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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Portland Exposition Center, Portland, Oregon"
Includes ... Portland Exposition Center ... "Expo Center" ... Portland International Livestock Exposition ... Portland Assembly Center ... Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Center ... Multnomah County Fair ... Torii Gate ...
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Portland Exposition Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 24, 2016.


Portland Exposition Center ...
The Portland Exposition Center ("Expo Center"), located at the northern edge of Portland's Historic Kenton District history began in 1918 as an center with livestock shows, auctions, and rodeos. The area continues today as an exposition/trade show site. The Expo Center is located just north of historic Vanport, a city destroyed on May 30, 1948 when a dike broke and the Columbia River flooded and destroyed what was at the time Oregon's second largest city.

Views ...

Image, 2006, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Vanport Wetlands and the Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. View from West Delta Park. Image taken January 18, 2006.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Original entrance on Marine Drive, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Cone sculpture, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Located outside of Hall D/E. Image taken July 24, 2016.


Portland Expo Center History

  • 1918-1965, Pacific International Livestock Exposition ...
  • 1942, Portland Assembly Center ...
  • 1948, Vanport Flood ...
  • 1959, Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Center ...
  • 1970-1990, Multnomah County Fair ...
  • 1994-today, Metro Regional Government ...
  • 2001, "Stage Set: An Event Sculpture" ...
  • 2004, Light Rail Destination ...
  • 2004, "Torii Gates" ...
  • 2014, Stormwater Green Wall ...


1918-1965, Pacific International Livestock Exposition ...
"The Pacific International Livestock Exposition (PI) was one of five major livestock shows in the United States. It started in 1910 as a beef cattle show to promote the business of the North Portland Stockyards and by 1918 had incorporated as a livestock exhibition. The original exhibition buildings were erected in 1921-1922 at the Delta Park area site. They were burned in their entirety in 1925, but were quickly rebuilt. The PI or Expo Center, as it was also called, provided the facilities for grading of breeds to strict standards, awarding of prizes, conducting auctions, and sponsorship of first-class rodeos." [Multnomah County website, 2016]

Image, 2015, Stockyards Commerce Center, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Stockyards Commerce Center sign, Portland, Oregon. Image taken August 13, 2015.


1942, Portland Assembly Center ...
"PI buildings were used as a detention center for 3500 Japanese Americans during five months of 1942. The Expo Center was known as the "Portland Assembly Center" and served as a staging center for the internees' relocation to Hunt, Idaho facilities." [Multnomah County website, 2016]

"The Portland Assembly Center was formerly the Pacific International Livestock and Exposition Center, located in North Portland on North Swift Boulevard overlooking the Columbia River, slightly west of the Interstate Bridge which connected Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington. It provided eleven acres of space under one roof. It had housed livestock in corrals where animal manure was mixed into the dirt. Living quarters for the assembly center detainees were built over this ground. It was first covered by wood planks for flooring, but the flooring did not diminish the smell of livestock manure. Eight foot plywood walls formed living cubicles measuring about 10' x 15' with no ceilings and a canvas flap to cover the open doorway. Each family cubicle was provided army cots and canvas bags to be stuffed with straw to form mattresses. The cubicles had no interior walls to provide separation for privacy. Because the family cubicles had no ceilings, nighttime noises were easily overheard and disturbing—people crying, giggling, snoring and muffled talking. "


Source:    "Densho Encyclopedia", 2016.


"The Portland Assembly Center was centered around the 11-acre Pacific International Livestock Exposition Pavilion. A total of 4,290 people from northeast Oregon and central Washington were interned there between May 2 and September 10, 1942. Over 3,800 evacuees were housed under one roof in the pavilion, which was subdivided into apartments, a kitchen, and dining hall. Outlying buildings included a hospital, a laundry, other support facilities, and the military police compound. The North Portland Harbor, a branch of the Columbia River, is just north of the assembly center.

The assembly center site, now the Portland Exposition Center, is in nearly continuous use with trade shows, exhibits, and other events. ... The front column facade at the original entrance on the north side of the pavilion has been removed. The north entrance is now for emergency use only, since it opens directly onto Marine Drive, a busy multi-lane road."


Source:    J. Burton and others, 2000, "Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites"; U.S. National Park Service.



"Officials described an assembly center as "merely a way-station" to the war-duration relocation area. It was a temporary collecting place where evacuees were provided with food, shelter, medical care, and protection while the more permanent relocation camps were being selected and constructed. The Army operated 15 centers throughout the West Coast from late March to late October 1942. The Portland Assembly Center operated from May 6 to September 10 and reached a peak population of 3,676 on June 6.

