without any grand plans for our time in Portland, beyond seeing friends and family and a drive down to Bend, we found ourselves out wandering around downtown, enjoying the spectacular fall weather, shuffling our feet through crisp and freshly fallen leaves. one of the first places we walked through was a pair of plazas flanking the Thomson Elk statue, which stands smack in the middle of Southwest Main Street. the plazas are named for Daniel Lownsdale and William Chapman and host towering trees, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a city of substantial size in recent memory.
Lownsdale arrived in Oregon from Kentucky before 1845 and became a member of the provisional legislature in 1846. he established the city’s first tannery on its northwest side and purchased part of what became downtown Portland from one of the city’s founders (Francis Pettygrove) in 1848. he was influential in helping determine the current layout of Portland — with small blocks of 200 feet by 64 feet with contiguous park blocks such as the one that now bears his name.
Lownsdale Plaza plaza is home to a monument to the Spanish-American War and two howitzers found at Fort Sumter donated by author Henry Dosch. Dosch claimed the howitzers had been used by both sides during the Civil War.
the adjoining park is named in honor of William Chapman, another early settler of Portland with a long political career. he settled in Portland in the late 1840s after traveling from Iowa, where he’d served as a Congressional Delegate for the Iowa Territory, by way of the Oregon Trail. he moved around the region, with a successful stint in California during the 1848 gold rush. he served in the first Territorial Legislature and, when the session ended, convinced Thomas Dyer to move from San Francisco to Portland to establish a newspaper. The Oregonian is the oldest continuously publishing newspaper on the west coast, predating the founding of Portland. he purchased land from Lownsdale and built a home on the site of what is now the Multnoma County Courthouse, where he practiced law for many years even as he moved around the state – to raise cattle in Southern Oregon, serve as lieutenant colonel of the militia during the Rogue River War of 1855-56, and serve as surveyor general from 1857-61 (when he resigned due to opposition of Lincoln’s election). in his later years, while continuing to practice law, he fought to get Portland connected to the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad to ensure the city would continue to grow and remain connected to the rest of the coast and country. (his proposed line was never built.) in 1870, he sold the land now occupied by the plazas that bear his and Lownsdale’s names to the city of Portland.