History

Pioneering the Square

Pioneering the Square
Pioneering the SquareIn honor of the Square’s 25th Anniversary in 2009 Randy Gragg and Audrey Alverson curated “Pioneering the Square,” a historical exhibit at the American Institute of Architects. The exhibit covered the history of the space, the design competition and the development of the Square. This is the story of how the Square came to be.

View Portland Spaces’ Online Exhibit “Pioneering the Square”


Timeline

School House

Hotel

Pre-Construction Painted Square

Starbucks

Studio on the Square

1849: Elijah Hill, a shoemaker, purchased the block for $24 and a pair of high boots.

1856: School Board purchased the block from James Field for $1,000.

School House

1858: Central School opened (construction cost $6,000) with 280 pupils and three teachers, a year before Oregon became a star in the flag.

1875: Pioneer Courthouse, second oldest federal courthouse in the West opens

1883: Block sold to Northern Pacific Terminal Company (Henry Villard) for $75,000, as the site for a new hotel.

1883: P.A. Marquam purchased the school building and moved it a block to the north (American Bank Building)

Hotel

1888-90: Portland Hotel constructed, only after a group of businessmen raised $750,000 in subscriptions.

1890: Portland Hotel opened (construction cost $1,000,000).
The Portland Hotel was eight stories high, contained 326 sleeping rooms, a restaurant, ballroom, billiard room, bar, sitting rooms, dining rooms, sewing rooms, a reception room, ladies parlors, public restrooms, public telephones, a news and cigar stand, Western Union telegraph office, quarters for live-in staff, and elevators. The price tag was over $1,000,000 and 4,000,000 bricks were used in its construction.
Local investors included George Markle, William Ladd, Henry Corbett, Henry Failing and many others.

1951: Meier & Frank purchased the block, razed the hotel, and built a two-level parking structure.

Much of the original stone foundation for the Portland Hotel remains under the sidewalks

Late 1960s: Meier & Frank proposed an 11-story parking garage on the block, which was denied by the City after a series of heated public hearings. This proposal, perhaps more than any other event, prompted both the downtown business community and the City to undertake a comprehensive downtown planning program.

Pre-Construction Painted Square

1972 – 1974: Portland's Downtown Plan proposed open space development of the current Pioneer Courthouse Squareblock. This plan set in motion the lengthy administrative and political negotiations thatresulted in the purchase of the block by the City, the international design competition, and the choice of the Will Martin design scheme.

April 6, 1984: A Square is Born! Pioneer Courthouse Square opens

1984: TriMet opens its Customer Assistance Center

Starbucks

1989: Starbucks opens its flagship store

2000: Portland celebrates the Millennium with 50,000 attendees

2001: Travel Portland opens its Visitor Information Center at the Square

2004: Pioneer Square achieves 300 annual programmed event days!

2007: Pioneer Courthouse Square goes Smoke-free

Studio on the Square

2009: KGW Newschannel 8’s HD Studio on the Square opens

April 6, 2009: 25th Anniversary of Pioneer Courthouse Square