The center had been quickly converted for use from its previous role as a livestock center on the county fairgrounds. Thin sheets of plywood were set up to divide the existing building into housing "apartments" for four, six, eight, or ten individuals. Since the alterations were designed to be temporary, many of the plywood walls only extended part of the way to the ceiling, further limiting the privacy. A typical unit may have 200 square-feet of space with a single, bare light bulb. While mattresses were provided at the Portland center, other locations sometimes only provided a mattress ticking that had to be filled with hay or straw. Owing to the previous use of the building, evacuees tolerated the strong smell of livestock dung. ...

Within the confines of living in a converted livestock center, people tried to make life comfortable. Scraps of lumber and other materials that could be found were converted into tables, chairs, shelves, stools and other useful furniture. Radios, hotplates, and other electrical items added to the comfort but also sometimes caused the inadequate electrical system to blow a circuit, leaving people in the dark. ...

The evacuees formed their own police and fire departments with the Portland Assembly Center. Military police patrolled outside the center to prevent unauthorized entry or departure. Inside, eight unarmed civilian officers provided security with the evacuee police department assisting. As Uyesugi noted [Newton Uyesugi, President of the Japanese American Citizens League]: "...the military passes up and down outside the barbed-wire fence, but inside we govern ourselves. The military will not step in unless there is a riot." A curfew ran from "lights out" at 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. but its observation was variable.

Fire was seen as a big hazard and the evacuees who were part of the fire department took shifts to provide protection around the clock. Uyesugi pointed out the danger: "Yesterday, we had our first fire drill and everyone was out of the building within three minutes. Still, when one considers the fact that this place has burned down three times, and the last time it burned, the building was in ashes in twenty-eight minutes, you can imagine that three minutes is [a] very good time, but it does not give us a great deal of leeway."

Meals at the Portland Assembly Center were prepared by evacuees under administration direction. Waitresses served the food family style in two very large dining halls. Despite their size, the dining halls still could not accommodate all of the people at once, thereby necessitating two dining shifts. ... Families with small children ate in a special section. ...

Medical services were provided at the hospital-medical complex located to the east of the main recreation building. The complex had a 25-bed ward for men and one for women in addition to a 10-bed isolation ward. An officer with the U.S. Public Health Service oversaw medical services with the assistance of two evacuee doctors and four nurses. The facility functioned as an infirmary with all serious operations referred to local medical centers. ...

Recreation helped the evacuees relieve the boredom and oppression of involuntary confinement. In fact the first night that the center was occupied "people rigged up a phonograph and loud speaker system to provide music for a dance." Talent shows, art exhibits, pageants, concerts, films, and other activities filled the time as well. Moreover, evacuees set up recreational facilities including basketball courts, volleyball courts, and baseball diamonds. Other pursuits included chess, darts, badminton, and checkers. The evacuees also set up a canteen where items were sold at cost and they could order items through the Sears catalog. ...

Over the course of its operation, the Portland Assembly Center saw a near constant stream of people arriving and departing. As new areas of the exclusion zone were cleared and Japanese Americans were ordered to appear at the center, sometimes large numbers were added to the population. ... Likewise, large groups departed for relocation camps or for work in agricultural labor. On May 26 Transfer Order No. 1 moved 250 people to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California just south of Klamath Falls. While the length of the stay varied widely from one person to the next, the center lived up to its description as "merely a way station" for most evacuees before they embarked on the next chapter of their forced journey."


Source:    Oregon Secretary of State website, 2016, "Exhibits and Events: "Life on the Home Front: Oregon Responds to World War II".


Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Old Section, Halls "A" and "B", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Plaque, Portland Assembly Center, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Map, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Map, 1942 Portland Assembly Center, Portland, Oregon. Map courtesy Oregon Nikkei Endowment, Densho Encyclopedia, c.2000s, with latest map revision July 2015, downloaded September 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Hall "A", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Hall "A", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Hall "A", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.


1948, Vanport Flood ...
During the 1940s the Oregon community of Vanport was located immediately south of the location of todays Portland Expo Center. On May 25, 1948, due to a warm spring and rapid Cascade snowmelt, both the Columbia and the Willamette Rivers were nearly at 23 feet, eight feet over flood stage. On May 30, 1948, at approximately 4:17 p.m., the railroad dike between Smith Lake and Vanport gave way, resulting in a 10-foot-high wall of water rushing over lands north of the Columbia Slough and south of the Columbia River. The City of Vanport was destroyed.
[More]


1959, Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Center ...
The Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Center commemorated one hundred years of Oregon statehood. Only one structure built for the 1959 celebration still exists today - the 31-foot Paul Bunyan statue which today resides nearby in the community of Kenton. Paul was constructed to greet visitors entering the gates of the Centennial Exposition.

