Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Patton Square

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Photos of Portland's little Patton Square, a city park at N. Interstate & Emerson, along with the adjacent Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, a performing arts venue in a former fire station. recently renovated with urban renewal money connected to the MAX Yellow Line. Until fairly recently it went by "Patton Park", which doesn't sound anywhere near as fancy. The first reference I've seen to the name "Patton Square" is in a news story from 2001. And if we want to be pedantic, which of course we do, the name "Patton Square" is incorrect because the park is not, in fact, a square.

The city says the park dates to 1960, but the first mention I've found of it in the Oregonian database is from 1957, and it doesn't read as if the park was new at that time. On the other hand a 1956 article on water system expansion (i.e. how the big water tower got here) just mentions the address, with no mention of there being a park here, although I'm not sure that proves anything. Most news stories that mentioned the park in the 1950s and 1960s were in connection with the fire station and water tanks, and not much of anything about the park itself. A 1960 article appears to refer to a "Patton Park Water District", possibly separate from the regular city water system. That doesn't make a lot of sense, so possibly I'm misreading the article. In any event, it made me wonder whether the park itself might have been connected to this water district prior to the city's 1960 date, sort of a midcentury equivalent to the Water Bureau's contemporary HydroParks.

The counterculture arrived here in 1969, with a series of groovy art happenings. The guy behind it wanted to express his "concern for heightened awareness of spatial experience". Apparently this involved a "system of paintings and structural devices", and the effort required the participation of choreographers, dancers, engineers, industrial fabricators, urban planners and architects. I still have no idea what this might have been; it might have been a cult, or a forerunner of Cirque du Soleil, or maybe a little of both.

Note that this park is not to be confused with an entirely different Patton Square in Fontainebleau, a Parisian suburb.

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