milestone on SE Stark St., a bit east of 20th Avenue. (Roughly 2300 SE Stark, to be exact.) It's embedded in the north wall of Lone Fir Cemetery, which itself is very, very old, by Portland standards. The "P2" was to indicate it was just two more miles through the howling wilderness to Portland, with its handful of wooden shacks and muddy stump-filled streets.

I saw a brief bit about this milestone quite recently on an episode of Oregon Field Guide, but when I ran across it I was actually on a visit to Lone Fir, which I'll talk more about in a subsequent post. I was just walking along Stark St. and there it was, and I thought, "Oh, that looks familiar." I just can't get enough of weird, geeky, esoteric stuff like this, so I had to take a few pictures, and I had to write a little about it. If this bores you to tears, my apologies. I don't always blog about obscure old rocks, in case you were curious. I'll probably do another cheesy monster movie post next week, and maybe you'll like that post better than this one.

I also thought this was kind of fun because in present-day English the word "milestone" is a generic noun that's applied to all sorts of things. In Monday's Oregonian (11/6/06), the act of sentencing Saddam Hussein to the gallows is described as a "milestone". It's quite rare anymore to see the word used to describe a stone object that marks distance on a road. So this photo shows what an actual, physical, real-life milestone looks like. In case you were curious, or whatever.

This article at American Surveyor magazine discusses this milestone and its siblings at some length. Seems this is one of an original 15 stones, of which nine survive. Milestone P5 is pictured in the article. This is in a surveying magazine because Stark was originally known as the eastside portion of Baseline Road (the name it still goes by out in the western 'burbs), and Baseline is so named because it follows the original surveying baseline that extended out from what is now Willamette Stone State Heritage Site, an obscure and tiny state park hidden way up in the west hills. I haven't been there in years, and I don't remember it being overly enthralling. I don't know what conditions were like at the time the survey was done, but I imagine it wasn't completely overgrown like it is today. Don't go expecting a view.

Legend had it (sort of) that it was good luck to kiss the Willamette Stone. So it's too bad it's not there anymore. The sites linked to just indicate the thing was vandalized; I seem to recall that the original rock was actually broken off its base and stolen. This was in the distant pre-eBay era, so it's probably just gathering dust in some avid collector's attic, or gathering moss in their garden.

This page at the city government website says the P4 milestone still exists too. Apparently it's easy enought to find that official guided walking tours of the area sometimes start there. One puzzling bit is that while the P2 stone is near SE 20th, this page asserts the P4 stone is at SE 61st Avenue. City blocks downtown are 200 feet on a side, but I don't know what they measure outside of there. If it's 200 feet everywhere, neither milestone would be in the right place, and the P2 stone appears to have been in its current location for an exceedingly long time.

Updated: I went looking for P4 a while back, but no luck. And I'm not the only person out here on the interwebs who's looked: The estimable Mr. Klein of ZehnKatzen Times fame reports having no luck finding P4, P5, or P6, but he did track down Milestone P7, with photos and everything. It's at the corner of 117th & Stark, and you can actually see it plainly in Google street view:

View Larger Map

The sign next to the milestone apparently says that P2, P4 thru P7, P9, P13, and P14 still exist. Or they did, supposedly, at the time the sign went in, whenever that was. Also, here's a Gresham Outlook story with photos of various milestones.

Updated again: Ok, just go and check out the Stark Street Mile Markers blog. History, photos, exact locations of all the extant ones. Very cool, although I'm almost kind of sad that someone else has gone and done this already. And here I was fixin' to start a new project...

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