Thursday, October 08, 2009

Milestone P7

Stark Street Milestone P7

Stark Street Milestone P7

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The latest installment of the milestone series takes us to the corner of SE 117th & Stark, home to Stark St. milestone P7. This one isn't hard to find; it's in a reasonably prominent location at the SE corner of Ventura Park, which is on the north (westbound) side of Stark. There's even a historical marker next to the milestone explaining what it is and what it's for.

Stark Street Milestone P7

I don't know this part of town that well, except that nearby 122nd Avenue is lined with car dealers. So for a bit more local flavor than what I've got here, check out this ZehnKatzen post with a few photos of the surrounding area as well as of P7 itself. I did take a few photos of the park, but I think I'm going to hold off on those for right now, since sorting through photos of roses usually takes freakin' forever.

Updated 9/10/11: Thanks to the library's Oregonian db, I have a bit more info to share about milestone P7, how it was rescued, and how it ended up in Ventura Park. In an article lamely titled "Milepost 'tells' story about Portland history" (quotes theirs), the December 12th, 1978 Oregonian explained:
Craig Decker was reacquainted with an old friend last week, expressing satisfaction that his pal was set in concrete and could wander no more.

"It's good to see it back in the neighborhood," Decker, 30, said.

Decker grew up with milepost 7, which, during his childhood, was in place on the south side of Southeast Stark Street neer 117th Avenue, its hand-carved basalt rising to a pyramid and the obscure horizontal markings that read "P 7" etched into its face.

"It was over there, near the old neighborhood grocery store," Decker said last week as Multnomah County crews were placing the marker in concrete at the corner of Stark Street and 117th Avenue in Ventura Park. Right between those two trees. It took me a long time to figure out what the P and 7 meant."


Milepost 7 was found only recently by students of John Woodward, an anthropology professor at Mount Hood Community College.

The 500-pound marker was being ravaged by bulldozers, so the students rescued it and offered it to the county.

Milepost 13 is housed in the Gresham Historical Society and milepost 14 is on the campus of Mount Hood Community College.

Stark Street Milestone P7

Various things I've learned so far, and other things I still don't know, plus some guesses:
  • As mentioned on the Stark Street Mile Markers mini-blog, there's another milestone P7 in SW Portland, seemingly marking the course of Taylors Ferry Rd. / Capitol Highway / Highway 99W. I haven't tracked that one down yet, but I did run across someone's photos of it here, along with photos of a newer-looking marker that just says "5". I'm not sure what its significance is.
  • The sign at this P7 indicates that distances are measured from the old Multnomah County Courthouse, on the west side of the river -- so that spot would be P0, although it's not clear if there was ever a marker to that effect. The current county courthouse was completed in 1914, and it's several blocks south of the baseline. More or less. The downtown street grid isn't aligned with the baseline, so it isn't always obvious how things line up.
  • Which brings us to a mystery: Where exactly was this P0 point? This page at the Oregon Historical Society asserts that the old courthouse was at the same location as the current one. If true, that would rule out the courthouse, even though that would be a logical place for a P0 mark. So then I thought the reference to the old courthouse might refer to the Pioneer Courthouse instead. It does seem to lie on the baseline, but it's a couple of blocks west of my best estimate, and it's also a federal courthouse, not a local one. Pioneer Courthouse Square is closer to the right spot, but it didn't exist until the 1980s, and prior to that it was a hotel and then a parking lot, so I think we can rule it out as a candidate. So as far as I can determine, the P0 point should be located inside the parking garage between 10th & Park, near the Galleria MAX stop. But I'm not a pro surveyor, and I could easily be mistaken. And I haven't been able to determine if anything important was on this site before it was a parking garage.
  • As long as we're doing best estimates (which included the help of this Google Maps distance calculator, it looks like this putative P0 point is 4 miles due east of the Willamette Stone. My actual number was something like 3.92 miles, but that's so close to 4 that I'm inclined to fault my estimating powers. If the actual value isn't 4, it would be fair to assume that was at least the intended value. So any milestone you see is that many miles to downtown, and 4 more to the Willamette Stone.

