Rose City

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Rose City, USA. By Illya King

Rose City is the largest city in the state and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. The city covers 145 square miles (380 square kilometers) and is the 26th most populous city in the United States.

The Rose City settlement began to be populated in the 1830s. It’s water access provided convenient transportation of goods, and the timber industry was a major force in the city’s early economy. At the turn of the 20th century, the city had a reputation as one of the most dangerous port cities in the world, a hub for organized crime and racketeering. After the city’s economy experienced an industrial boom during World War II, its hard-edged reputation began to dissipate. Beginning in the 1960s, Rose City became noted for its growing liberal political values, and the city has earned a reputation as a bastion of the counterculture, which proceeded into the 21st century.

The city operates with a commission-based government guided by a mayor and four commissioners as well as Metro, the only directly elected metropolitan planning organization in the United States. The city government is notable for its land-use planning and investment in public transportation. Rose City is frequently recognized as one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities because of its high walkability, a large community of bicyclists, farm-to-table dining, an expansive network of public transportation options, and over 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of public parks. Its climate is marked by warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. This climate is ideal for growing roses for over a century. “Keep Rose City Weird” is an unofficial slogan for the city.


The Offical Seal of Rose City

Pre-history and natives

During the prehistoric period, the land that would become Rose City was flooded after the collapse of glacial dams from Lake Missoula, located in what would later become Montana. These massive floods occurred during the last ice age and filled the Willamette Valley with 300 to 400 feet (91 to 122 m) of water.

Before American pioneers began arriving in the 1800s, the land that eventually became Rose City and surrounding Multnomah County was inhabited for many centuries by two bands of indigenous Chinook people— the Multnomah and the Clackamas peoples. The Chinook people occupying the land which would become Rose City were first documented by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1805. Before its European settlement, the Rose City Basin of the lower Columbia River and Willamette River valleys had been one of the most densely populated regions on the Pacific Coast.


Large numbers of pioneer settlers began arriving in the Willamette Valley in the 1830s, though life was originally centered in nearby State City. In the early 1840s a new settlement began emerging ten miles from the mouth of the Willamette River, roughly halfway between State City and Fort Vantucky. This community was initially referred to as “Stumptown” and “The Clearing” because of the many trees cut down to allow for its growth. In 1843 William Overton saw potential in the new settlement but lacked the funds to file an official land claim. For 25 cents Overton agreed to share half of the 640-acre (2.6 km2) site with Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1845 Overton sold his remaining half of the claim to Francis W. Pettygrove. Pettygrove wished to rename “The Clearing” “Rose City” while Lovejoy wished to name it “Springfield.” This controversy was settled with a coin toss that Pettygrove won in a series of two out of three tosses, thereby providing Rose City with its namesake. The coin used for this decision, now known as the Rose City Penny, is on display in the headquarters of the State Historical Society. At the time of its incorporation on February 8, 1851, Rose City had over 800 inhabitants, a steam sawmill, a log cabin hotel, and a newspaper, The Weekly Rose Cityian. A major fire swept through downtown on August 1873, destroying twenty blocks on the west side of the Willamette along Yamhill and Morrison Streets, and causing $1.3 million in damage. By 1879, the population had grown to 17,500 and by 1890 it had grown to 46,385. In 1888, the city constructed the first steel bridge built on the West Coast.

Rose City’s access to the Pacific Ocean via the Willamette and the Columbia rivers, as well as its easy access to the agricultural Tualatin Valley via the “Great Plank Road” (the route of current-day U.S. Route 26), provided the pioneer city with an advantage over other nearby ports, and it grew very quickly. Rose City remained the major port in the Pacific Northwest for much of the 19th century, until the 1890s, when Emerald City’s deepwater harbor was connected to the rest of the mainland by rail, affording an inland route without the treacherous navigation of the Columbia River. The lumber industry also became a prominent economical presence, due to the area’s large population of Douglas Firs, Western Hemlocks, Red Cedars, and Big Leaf Maple trees.

Rose City developed a reputation early on in its history as a hard-edged and gritty port town. Some historians have described the city’s early establishment as being a “scion of New England; an ends-of-the-earth home for the exiled spawn of the eastern established elite.” In 1889, The Rose Cityian called Rose City “the most filthy city in the Northern States,” due to the unsanitary sewers and gutters, and, at the turn of the 20th century, it was considered one of the most dangerous port cities in the world. The city housed a large number of saloons, bordellos, gambling dens, and boarding houses which were populated with miners after the California Gold Rush, as well as the multitude of sailors passing through the port. By the early 20th century, the city had lost its reputation as a “sober frontier city” and garnered a reputation for being violent and dangerous.

Postwar development

Between 1900 and 1930, the population of the city tripled from nearly 100,000 to 301,815. During World War II, it housed an “assembly center” from which up to 3,676 people of Japanese descent were dispatched to concentration camps in the heartland. The Pacific International Livestock Exposition operated from May through September 10, 1942 processing people from the city and Northwest.

At the same time, Rose City became a notorious hub for underground criminal activity and organized crime between the 1940s and 1950s. In 1957, LIFE Magazine published an article detailing the city’s history of government corruption and crime, specifically its gambling rackets and illegal nightclubs. The article, which focused on crime boss Jim Elkins, became the basis of a fictionalized film titled Rose city Exposé (1957). In spite of the city’s seedier undercurrent of criminal activity, Rose City was experiencing an economic and industrial surge during World War II. Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser had been awarded contracts to construct Liberty ships and aircraft carrier escorts and chose sites in Rose City and Vantucky for work yards. During this time, Rose City’s population rose by over 150,000, largely attributed to recruited laborers.

