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Introduction; Portland and its Metropolitan Area; Population; Educational and Cultural Institutions; Recreation; Economy; Government; History
Portland, city in northwestern Oregon, the seat of Multnomah County and the largest city in the state. Portland is the business and transportation hub for much of the Pacific Northwest. Portland residents refer to their city as the City of Roses.
Portland lies on both banks of the Willamette River near where it empties into the Columbia River. Spring and summer weather is generally mild, and the city receives heavy rains in the late fall and winter. While heavy snow is rare, Portland occasionally suffers under ice storms brought about when frigid air from the state’s interior passes through the gorge of the Columbia River and collides with the warmer, moist air of the coast. Average annual precipitation is 922 mm (36.3 in). In January the average high temperature is 7°C (45°F) and the average low 1°C (34°F); in July highs average 27°C (80°F) and lows 14°C (57°F).
Francis Pettygrove, one of the founders of Portland, named the city in 1845 after winning a coin toss with cofounder Asa Lovejoy. Pettygrove named it for his hometown of Portland, Maine; had Lovejoy won he intended to name it after his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts.
The city of Portland covers a land area of 322.2 sq km (124.4 sq mi). The city is at the core of a metropolitan region covering five counties in Oregon (Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill, and Columbia) and one county (Clark) in the state of Washington north of the Columbia River. The region encompasses 13,022 sq km (5,028 sq mi) of land. Other large cities in the metropolitan area are Gresham, Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Lake Oswego in Oregon, and Vancouver in Washington.
Portland began on the west bank of the Willamette River upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River. The area of first settlement remains the city’s business and governmental center. Its best-known public building is the Portland Building (1982), built in the postmodern style. Over the entrance to the Portland Building is an 11-m (35-ft) hammered-copper statue of “Portlandia”. Numerous fountains enliven the city core. The Ira Keller Fountain occupies a city block and reproduces the feel of a mountain stream. Downtown Portland is notable for its tree-lined streets and short blocks, making them convenient and pleasant for pedestrians. In recent years the central business district has spread to the east side of the Willamette. Several bridges cross the river in the heart of the city, and a modern light-rail system connects the downtown with outlying suburbs.
West of downtown a number of prestigious neighborhoods occupy the steep ridge of the West Hills. In northwest Portland is a vibrant neighborhood of shops and restaurants, many in restored Victorian homes. The east side of the Willamette is occupied principally by residential areas.
The city lies at the foot of the fertile Willamette Valley. To the west are the mountains of the Coast Range, and to the east is the Cascade Range. Snow-capped Mount Hood, at 3,426 m (11,239 ft), can be seen from most vantage points in the city.
The population of the city of Portland steadily increased during the 1980s and 1990s. The gains came from the annexation of neighborhoods on the east side of the city, the growth of the electronics industry, and the attractive quality of life in the Portland area. In 1980 the population was 366,383; by 2000 it had increased to 529,121. In 2006, Portland's population was estimated at 537,081. The population of the Portland metropolitan area also grew, from 1,334,000 in 1980 to 2,138,000 in 2006.
In the 19th century Portland had large Chinese, Scandinavian, and Italian immigrant communities. Today, however, little remains of these early communities, and the city has relatively small minority populations. According to the 2000 census, whites made up 77.9 percent of the population, blacks 6.6 percent, Asians 6.3 percent, Native Americans 1.1 percent, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders 0.4 percent. People of mixed heritage or not reporting race were 7.7 percent of the population. Hispanics, who may be of any race, constituted 6.8 percent of the people. Asians and Hispanics have been the most rapidly growing population groups since 1980.
Portland’s largest institution of higher education is Portland State University (founded in 1946). Other important colleges and universities in the city are Lewis and Clark College (1867, relocated to Portland in 1938), the University of Portland (1901), Reed College (1909), Concordia University (1905), Oregon Health Sciences University (1974), Warner Pacific College (1937), and the Pacific Northwest College of Art (1909). On the fringes of the metropolitan area are Linfield College (1849), in McMinnville; Pacific University (1849), in Forest Grove; and George Fox University (1891), in Newberg.
Important cultural institutions cluster around the South Park Blocks, a 25-block oasis of trees and grass through the heart of downtown Portland. They include the Portland Art Museum, with one of the Pacific Northwest’s most extensive displays of American and European art, a world-class collection of Native American art, and Asian works. The Oregon History Center emphasizes the state’s Native American peoples, early exploration, and pioneers. Also on the South Park Blocks is the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, Portland Opera, and Oregon Ballet Theater. On the east bank of the Willamette River are the Oregon Convention Center and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which in addition to extensive interactive displays includes tours of the last nonnuclear submarine built for the United States Navy.
Every June Portland stages the Rose Festival. First held in 1907, the festival’s parades and sporting events draw visitors from throughout the Pacific Northwest. Chamber Music Northwest offers classical music every summer.
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