The Death of Old Portland

In the last week both Portland Monthly and Willamette Week have brought up the topic of the death of Old Portland.  Willamette Week is conducting a poll online about when Old Portland was born and when did it die.  I think it is an interesting question.  Those of us who have been in Portland for 20+ years can feel that there is something different.  What it is different is hard to say.  This is going to be my probably lame attempt at putting a finger on it.

First we have to answer the question of what is Old Portland? Old Portland is hard to explain but this poster about sums it up.

What is the significance of this poster?  Well the guy would be Portland’s former mayor Bud Clark.  He was a bar owner in Goose Hollow who was elected mayor in the mid 80’s. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that poster sums up Old Portland better than anything I could write.  To me it demonstrates a city that is gritty, blue collar, but also likes some of the finer things in life.  The photo was taken in 1978, before Bud Clark was elected mayor but it made him famous and probably helped his bid for mayor.

In 1984 Bud Clark was elected Mayor, Higgins Restaurant opened, and BridgePort Brewing Company opened.  Higgins was one of the first restaurants in Portland that focused on local fresh ingredients and was a seminal restaurant in Portland that started the foodie craze that we all know and love today.  BridgePort was the first craft brewery in Oregon and is a founding father of the craft beer industry.  The confluence of the food, the beer, and the attitude represents to me the birth of Old Portland.

Is Old Portland Dead?

Hand2Mouth seems to think so and will be hosting a funeral with eulogies and all.  I think I tend to lean towards yes and the death was recent.  While I don’t think I can pinpoint Old Portland’s exact death, I am pretty confident that I know when the terminal illness kicked in.

Ok, ok, I don’t think Portlandia killed Portland, but it represents something that did. Portland becoming popular both nationally and internationally.  The popularity combined with the economic recovery and growth in Portland killed Old Portland.

There has been an explosion of growth in parts of Portland.  Portland has become an it thing, which is decidedly not Old Portland.  There are more out of staters moving to Portland, the housing inventory and rental inventory is non-existent and it is pushing Portland into unaffordability.

Is the growth and change in Portland a bad thing?  Well, certainly the traffic sucks a lot more than it used to.  But the answer to that probably depends on who you ask.  The one fight I find to be an entertaining side show is the hipster vs. yipster fight.

Portland has changed, Old Portland is dead, but such is life; cities evolve just like people. No doubt there are cool things to come in the New Portland (MLB anyone??).  But I do miss the Old Portland.

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