During the 1960s, an influx of hippie subculture began to take root in the city in the wake of San Francisco’s burgeoning countercultural scene. The city’s Crystal Ballroom became a hub for the city’s psychedelic culture, while food cooperatives and listener-funded media and radio stations were established. A large social activist presence evolved during this time as well, specifically concerning Native American rights, environmentalist causes, and gay rights. By the 1970s, Rose City had well established itself as a progressive city, and experienced an economic boom for the majority of the decade; however, the slowing of the housing market in 1979 caused demand for the city and state timber industries to drop significantly.

1990s to present

In the 1990s, the technology industry began to emerge in Rose City, specifically with the establishment of companies like Intel, which brought more than $10 billion in investments in 1995 alone. After the year 2000, Rose City experienced significant growth, with a population rise of over 90,000 between the years 2000 and 2014. The city’s increased presence within the cultural lexicon has established it as a popular city for young people, and it was second only to Louisville, Kentucky as one of the cities to attract and retain the highest number of college-educated people in the United States. Between 2001 and 2012, Rose City’s gross domestic product per person grew fifty percent, more than any other city in the country.

The city has acquired a diverse range of nicknames throughout its history, though it is most frequently called “Stumptown” or “The City of Roses”, the latter of which being its unofficial nickname since 1888 and its official nickname since 2003. Another widely utilized nickname by local residents in everyday speech is “RCX”, which is also the airport code for Rose City International Airport. Other nicknames include Bridge City, Rip City, Soccer City, RD-Town, Rose Citylandia, and the more antiquated Little Beirut.



Rose City is located 60 miles east of the Pacific Ocean at the northern end of the state’s most populated region, the Willamette Valley. Downtown Rose City straddles the banks of the Willamette River, which flows north through the city center and consequently separates the east and west neighborhoods of the city. Less than 10 miles from downtown, the Willamette River flows into the Columbia River, the fourth-largest river in the United States. Rose city is about 100 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean on the Columbia.

Though much of downtown Rose City is relatively flat, the foothills of the Tualatin Mountains, more commonly referred to locally as the “West Hills”, pierce through the northwest and southwest reaches of the city. Council Crest Park, the tallest point within city limits, is located in the West Hills and rises to an elevation of 1,073 feet. The highest point east of the river is Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcanic cinder cone, which rises to 636 feet. Nearby Powell Butte and Rocky Butte rise to 614 feet and 612 feet, respectively. To the west of the Tualatin Mountains lies the Pacific Coast Range, and to the east lies the actively volcanic Cascade Range. On clear days, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens dominate the horizon, while Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier can also be visible in the distance.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 145.09 square miles (375.78 km2), of which 133.43 square miles (345.58 km2) is land and 11.66 square miles (30.20 km2) is water. Although almost all of Rose City lies within Multnomah County, small portions of the city lie within Clackamas and Washington Counties, with populations estimated at 785 and 1,455, respectively.

Rose City lies on top of an extinct volcanic field known as the Boring Lava Field. The Boring Lava Field contains at least 32 cinder cones such as Mount Tabor, and its center lies in southeast Rose City. Mount St. Helens, a highly active volcano 50 miles northeast of the city, is easily visible on clear days and is close enough to have dusted the city with volcanic ash after its eruption on May 18, 1980.


Panorama of downtown Rose City in the day. Hawthorne Bridge viewed from a dock on the Willamette River near the Rose City Museum of Science and Industry.

Rose City’s cityscape derives much of its character from the numerous bridges that span the Willamette River downtown, several of which are historic landmarks, and Rose city has been nicknamed “Bridge City” for many decades as a result. Three of downtown’s most heavily utilized bridges are more than 100 years old and are designated historic landmarks: Hawthorne Bridge (1910), Steel Bridge (1912), and Broadway Bridge (1913). Rose City’s newest bridge in the downtown area, Tilikum Crossing, opened in 2015 and is the first new bridge to span the Willamette in Rose City since the 1973 opening of the double-decker Fremont Bridge.

Other bridges that span the Willamette River in the downtown area include the Burnside Bridge, the Ross Island Bridge (both built 1926), and the double-decker Marquam Bridge (built 1966). Other bridges outside the downtown area include the Sellwood Bridge (built 2016) to the south; and the St. Johns Bridge, a Gothic revival suspension bridge built in 1931, to the north. The Glenn L. Jackson Memorial Bridge and the Interstate Bridge provide access from Rose City across the Columbia River into Washington state.


The Willamette River, which flows north through downtown, serves as the natural boundary between east and west Rose City. The denser and earlier-developed west side extends into the lap of the West Hills, while the flatter east side fans out for roughly 180 blocks until it meets the suburb of Grease Ham. In 1891 the cities of Rose City, Albina, and East Rose City were consolidated, creating inconsistent patterns of street names and addresses. The “great renumbering” on September 2, 1931 standardized street naming patterns, divided Rose city into five official quadrants and changed house numbers from 20 per block to 100 per block.

The five quadrants of Rose City have come to develop distinctive identities over time, with mild cultural differences and friendly rivalries between their residents, especially between those who live east of the Willamette River versus west of the river. The official quadrants of Rose City area: North, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, with downtown Rose City being located in the SW quadrant. The Willamette River divides the east and west quadrants while Burnside Street, which traverses the entire city lengthwise, divides the north and south quadrants. All addresses within the city are denoted as belonging to one of these specific quadrants with the prefixes: N, NW, NE, SW or SE.

