Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hillside Park

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Here's a slideshow from Portland's Hillside Park, in the Hillside neighborhood just uphill from NW 23rd and the Nob Hill area. I was in the area looking for the kinda-sorta bridge structure at NW Melinda & Maywood, and it occurred to me that I'd never been to this park before, so I figured I'd take a look at it on the way.

In addition to the usual ball fields and play equipment, the park is home to the Hillside Community Center, a Pietro Belluschi building that once housed the original Catlin Gabel School gymnasium. The school moved to its current campus around 1968, and after a short-lived stint as an artists' cooperative the old school went back on the market. There was lobbying and fundraising and rich people nervously taking out second mortgages in order to help buy it, and eventually the finances worked out and the place was saved for posterity. Although the city actually demolished much of the school to make room for sports fields, only saving the gymnasium. And, famous architect or no, the remaining building just sort of looks like an old school gymnasium standing by itself.

The city's info page for the park has a long history section explaining its formative years in a lot more detail. I thought about quoting a big chunk of that instead of summarizing it, but honestly the origin story isn't that compelling, unless maybe you live nearby and want to know where your local park came from. I've covered several places with better origin stories, if you're interested in that sort of thing. Council Crest and Lotus Isle are former amusement parks. Duniway Park sits atop an early 20th century garbage dump, which filled a ravine that previously held a poor Italian immigrant neighborhood. Irving Park was once home to a racetrack where Barney Oldfield set a world land speed record. Waterfront Park was created by tearing out a freeway, and Piccolo Park is land left over from the canceled Mt. Hood Freeway. Kelly Butte was home to a jail and later the city's atomic doom bunker. Frank L. Knight Park was apparently donated by its namesake to protect the view of Mt. St. Helens from his house. And of course tiny Mill Ends Park originated as a running joke by a 1960s Oregon Journal columnist, which later took on a life of its own and became one of Portland's sillier tourist attractions.

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