  • Although once you're past P4, the road deviates from the baseline briefly. At that point, the baseline runs over the north end of Mt. Tabor, and traffic gets routed around the steepest part on SW Thorburn St. instead of straight over it. There's a disconnected stretch of Stark St. through part of the bypassed area, and the milestones seem to be measuring distance along that direction, not along the street you'll actually be on. So it's a decent bit greater than a mile between milestones P4 and P5.

  • Oh, one more fun estimate to pass along. The missing P3 stone is supposed to have been at or around 42nd & Stark, in a quiet mostly-residential area. I'm enough of a math dork to immediately wonder where the mythical Pπ milestone should be, being ~3.14159 miles from downtown Portland. In a delightful coincidence, Pπ seems to be very close to 45th & Stark, and thus near Belmont Station. And if it's not an exact match, you can always change the value of π to make it fit better, like the Indiana Legislature allegedly once did. So there aren't any actual milestones nearby, but you could always drop by their cafe and hoist a pint in memory of the lost P3, and in honor of the Pπ I just made up. Some would call that ridiculous, others might call it stupid. But they're assuming there's such a thing as a bad reason to hoist a pint, and I'm going to have to disagree with that basic premise. Mmmmm... beeeer....

  • Ok, one more guesstimate while we're at it. Being the math dork I just mentioned I am, I also had to wonder about mythical milestone Pi, which is not the same thing as Pπ. Pi is genuinely imaginary, rather than merely made up. It would be a mile due north of P0, and I think that means somewhere around 9th & Naito, near the police mounted patrol horse barn. And P-i (that's -i miles from P0) should be just south of 405, in the Duniway Park area.

  • The historical marker at P7 says Stark was once called Base Line Road. The only road by that name in the present day is Baseline Rd. in Washington County. The name's an accurate description in parts of Hillsboro & Cornelius where Baseline follows the actual baseline. Elsewhere, the name is just a name.

  • So far we've been talking strictly in terms of miles. The mayor and others keep insisting we're a thoroughly European city, with the idea that saying it all the time will make it true. So it's curious that they've never gotten around to trying to have the city go all metric and stop using miles, pounds, gallons, etc. Switching would likely fail miserably and just annoy people in the process, but the Powers That Be always prefer to do a bit of conceptual art and send a symbolic message rather than ever taking any real action. So this might be a good place to tell the world how much we adore the metric system without the expense and inconvenience of actually trying to use it for real. We could just put up a set of shiny new Euro-licious kilometer stones along Stark to go along with the existing milestones. The P_Km24 marker would be just a touch west of where P15 ought to be.

  • While we're at it, the same area would also host the 13 nautical mile mark, if we were counting those. The nautical mile markers could look like little buoys, or maybe lighthouses. Since this is Portland, if you're going to be whimsical you probably ought to give your stuff a dour, educational side, so that people can tell you're a Serious Artist. So the buoys would be to let people know it would be 13 miles by boat to the sunken ruins of downtown, if somehow the whole world flooded due to global warming, a la Waterworld.

  • But wait, there's more. From the Willamette Stone to P15 is 19 miles, or 30.57 km. Or, roughly, one picoparsec (about 30.85 km). Add in the distance from P15 to the Sandy River, and it's a very close fit indeed. In other words, take the distance along Stark from downtown to the Sandy River, and simply go 1.29 trillion times that far (i.e 1.29 parsecs), and you're at Proxima Centauri, the nearest star (other than the sun). There, that was easy, wasn't it? And simply go 800 quadrillion picoparsecs (or 800 kiloparsecs), and voila, you're at the Andromeda Galaxy.

  • Oh, and once you hit the Sandy River, you're on the Columbia Gorge Highway, which has its own system of milestones stretching from Troutdale all the way to the Dalles. Which would be a substantial project, if I (or somebody else) decided to take it on. It sounds kind of tedious, but it would be a good excuse to spend a lot of time wandering around the Gorge. So I'm not going to completely and permanently rule it out. Not today, though, and probably not tomorrow either.

Stark Street Milestone P7 Stark Street Milestone P7 Stark Street Milestone P7 Stark Street Milestone P7 Stark Street Milestone P7 Stark Street Milestone P7

1 comment :

nuovorecord said...

I've been following your posts on the posts with interest, and went out to find the P2 post the other night. Thanks for digging up all of this information.

I've been thinking about the posts on the Gorge highway too, since reading this. Wouldn't they be a continuation of the sequence begun on Stark St, and not a separate numbering scheme?