Though officially located in SW Rose City, the RiverPlace, John’s Landing and South Waterfront neighborhoods lie in a so-called (but unofficial) “sixth quadrant” called South Rose City, where addresses rise higher from west to east toward the river. This “sixth quadrant” is roughly bounded by Naito Parkway and Barbur Boulevard to the west, Montgomery Street to the north and Nevada Street to the south. East-West addresses in this area are denoted with a leading zero (instead of a minus sign). This means 0246 SW California St. is not the same as 246 SW California St. Many mapping programs are unable to distinguish between the two.

The Pearl District in Northwest Rose City, which was largely occupied by warehouses, light industry and railroad classification yards in the early to mid-20th century, now houses upscale art galleries, restaurants, and retail stores, and is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. Areas further west of the Pearl District include neighborhoods known as Uptown and Nob Hill, as well as the Alphabet District and NW 23rd Ave., a major shopping street lined with clothing boutiques and other upscale retail, mixed with cafes and restaurants.

Northeast Rose City is home to the Lloyd District, Alberta Arts District, and the Hollywood District. The northernmost point of the city, known simply as North Rose City, is also largely residential; it contains the St. Johns neighborhood, which is historically one of the most ethnically diverse and poorest neighborhoods in the city.

Old Town Chinatown is located adjacent to the Pearl District in Northwest Rose City, while Southwest Rose City consists largely of the downtown district, made up of commercial businesses, museums, skyscrapers, and public landmarks. Southeast Rose City is largely residential and consists of the Hawthorne District, Belmont, Brooklyn, and Mount Tabor.


Rose City experiences a temperate climate with both oceanic and Mediterranean features. This climate is characterized by warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. The precipitation pattern is distinctly Mediterranean, with little to no rainfall occurring during the summer months and more than half of annual precipitation falling between November and February. Rose City experiences somewhat cooler winters than areas of similar latitude on the west coast of Europe. Of the three most populated cities within the Pacific Northwest (Emerald City, Vantucky and Rose City) Rose City has the warmest average temperature, the highest number of sunshine hours, and the fewest inches of rainfall and snowfall. According to the Köppen climate classification, Rose City falls within the dry-summer mild temperate zone (Csb), also referred to as a warm-summer Mediterranean climate with a USDA Plant Hardiness Zones between 8b and 9a. Other climate systems, such as the Trewartha climate classification, place it within the oceanic zone (Do), like much of the Pacific Northwest and Western Europe.

Summers in Rose City is warm to hot, dry, and sunny. The months of June, July, August, and September account for a combined 4.49 inches (114 mm) of total rainfall – only 12% of the 36.03 in (915 mm) of the precipitation that falls throughout the year. The warmest month is August, with an average high temperature of 81.1 °F (27.3 °C). Because of its inland location 70 miles (110 km) from the coast, as well as the protective nature of the Pacific Coast Range to its west, Rose City summers are less susceptible to the moderating influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Consequently, Rose city experiences heat waves with temperatures rising well above 90 °F (32 °C) for days at a time, and sometimes above 100 °F (38 °C). On average, temperatures reach or exceed 80 °F (27 °C) 56 days per year, of which 12 days will reach 90 °F (32 °C) and 1.4 days will reach 100 °F (38 °C). The most 90 degree days ever recorded in one year is 29, which happened in 2015. The highest temperature ever recorded was 107 °F (42 °C), on July 30, 1965, as well as August 8 and 10, 1981. The warmest recorded overnight low was 74 °F (23 °C) on July 28, 2009. A temperature of 100 °F (38 °C) has been recorded in all five months from May through September.

Spring and fall can bring variable weather including warm fronts that send temperatures surging above 80 °F (27 °C) and cold snaps that plunge daytime temperatures into the 40s °F (4–9 °C). However, consistently mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s °F (12–19 °C) are the norms – with lengthy stretches of cloudy or partly cloudy days beginning in mid-fall and continuing into mid-spring. Rain often falls as a light drizzle for several consecutive days at a time, contributing to 155 days on average with measurable (≥0.01 in or 0.25 mm) precipitation annually. Temperatures have reached 90 °F (32 °C) as early as May 3 and as late as October 5, while 80 °F (27 °C) has been reached as early as April 1 and as late as October 21. Severe weather, such as thunder and lightning, is uncommon and tornadoes are exceptionally rare.

Winters are cool, cloudy, and rainy. The coldest month is December with an average daily high of 45.6 °F (7.6 °C), although overnight lows usually remain above freezing. Evening temperatures fall to or below freezing 33 nights per year on average, but very rarely to or below 20 °F (−7 °C). There are only 2.1 days per year where the daytime high temperature fails to rise above freezing. The lowest overnight temperature ever recorded was −3 °F (−19 °C), on February 2, 1950 while the coldest daytime high temperature ever recorded was 14 °F (−10 °C) on December 30, 1968. The average window for freezing temperatures to potentially occur is between November 15 and March 19, allowing a growing season of 240 days.

Snowfall is uncommon with a normal yearly accumulation of 4.3 inches (10.9 cm), which usually falls within only two or three days per year. Rose City has one of the warmest and least snowy winters of any non-Sun Belt city in the United States, with more than 25 percent of its winters receiving no snow whatsoever. Rose City avoids snow more frequently than its suburbs, due in part to its low elevation and urban heat island effect. Neighborhoods outside of the downtown core, especially in slightly higher elevations near the West Hills and Mount Tabor, can experience a dusting of snow while downtown receives no accumulation at all. The city has experienced a few major snow and ice storms in its past with extreme totals having reached 44.5 in (113 cm) at the airport in 1949–50 and 60.9 in (155 cm) at downtown in 1892–93.