"Over 100 days, nearly 1.5 million visitors enjoyed 65 acres of exhibits and entertainment along the Columbia River in settings titled the Gayway Amusement Park, International Garden of Tomorrow, Adventureland, Indian Village, and one of the most popular attractions, Frontier Village, where visitors watched daily gunfights from the Old West of 1870." [Portland Expo Center website, 2016]


1970-1990, Multnomah County Fair ...
Beginning in the 1960s the focus of the Portland Expo Center changed. Empasis on the livestock industry diminished and North Portland developed into a commercial and residential neighborhoods. In 1965 Multnomah County purchased the Expo facility and in 1970 the Expo hosted the first Multnomah County Fair. The fair continued at the location until 1990. [Portland Expo Center website, 2016]


1994-today, Metro Regional Government ...
During the 1990s the Expo was simply a collection of aged buildings which hosted consumer and trade shows. In 1994 Multnomah County transferred ownership of the Portland Expo Center to the Metro regional government. A Master Plan was designed and the future looked positive for the Center. In 1997 Hall E opened, adding 108,000 square feet of exhibition space and modern amenities. [Portland Expo Center website, 2016]

"A vision planning document ... was developed during the planning and construction of Hall E and called for a complete replacement of Expo's four remaining buildings, Halls A, B, C, and D, with newer facilities to meet customers' needs. In 2001, a newly rebuilt Hall D opened offering 112,000 total square feet including 72,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space, a commercial kitchen, a large light-filled lobby and seven meeting rooms." [Portland Expo Center website, 2016]

Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Southern end, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 6, 2016.

The southern end of the Portland Expo Center is "Hall E", built in 1997.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Vanport Wetlands, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Hall E, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Northern end, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. View from car heading north on Marine Drive. Image taken July 6, 2016.

The northern end or "old section" of the Portland Expo Center houses "Hall A" and "Hall B", built in 1925 after the original site buildings burned.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Inside Hall E, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Portland Kennel Club Dog Show. Image taken July 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Inside Hall E, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Portland Kennel Club Dog Show. Image taken July 24, 2016.


2001, "Stage Set: An Event Scupture" ...
"Stage Set: An Event Sculpture" (also seen as "Stage Set for a Film: An Event Sculpture") is located at the Portland Expo Center right outside Hall D. The sculpture was the first public artwork created by famed Portland Artist Dennis Oppenheim to be displayed in the Pacific Northwest. The 60-feet-high, 25-feet-wide, and 25-feet-deep sculpture was created in 2001 and "is an assemblage of human furniture enlarged to proportions of architecture - a household table lamp resembles a giant beacon like a lighthouse." According to Oppenheim "The function of the work is meant to be mysterious, allowing viewers the freedom to explore its meaning. I prefer to think of the work as an event sculpture." ["AmericansForTheArts.org" website, 2016].

Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Dennis Oppenheim sculpture, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Dennis Oppenheim sculpture, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Dennis Oppenheim sculpture, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Located outside of Hall C/D. Image taken July 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Dennis Oppenheim sculpture, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Dennis Oppenheim sculpture, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.


2004, Portland Light Rail ...
In 2004 the Expo Center became the northern-most destination of the region's light rail system's "Yellow line". [Portland Expo Center website, 2016]

Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Light Rail Station ("Max"), Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 20, 2016.


2004, "Torii Gates" ...
At its entrance of Portland's Light Rail Station at the Expo Center are the Torii Gates, designed by Portland artist Valerie Otani. Included within the Gates are 3,500 identification tages representing the number of Japanese-Americans which had been housed at the Portland Assembly Center during World War II. [Portland Expo Center website, 2016]

Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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"Torii Gate", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 20, 2016.

Four "Torii Gates" are located near the Light Rail Station and honor the 3,500 Japanese who were temporarily housed here before being relocated to internment camps.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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"Torii Gate", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 20, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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"Torii Gate", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 20, 2016.


2014, Stormwater Green Wall ...
The Portland Expo Center's stormwater green wall had its grand opening on October 1st, 2014. The wall is a free-standing 30-foot tall and 60-foot long "green wall" outside of Hall E. The native vegetation is watered by runoff from the Hall E roof.

"Many green walls are for aesthetics or to help cool the air. The Expo Center green wall is different because it manages rainwater that runs off the roof. Runoff flows by gravity through the green wall system, where native plants help filter and soak up the water." [City of Portland website, 2016]

Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Outside of Hall "E", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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"Green Wall", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.
Image, 2016, Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Information sign, "Green Wall", Portland Expo Center, Portland, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2016.


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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    Burton, J., Farrell, M., Lord, F., and Lord, R., 2000, "Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites", U.S. National Park Service;    City of Portland website, 2016;    Multnomah County website, 2016;    "OregonMetro.gov" website, 2016;    Oregon Secretary of State website, 2016, "Exhibits and Events: "Life on the Home Front: Oregon Responds to World War II";    Portland Exposition Center website, 2016;   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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September 2016