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L & C II


Portland was the site of the Western World's Fair in the summer of 1905. It was officially known as the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on an Expedition from St. Louis to map the Oregon Territory. They arrived in Oregon in 1805.

One hundred years later Portland celebrated the arrival of Lewis and Clark in Oregon. Their maps and journals contributed to the growth of the settlement once known as Stumptown.

Get your ticket and let your fingers do the clicking on a tour of early days in Portland.

Birdseye view of the Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905.


A view of the graceful Colonnade Entrance of Corinthian pillars where 50 cents got you into the Fair.

By the end of the 19th Century, Portland had 90,000 residents and it was the largest metropolis in the Northwest. Portland had the busiest port up the coast from San Francisco. The Alaska Gold Rush and the Railroads began to make Seattle boom. Portland’s leaders decided they needed to do something to promote growth and hold the leading edge, so they took a gamble. They decided to hold the World’s Fair in Portland in 1905. They began planning the Lewis & Clark Exposition which took up residence along the waterfront in Northwest Portland.

During the five years of planning there were three presidents of the Exposition. Two of them died before the fair opened. Coney Island’s Dreamland was barely open a year when Portland’s leaders summoned some of the cutting edge amusements of the day to come west to Portland. Luna Park had only been open a couple years; Steeplechase had been open seven years and they were attracting the masses.

Portland’s leaders put a lot of planning into the Fair and their foresight paid off with big dividends. Three million people came to Portland’s Party and many of them decided to stay. Portland’s population doubled in the next five years. Seattle’s proximity to Puget Sound and its access to the railroads eventually gave it the edge over Portland. Seattle held its own World Fair in 1909 and that probably put them over the top.

Amusements lit up the Trail at night.

The Bridge of All Nations.

Industrial and Liberal Arts Palace

The United States Government Building

Interior of the Government Building.

The Foreign Exhibit Building

The American Inn was the only on-site hotel at the Expo Fairgrounds. There were two hotels just across the street from the entrance and there were others in walking distance. Part of this building survives at Northwest 21st & Northrup Streets, which has been converted into condominiums.


The Fairmont Hotel and the Outside Inn can be seen beyond the crowds outside the entrance. Both Hotels have a banner advertising the Meier & Frank Store.


This view is just to the left of the previous photo. You can see the Fair’s Kodak Film Co. office, the Parke-Davis Drug Co. and the Fairmount Hotel.


By 1905, there were 150 streetcars per hour shuffling passengers to the Lewis & Clark Exposition.


In this panoramic view, you can see the entire fairgrounds. Plywood was introduced at the Fair which featured many of the latest innovations of the day.

The Forestry Building, which was known as the “World's Largest Log Cabin”, was in use until 1964 when a fire destroyed the Swiss Chalet-styled log cabin that hot summer day, on August 17. This day always stood out in memory from when I was 9 years old. I remember thinking what a tragedy this was. The Forestry Building was located at Northwest 27th & Vaughn, near the old Montgomery Ward Store.

The Forestry Building was made of whole logs with the bark still in place and it stood three stories high. Galleries lined the upper floors.

The rustic Tree-Lined Interior of the Forestry Building was 100 feet wide by 200 feet long and 72 feet tall. It was designed by famed architect A.E. Doyle who was responsible for some of Portland’s most treasured buildings including U.S. Bank, the Central Library, Meier & Frank, Lipmans and Reed College as well as Multnomah Falls Lodge.

The cost to build the Forestry Building was about $30,000. Most of the logs used in the interior came from Simon Benson’s Lumber Camp at Oak Point, Washington.

Exhibits inside the Forestry Building highlighted the Timber Industry and Native Americans. There were exhibits showing Oregon’s abundant Natural Resources and there were taxidermy displays of animals native to the region.

The Douglas Firs used in construction were untreated and had to withstand nearly sixty years of exposure to dry rot, fire and bark beetles. Eventually fire overtook the dry tenderbox.

Before the Lewis & Clark Fair was over, an offer to buy the Forestry Building was tendered by a representative of a Coney Island Amusement Park. He wanted to dismantle the entire building and ship the pieces to New York to be reassembled.

Since the Oregon Legislature had built the building with the stipulation that it be given to the City of Portland if the City would purchase the property under and around it, a counter offer was tendered to provide the timber for a duplicate. The Coney Island Representative rejected the counter offer, he wanted the original.