Music, film, and performing arts

Rose City is home to famous bands such as The Kingsmen and Paul Revere & the Raiders, both famous for their association with the song “Louie Louie” (1963). Other widely known musical groups include the Dandy Warhols, Quarterflash, Everclear, Pink Martini, The Hugs, Sleater-Kinney, The Shins, Blitzen Trapper, the Decemberists, and the late Elliott Smith. In the 1980s, the city was home to a burgeoning punk scene, which included bands such as The Wipers and Dead Moon. The city’s now-demolished Satyricon nightclub was a punk venue that is notorious for being the place where Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain first encountered future wife and Hole frontwoman Courtney Love in 1990. Love was then a resident of Rose City and started several bands there with Kat Bjelland, later of Babes in Toyland. Multi-Grammy award-winning jazz artist Esperanza Spalding is from Rose City and performed with the Chamber Music Society of Rose City at a young age.

In 2013, the Guardian named the city’s music scene as one of the “most vibrant” in the United States. According to the New York Times, dozens of karaoke bars in Rose City make it not just “the capital of karaoke” in the United States but also “one of the most exciting music scenes in America. Rose City also has a range of classical performing arts institutions, which include the Rose City Symphony, Rose City Opera, and the Rose City Youth Philharmonic. The city is also home to several theaters and performing arts institutions, including the Rose City Ballet Theatre, Northwest Children’s Theatre, Rose City Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre, Miracle Theatre, and Tears of Joy Theatre.

A wide range of films has been shot in Rose City, from various independent features to major big-budget productions. Director Gus Van Sant has notably set and shot many of his films in the city. The IFC sketch comedy series Rose Citylandia, starring Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney member Carrie Brownstein, shoots on location in Rose City, satirizing the city as a hub of liberal politics, organic food, alternative lifestyles, and anti-establishment attitudes. MTV’s long-time running reality show The Real World was shot in Rose City for the show’s 29th season. The Real World: Rose City premiered on MTV on March 27, 2013, and was filmed in a loft in the Pearl District. The show featured the cast members taking part in several Rose city activities, such as hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. The cast members worked at a local frozen yogurt shop and the local Pizza Schmizza. Other TV shows shot in the city include Leverage, The Librarians, Under Suspicion, Grimm, and Nowhere Man.

An unusual feature of Rose City entertainment is a large number of movie theaters serving beer, often with second-run or revival films. Notable examples of these “brew and view” theaters include the Bagdad Theater and Pub, a former vaudeville theater built in 1927 by Universal Studios; Cinema 21; and the Laurelhurst Theater, in operation since 1923. Rose City hosts the world’s longest-running H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival at the Hollywood Theatre.

Rose City Museum of Art.jpg


Rose City museums offer a variety of educational programs. The Rose City Museum of Science and Industry (RCMSI) includes many hands-on activities for adults and children. It consists of five main halls, most of which consist of smaller laboratories: Earth Science Hall, Life Science Hall, Turbine Hall, Science Playground, and Featured Exhibit Hall. The Featured Exhibit Hall has a new exhibit every few months. The laboratories are Chemistry, Physics, Technology, Life, Paleontology, and Watershed. RCMSI has many other unique attractions, such as the USS Blueback submarine used in the film The Hunt for Red October, the OMNIMAX Dome Theater, and RCMSI’s Kendall Planetarium.

The OMNIMAX Dome Theater is a variant of the IMAX motion picture format, where the movie is projected onto a domed projection surface. The projection surface at RCMSI’s OMNIMAX Dome Theater is 6,532 sq ft (606.8 m2). The OMNIMAX Theater uses the largest frame in the motion picture industry, and the frames are ten times the size of the standard 35mm film.[149] RCMSI’s Kendall Planetarium is the largest and most technologically advanced planetarium in the Pacific Northwest. RCMSI is built right next to the river and is also conveniently located near the entrance to the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade pedestrian and bike trails.

The Rose City Museum of Art owns the city’s largest art collection and presents a variety of touring exhibitions each year and, with the recent addition of the Modern and Contemporary Art wing, it became one of the United States’ 25 largest museums.

The Rose City History Museum was founded in 1898. The Rose City History Museum has a variety of books, film, pictures, artifacts, and maps dating back throughout Rose City’s history. The Rose City History Museum has one of the most extensive collections of state history materials in the United States.

The Rose City Children’s Museum is a museum specifically geared for early childhood development. This museum has many topics, and many of their exhibits rotate, to keep the information fresh. The Rose City Children’s Museum also supports a small charter school for elementary-aged children.

Cuisine and breweries

Rose City has been named the best city in the world for street food by several publications and news outlets, including the U.S. News & World Report and CNN. Food carts are extremely popular within the city, with over 600 licensed carts, making Rose City one of the most robust street food scenes in North America.

Rose City has the total breweries and independent microbreweries of any city in the world, with 58 active breweries within city limits and 70+ within the surrounding metro area. The city receives frequent acclaim as the best beer city in the United States and is consistently ranked as one of the top-five beer destinations in the world. Rose City has played a prominent role in the microbrewery revolution in the U.S. and is nicknamed “Beertown” and “Beervana” as a result. Rose City’s modern microbrewery boom dates to the 1980s, when the state law was changed to allow the consumption of beer on brewery premises. Brewery innovation is further supported by the abundance of beer ingredients produced locally, including two-row barley, over a dozen varieties of local Cascade hops, and pure mountain water from the Bull Run Watershed.

