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

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)

1888 to 1890 – 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

1972 to 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 that resulted 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

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

2008 – Pioneer Courthouse Square is selected as one of the Great Public Spaces in America by the American Planning Association

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

March 30, 2013 – First Annual Singin’ in the Square community sing-a-long presented by ShedRain

April 6, 2014  – 30th Anniversary of Pioneer Courthouse Square

November 2014 – Parks Replacement Bond, approved by voters, includes essential repairs and improvements for the Square

2017 – Carts on the Square Open

2019 – 35th Anniversary celebrated with community Square Dance

2020 – Polka Dot Downtown, a socially distanced performance art installation by Bill Will, launches throughout Downtown Portland

2022 – PDX Live Summer Concert Series in partnership with True West

Time Capsule Contents

A year after Pioneer Courthouse Square opened, nearly 50 items were buried in a time capsule located near the southeast corner of the Square. In 2014 for the Square’s 30th anniversary we unearthed the original time capsule, with the help of The Oregon Historical Society, and set out to build a new time capsule that would capture quintessential Portland today.

After soliciting suggestions from Portlanders over the course of a year, we assembled a jury of esteemed Portlanders to select the final contents for the 2015 time capsule.  In all, more than 200 items were generously donated from local organizations and businesses that were determined to best exemplify Portland today.

The 2015 Portland Time Capsule was sealed on April 19, 2015, and will be opened at the Square’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2034. To view some of the 2015 Portland Time Capsule items see below.

Looking Back: Oregon Architect Will Martin’s Sketchbook on an American Square