Controversy developed when $14,000 was needed to purchase the property.  East side citizens thought the money could be better spent on parks that were lacking on their side of town. Others thought roads were a higher priority. With the help of Railroad Tycoon James J. Hill, who donated $6,000, the City purchased the property.

Most of the Exposition Buildings were no longer standing in 1914 when a fire erupted in the California Building. In preparation for its removal, it had been recently gutted. The building became engulfed in fire and the walls started to collapse. The force of the walls falling created a wind that swept the burning embers into the air and onto the roof of the Forestry Building.

A quick response by the City’s Fire Department led to the salvation of the Forestry Building when they extinguished three roof fires. If there had been more wind, the whole Willamette Heights area could have been destroyed by fire. Soon thereafter, the neighboring Oriental Exhibits Building was dismantled to protect the Forestry Building in case it were to catch fire.

In 1915, ten acres around the Forestry Building were leased to the City at no cost by the Ladd Estate Company, owners of the old fairground property. The Lakeview Playground near Guilds Lake was moved to the property adjacent to the Forestry Building, giving the children in the neighborhood their own park. In 1917, an auto campground opened on the property and it was operated  until 1920.

Apathy and abandon were the watchwords of the 1920’s as the Forestry Building fell into disrepair. Broken windows went unrepaired as the exposure led to the shrinkage of structural logs. The wood making up the rustic balconies and stairways suffered a warping, causing them to be declared unsafe and they were closed to public access.

A study was commissioned in 1926 to determine the salvageable value of the structure which turned out to be $8,000. A request for funding for repairs was denied by the Oregon Legislature in 1935. In the 1940’s, a request to dismantle the building was also denied. Finally, several support logs were replaced in the late 1940’s. Another fire, which was started by sparks from a caretaker’s stove, burned a hole in the roof about 15 feet in diameter.

Finally, in the 1950’s the Chamber of Commerce formed a funding committee, raised money for restoration and began repairs on the aging structure. Most of the destruction from rot had occurred 40 years earlier and the building was declared to be a sturdy structure.

Outside, an old Logging Train and other equipment used in the forests were added to the grounds. The Forestry Building began to bask in its former glory again as it became a favorite field trip destination for local school children. It was also a favorite spot to bring out-of-town guests.

More extensive repairs closed the Forestry Building in January and February of 1964 to secure bark on the interior logs. Then that fateful evening on August 17, 1964, the Forestry Building became engulfed in flames and burned to the ground within three hours. The once-proud monument to Timber and Natural Resources stood no more.

Today, it is the site of the Old Forestry Condominiums which were built in 1983.

The Manufacturers Liberal Arts and Varied Industries Exhibit Building

The Massachusetts Building, was moved piece-by-piece to a new site near Mt. Tabor where it served as a residence for B.S. Josselyn, president of the streetcar company and later as a sanitarium.

Interior view of the Massachusetts Building.

While The Exposition and Oaks Amusement Park were being built in 1904 and 1905, a friendly rivalry developed between The Oaks and the Exposition. A race soon started to see if The Oaks could open before the Exposition. The Oaks won, as it opened on May 30, 1905, a couple of days before the Exposition.

When the Exposition closed on October 15, 1905, Oaks Park purchased park benches, Gazebos, the Whirlwind ride and light fixtures. There is at least one of the fixtures still at The Oaks and one of the light bulbs, which still works.

Two years after the Lewis and Clark Exposition, Portland started what we know today as the Rose Festival. In the early years it was called the Rose Fiesta as well as the Rose Carnival and the Rose City Festival.

Only a couple of the original buildings remain from the Lewis and Clark Exposition, the NCR Building, which is now part of the St. John’s Pub and the American Inn which is located at 21st & Northrup in Northwest Portland. Only part of the original building survives. Portions of the building are being sold as condominiums.

Apathy and abandon led to the dismantling of most of the buildings in the old Fairgrounds. Most of them were not built to withstand years of exposure to Pacific Northwest weather. Years of neglect led to their deterioration beyond salvage, which in turn lead to their demise.

Take the backstage tour of the Lewis & Clark Expo and see some of the more obscure exhibits and amusements in Part II.

Lewis & Clark Expo Part II

Last updated 10-17-16

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