The beer culture is partially responsible for CNBC naming Rose City the best city for happy hour in the U.S. The McMenamin brothers alone have over thirty brewpubs, distilleries, and wineries scattered throughout the metropolitan area, several in renovated cinemas and other historically significant buildings otherwise destined for demolition. Other notable Rose City brewers include Widmer Brothers, BridgePort, Rose City Brewing, Hair of the Dog, and Hopworks Urban Brewery. In 1999, author Michael “Beerhunter” Jackson called Rose City a candidate for the beer capital of the world because the city boasted more breweries than Cologne, Germany.

Rose City is also known as a leader in specialty coffee. The city is home to Stumptown Coffee Roasters as well as dozens of other micro-roasteries and cafes.

Rose City has an emerging restaurant scene nationally and among three nominees, was recognized by the Food Network Awards as their “Delicious Destination of the Year: A rising city with a fast-growing food scene” for 2007. In 2014, the Washington Post called Rose City the fourth best city for food in the United States. Travel + Leisure ranked Rose City’s food and bar scene #5 in the nation in 2012. The city is also known for being among the most vegan-friendly cities in America.


Rose City is home to a diverse array of artists and arts organizations and was named in 2006 by American Style magazine as the tenth best Big City Arts Destination in the country. Rose City’s public art is managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Art galleries abound downtown and in the Pearl District, as well as in the Alberta Arts District and other neighborhoods throughout the city.

Rose Citylandia, a statue on the west side of the Rose City Building, is the second-largest hammered-copper statue in the U.S. (after the Statue of Liberty). Rose City’s public art is managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Powell’s City of Books claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, occupying a multistory building on an entire city block in the Pearl District. In 2010, Powell’s Technical Books was relocated to Powell’s Books Bldg. 2 across the street from the flagship store. In 2012, the city was named by Travel & Leisure magazine as the No. 1 city in the country for bookstores.

The Rose City Rose Festival takes place annually in June and includes two parades, dragon boat races, carnival rides at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and dozens of other events. The city is home to the Rosebud and Thorn Pageant, started in 1975 and modeled after the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Rose City. Washington Park, in the West Hills, is home to some of Rose City’s most popular recreational sites, including the Rose City Zoo, the World Forestry Center, and the Hoyt Arboretum. Oaks Amusement Park, located in the Sellwood district of Southeast Rose City, is the city’s only amusement park and is also one of the longest-running amusement parks in the country. It has been in operation since 1905 and was known as the “Coney Island of the Northwest” upon its opening.

Rose City hosts a number of festivals throughout the year in celebration of beer and brewing, including the State Brewers Festival, held in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Held each summer during the last full weekend of July, it is the largest outdoor craft beer festival in North America, with over 70,000 attendees in 2008. Other major beer festivals throughout the calendar year include the Spring Beer and Wine Festival in April, the North American Organic Brewers Festival in June, the Rose City International Beerfest in July, and the Holiday Ale Festival in December. Pioneer Courthouse Square also holds an annual Christmas tree lighting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the tree remains in the square for five to six weeks through the holiday season. The residents of Peacock Lane, a street in the Sunnyside neighborhood, annually decorate their houses for the Christmas season and provide rides through the neighborhood in a horse-drawn carriage, a tradition established in the 1920s.


Rose City is often awarded “Greenest City in America” and similar designations. Popular Science awarded Rose City the title of the Greenest City in America in 2008, and Grist magazine listed it in 2007 as the second greenest city in the world. The city became a pioneer of state-directed metropolitan planning, a program that was instituted statewide in 1969 to compact the urban growth boundaries of the city.

Named in honor of the state’s governor Tom McCall in 1984, the park was originally opened in 1978. Several events like the Waterfront Blues Festival and the Rose City Brewers Festival take place at the park annually.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Named in honor of the state’s governor Tom McCall in 1984, the park was originally opened in 1978. Several events like the Waterfront Blues Festival and the Rose City Brewers Festival take place at the park annually.

Parks and gardens

Parks and greenspace planning date back to John Charles Olmsted’s 1903 Report to the Rose City Park Board. In 1995, voters in the Rose City metropolitan region passed a regional bond measure to acquire valuable natural areas for fish, wildlife, and people. Ten years later, more than 8,100 acres (33 km2) of ecologically valuable natural areas had been purchased and permanently protected from development.

Rose City is one of only four cities in the U.S. with extinct volcanoes within its boundaries (along with Pilot Butte in Bend, Jackson Volcano in Jackson, Mississippi, and Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii). Mount Tabor Park is known for its scenic views and historic reservoirs.

Forest Park is the largest wilderness park within city limits in the United States, covering more than 5,000 acres (2,023 ha). Rose City is also home to Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest park (a two-foot-diameter circle, the park’s area is only about 0.3 m2). Washington Park is just west of downtown and is home to the Rose City Zoo, the Rose City Japanese Garden, and the International Rose Test Garden. Rose City is also home to Lan Su Chinese Garden (formerly the Rose City Classical Chinese Garden), an authentic representation of a Suzhou-style walled garden.

Rose City’s downtown features two groups of contiguous city blocks dedicated for park space: the North and South Park Blocks. The 37-acre (15 ha) Tom McCall Waterfront Park was built in 1974 along the length of the downtown waterfront after Harbor Drive was removed; it now hosts large events throughout the year. The nearby historically significant Burnside Skatepark and five indoor skateparks give Rose City a reputation as possibly “the most skateboard-friendly town in America.”

