Sunday, February 09, 2014

Pendleton Park

Pendleton Park
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I tracked down SW Portland's Pendleton Park recently because of its giant rabbit statue (which I've already covered here), but I figured I ought to snap a couple of quick photos of the park itself and make the excursion a two-fer. Other than the monster bunny, it's your typical neighborhood park, with ball fields and a playground, with an elementary school right next door. Try as I might, I haven't come up with a single interesting note to share about the place. At least according to the Oregonian database, nothing newsworthy has ever happened here. Nearly all of its mentions of the place are real estate ads claiming the offered property is a short walk from the park, in an eminently respectable and desirable neighborhood, etcetera, etcetera.

One detail that stood out during my very brief visit was the line of trees along SW Iowa St. on the park's south side, which reminded me of the Vermont St. Park Blocks a few blocks further south; at the time I thought there might be a connection, maybe an early 20th century developer who couldn't get enough of orderly tree-lined boulevards. After looking at photos of the two next to each other, it turns out they don't actually look that similar. Hey, it was a theory. In lieu of interesting info to share, I have to come up with theories of my own about the place, and this isn't the last one.

Pendleton Park

The park's named for George Hunt Pendleton, a US Congressman from Ohio who's best known as George McClellan's running mate in the 1864 Presidential election, in which Abraham Lincoln was ultimately reelected. Pendleton ran as an antiwar candidate, which I gather meant wanting a negotiated end to the Civil War rather than a fight to the finish. Lincoln won Oregon's electoral votes by a relatively narrow 53% to 46% margin. A mere 1,431 vote margin, in fact, since at the time Oregon was a sparsely populated state and only 18,345 Oregonians voted in that election.

It isn't clear why Pendleton has both a city in Eastern Oregon, and a city park in Portland, named after him. I would have guessed the park was named after the town, since it wasn't formed until 1955, long after Pendleton the man had faded into historical obscurity. Gen. McClellan, at the top of the ticket, only merited a residential street in North Portland's Kenton neighborhood. (The street borders the Kenton Rose Garden, and at one point dead-ends into Fenwick Pocket Park.)

Regarding the name of the park, the historical record is sketchy, or at least the Oregonian database is, which is the most easily accessible historical record I know of. The city bought a 3.5 acre parcel at 55th & Iowa in 1955 as a future park, and bought an adjacent 2.5 acres in 1957, without mentioning any name for the place either time. The name does appear in 1959, when the city was in the middle of installing irrigation systems and contracting for port-a-potties for Little League ball fields. The actual naming of the park seems to have gone unrecorded by the local newspaper. Or at least the NewsBank OCR-based index can't seem to find it.

So in lieu of proof either way, I'm going to go with my theory that the park is named after the town, and not directly after the congressman. Not only was he an obscure footnote by the 50s, but the 50s were the heyday of movie and TV Westerns, and baby boomer kids apparently loved nothing more than playing cowboys & indians. Pendleton, Oregon is a famous, iconic Old West sort of place, and naming the neighborhood playground after it would've been popular with the kiddies, circa 1958 or so. So that's my theory. I'd always rather have evidence, but in the absence of evidence I go with the theory that seems least implausible, or the one I like the most if they all seem implausible.

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