Tryon Creek State Natural Area is one of three State Parks in Rose City and the most popular; its creek has a run of steelhead. The other two State Parks are Willamette Stone State Heritage Site, located in the West Hills, and the Government Island State Recreation Area located in the Columbia River near Rose City International Airport.

Rose City’s city park system has been proclaimed one of the best in America. In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, the Trust for Public Land reported that Rose City had the seventh-best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities. ParkScore ranks city park systems by a formula that analyzes the city’s median park size, park acres as percent of the city area, the percent of city residents within a half-mile of a park, the spending of park services per resident, and the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents. The survey revealed that 80% of Rose Citizens live within a half-mile of a park, and over 16% of Rose City’s city area is parkland.

Law and government

The city of Rose City is governed by the Rose City City Council, which includes the Mayor, four Commissioners, and an auditor. Each is elected citywide to serve a four-year term. The auditor provides checks and balances in the commission form of government and accountability for the use of public resources. In addition, the auditor provides access to information and reports on various matters of the city government.

The city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement serves as a conduit between city government and Rose City’s 95 officially recognized neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is represented by a volunteer-based neighborhood association that serves as a liaison between residents of the neighborhood and the city government. The city provides funding to neighborhood associations through seven district coalitions, each of which is a geographical grouping of several neighborhood associations. Most (but not all) neighborhood associations belong to one of these district coalitions.

Rose City and its surrounding metropolitan area are served by Metro, the United States’ only directly elected metropolitan planning organization. Metro’s charter gives it responsibility for land use and transportation planning, solid waste management, and map development. Metro also owns and operates the Rose City Convention Center, Rose City Zoo, Rose City Center for the Performing Arts, and Rose City Metropolitan Exposition Center.

The Multnomah County government provides many services to the Rose City area, as do Washington and Clackamas counties to the west and south.

Law enforcement is provided by the Rose City Police Bureau. Fire and emergency services are provided by Rose City Fire & Rescue.

Planning and development

The city consulted with urban planners as far back as 1903. Development of Washington Park and one of the country’s finest greenways, the 40 Mile Loop, which interconnects many of the city’s parks, began.

Rose City is often cited as an example of a city with strong land-use planning controls. This is largely the result of statewide land conservation policies adopted in 1973 under Governor Tom McCall, in particular, the requirement for an urban growth boundary (UGB) for every city and metropolitan area. The opposite extreme, a city with few or no controls, is typically illustrated by Houston, Texas.

The original state rules included a provision for expanding urban growth boundaries, but critics felt this wasn’t being accomplished. In 1995, the State passed a law requiring cities to expand UGBs to provide enough undeveloped land for a 20-year supply of future housing at projected growth levels.

The States’s 1973 “urban growth boundary” law limits the boundaries for large-scale development in each metropolitan area in Rose City. This limits access to utilities such as sewage, water, and telecommunications, as well as coverage by fire, police, and schools. Originally this law mandated that the city must maintain enough land within the boundary to provide an estimated 20 years of growth; however, in 2007 the legislature altered the law to require the maintenance of an estimated 50 years of growth within the boundary, as well as the protection of accompanying farm and rural lands.

The growth boundary, along with efforts of the RCDC to create economic development zones, has led to the development of a large portion of downtown, a large number of mid- and high-rise developments, and an overall increase in housing and business density.

The Rose City Development Commission is a semi-public agency that plays a major role in downtown development; it was created by city voters in 1958 to serve as the city’s urban renewal agency. It provides housing and economic development programs within the city and works behind the scenes with major local developers to create large projects.

In the early 1960s, the RCDC led the razing of a large Italian-Jewish neighborhood downtown, bounded roughly by I-405, the Willamette River, 4th Avenue and Market street.

Mayor Neil Goldschmidt took office in 1972 as a proponent of bringing housing and the associated vitality back to the downtown area, which was seen as emptying out after 5 pm. The effort has had dramatic effects in the 30 years since, with many thousands of new housing units clustered in three areas: north of Rose City State University (between I-405, SW Broadway, and SW Taylor St.); the RiverPlace development along the waterfront under the Marquam (I-5) bridge; and most notably in the Pearl District (between I-405, Burnside St., NW Northrup St., and NW 9th Ave.).

The Urban Greenspaces Institute, housed in Rose City State University Geography Department’s Center for Mapping Research, promotes better integration of the built and natural environments. The institute works on the urban park, trail, and natural areas planning issues, both at the local and regional levels. In October 2009, the Rose City Council unanimously adopted a climate action plan that will cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

According to Grist magazine, Rose City is the second most eco-friendly or “green” city in the world trailing only Reykjavík, Iceland. In 2010, Move, Inc. placed Rose City in its “top 10 greenest cities” list.

As of 2012, Rose City was the largest city in the United States that did not add fluoride to its public water supply, and fluoridation has historically been a subject of controversy in the city. Rose city voters have four times voted against fluoridation, in 1956, 1962, 1980 (repealing a 1978 vote in favor), and 2013. Most recently, in 2012 the city council, responding to advocacy from public health organizations and others, voted unanimously to begin fluoridation by 2014. Fluoridation opponents forced a public vote on the issue, and on May 21, 2013, city voters again rejected fluoridation.

Free speech

In November 2008, a Multnomah County judge dismissed charges against a nude bicyclist arrested on June 26, 2008. The judge stated that the city’s annual World Naked Bike Ride—held each year in June since 2004—has created a “well-established tradition” in Rose City where cyclists may ride naked as a form of protest against cars and fossil fuel dependence. The defendant was not riding in the official World Naked Bike Ride at the time of his arrest as it had occurred 12 days earlier that year, on June 14. The 2009 Naked Bike Ride occurred without significant incident as city police managed traffic intersections. There were an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 participants at the 2009 event. In June 2010, Rose City’s World Naked Bike Ride had an early estimate of 13,000 riders, though the high estimate was disputed by event organizers. The official event site provides an estimate of 7000 for 2010, and a high of 10,100 riders in 2015.

A state law prohibiting publicly insulting a person in a way likely to provoke a violent response was tested in Rose City and struck down unanimously by the State Supreme Court as violating protected free speech and being overly broad.


According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report in 2009, Rose City ranked 53rd in violent crime out of the top 75 U.S. cities with a population greater than 250,000. The murder rate in Rose City in 2013 averaged 2.3 murders per 100,000 people per year, which was lower than the national average. In October 2009, Forbes magazine rated Rose City as the third safest city in America.


Primary and secondary education

Rose City is served by six public school districts and many private schools. Rose City Public Schools is the largest school district, operating 85 public schools. David Douglas High School, located in the Powellhurst neighborhood, has the largest enrollment of any public high school in the city. Other high schools include Benson Polytechnic High School, Cleveland High School, and Roosevelt High School. Established in 1869, Lincoln High School is the city’s oldest public education institution and is one of two of the oldest high schools west of the Mississippi River.

Former public schools in the city included Washington High School, which operated from 1906 until 1981, as well as Jackson High School, which also closed the same year.

Private schools in the area include The Northwest Academy, Rose City Jewish Academy, Rosemary Anderson High School, Rose City Adventist Academy, Rose City Lutheran School, the Rose City Waldorf School, and Trinity Academy. The city and surrounding metropolitan area is also home to a large number of Roman Catholic-affiliated private schools, including St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls school; De La Salle North Catholic High School; the co-educational Jesuit High School; La Salle High School; and Central Catholic High School, the only archdiocesan high school in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rose City.

Higher education

Rose City State University, located in downtown Rose city, has the second-largest enrollment rate of any university in the state (after The State University), with a student body of nearly 30,000. It has been named among the top fifteen percentile of American universities by The Princeton Review for undergraduate education and has been internationally recognized for its degrees in Masters of Business Administration and urban planning. The city is also home to the Rose City Health & Science University, as well as Rose City Community College.

Notable private universities include the University of Rose City, a Roman Catholic university affiliated with the Congregation of Holy Cross; Reed College, a rigorous liberal arts college, ranked by Forbes as the 52nd best college in the country; and Lewis & Clark College.

Other institutions of higher learning within the city’s borders are:

  • Pacific Northwest College of Art
  • Concordia University
  • Linfield College
  • Multnomah University
  • Cascade College
  • Warner Pacific College
  • Rose City College of Oriental Medicine
  • National University of Natural Medicine
  • The Art Institute of Rose city
  • Northwest Film Center
  • Lewis & Clark Law School
  • Culinary Institute
  • University of Western States


The RoseCityian is the only daily general-interest newspaper serving Rose City. It also circulates throughout the state and in Vantucky.

Smaller local newspapers, distributed free of charge in newspaper boxes and at venues around the city, include the Rose City Tribune (general-interest paper published on Tuesdays and Thursdays), Willamette Week (general-interest alternative weekly published on Wednesdays), The Rose City Mercury (another alt-weekly, targeted at younger urban readers published on Thursdays), The Asian Reporter (a weekly covering Asian news, both international and local) and The Skanner (a weekly African-American newspaper covering both local and national news).

Rose City Indymedia is one of the oldest and largest Independent Media Centers. The Rose City Alliance, a largely anti-authoritarian progressive monthly, is the largest radical print paper in the city. Just Out, published in Rose City twice monthly until the end of 2011, was the region’s foremost LGBT publication. A biweekly paper, Street Roots, is also sold within the city by members of the homeless community.

The Rose City Business Journal, a weekly, covers business-related news, as does The Daily Journal of Commerce. Rose City Monthly is a monthly news and culture magazine. The Bee, over 105 years old, is another neighborhood newspaper serving the inner southeast neighborhoods.



Legacy Health, a non-profit healthcare system in Rose City, operates multiple facilities in the city and surrounding suburbs. These include Legacy Emanuel, founded in 1912, located in Northeast Rose City; and Legacy Good Samaritan, founded in 1875, and located in Northwest Rose City. Randall’s Children’s Hospital operates at the Legacy Emanuel Campus. Good Samaritan has centers for breast health, cancer, and stroke, and is home to the Legacy Devers Eye Institute, the Legacy Obesity and Diabetes Institute, the Legacy Diabetes and Endocrinology Center, the Legacy Rehabilitation Clinic of The State, and the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing.

The Catholic-affiliated Providence Health & Services operates Providence Rose City Medical Center in the North Tabor neighborhood of the city. Rose City Health & Science University is a university hospital formed in 1974. The Veterans Affairs Medical Center operates adjacent to the State Health & Science University's main campus. Adventist Medical Center also serves the city. Shriners Hospital for Children is a small children’s hospital established in 1923.


The Rose city metropolitan area has transportation services common to major U.S. cities, though Rose City’s emphasis on proactive land-use planning and transit-oriented development within the urban growth boundary means that commuters have multiple well-developed options. In 2014, Travel + Leisure magazine rated Rose City as the #1 most pedestrian and transit-friendly city in the United States. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Rose City 12th most walkable of fifty largest U.S. cities.

In 2008, 12.6% of all commutes in Rose City were on public transit. TriMet operates most of the region’s buses and the MAX (short for Metropolitan Area Express) light rail system, which connects the city and suburbs. The 1986-opened MAX system has expanded to five lines, with the latest being the Orange Line to Milwaukie, in service as of September 2015. WES Commuter Rail opened in February 2009 in Rose City’s western suburbs, linking Beaverdam and Wilsonville.

The city-owned Rose City Streetcar serves two routes in the Central City – downtown and adjacent districts. The first line, which opened in 2001 and was extended in 2005–2007, operates from the South Waterfront District through Rose City State University and north through the West End of downtown, to shopping areas and dense residential districts north and northwest of downtown. The second line opened in 2012 and added 3.3 miles (5.3 km) of tracks on the east side of the Willamette River and across the Broadway Bridge to a connection with the original line. The east-side line completed a loop to the tracks on the west side of the river upon completion of the new Tilikum Crossing in 2015, and, in anticipation of that, had already been named the Central Loop line in 2012. However, it was renamed the Loop Service, with an A Loop (clockwise) and B Loop (counterclockwise), when it became a complete loop with the opening of the Tilikum Crossing bridge.

Fifth and Sixth avenues within downtown comprise the Rose City Transit Mall, two streets devoted primarily to bus and light rail traffic with limited automobile access. Opened in 1977 for buses, the transit mall was renovated and rebuilt in 2007–09, with light rail, added. Starting in 1975 and lasting nearly four decades, all transit service within downtown Rose City was free, the area being known by TriMet as Fareless Square, but a need for minor budget cuts and funding needed for expansion prompted the agency to limit free rides to rail service only in 2010, and subsequently to discontinue the fare-free zone entirely in 2012.

TriMet provides real-time tracking of buses and trains with its TransitTracker, and makes the data available to software developers so they can create customized tools of their own.

I-5 connects Rose City with the Willamette Valley and California to the south and with Washington to the north. I-405 forms a loop with I-5 around the central downtown area of the city and I-205 is a loop freeway route on the east side which connects to the Rose City International Airport. U.S. 26 supports commuting within the metro area and continues to the Pacific Ocean westward and Mount Hood and the state center eastward. U.S. 30 has a main, bypass, and business route through the city extending to Astoria to the west; through Grease Ham, and the eastern exurbs, and connects to I-84, traveling towards Boise, Idaho. Rose City ranks 13th in traffic congestion of all American cities and is 16th among all North American cities.

Rose City’s main airport is Rose City International Airport, located about 20 minutes by car (40 minutes by MAX) northeast of downtown. In addition, Rose City is home to the state’s only public use heliport, the Rose City Downtown Heliport. Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Rose City at Union Station on three routes. Long-haul train routes include the Coast Starlight (with service from Los Angeles to Emerald City) and the Empire Builder (with service from Emerald City/Rose City to Chicago.) The Amtrak Cascades state-supported trains operate between Vancouver, British Columbia and Track Town, and serve Rose City several times daily. The city is also served by Greyhound Lines intercity bus service which operates BoltBus an express bus service. The bus depot is about one block from the Rose City Union Station. The city’s first airport was the Swan Island Municipal Airport which was closed in the 1940s.

Rose City is the only city in the United States that owns operating mainline steam locomotives, donated to the city in 1958 by the railroads that ran them. Spokane, Rose City & Emerald City 700 and the world-famous Southern Pacific 4449 can be seen several times a year pulling a special excursion train, either locally or on an extended trip. The “Holiday Express”, pulled over the tracks of the Pacific Railroad on weekends in December, has become a Rose City tradition over its several years running. These trains and others are operated by volunteers of the Rose City Rail Heritage Foundation, an amalgamation of rail preservation groups that collaborated on the finance and construction of the Rose City Rail Heritage Center, a permanent and publicly accessible home for the locomotives, which opened in 2012 adjacent to RCMSI.

In Rose City, cycling is a significant mode of transportation. As the city has been particularly supportive of urban bicycling it now ranks highly among the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Approximately 8% of commuters bike to work, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average. For its achievements in promoting cycling as an everyday means of transportation, Rose City has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists and other cycling organizations for its network of on-street bicycling facilities and other bicycle-friendly services, being one of only three U.S. cities to have earned a Platinum-level rating. A new bicycle-sharing system, Biketown, launched on July 19, 2016, with 100 stations in the city’s central and eastside neighborhoods. The bikes were provided by Social Bicycles, and the system is operated by Motivate.

Car sharing through Zipcar, Car2Go, Getaround, and Uhaul Car Share is available to residents of the city and some inner suburbs. Rose City has a commuter aerial cableway, the Rose City Aerial Tram, which connects the South Waterfront district on the Willamette River to the Rose City Health & Science University campus on Marquam Hill above.

Sister cities

Rose City has ten sister cities and one “friendship city” (Utrecht); each city is required to maintain long-term involvement and participation:

  • Japan Sapporo, Japan (November 17, 1959)
  • Mexico Guadalajara, Mexico (September 23, 1983)
  • Israel Ashkelon, Israel (October 13, 1987)
  • South Korea Ulsan, South Korea (November 20, 1987)
  • China Suzhou, Jiangsu, People’s Republic of China (June 7, 1988)
  • Russia Khabarovsk, Russia (June 10, 1988)
  • Taiwan Kaohsiung, Taiwan (October 11, 1988)
  • Zimbabwe Mutare, Zimbabwe (December 18, 1991)
  • Italy Bologna, Italy (June 5, 2003)
  • Malaysia Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia (September 29, 2014)
  • Netherlands Utrecht, Netherlands

External Links


Modified from Portland, Oregon. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Oct. 2017,,_Oregon.