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Portland Pioneer Square

The Portland Pioneer Square, sometimes referred to as Portland Pioneer Courthouse Square, is a brick paved oasis resting within the commercial district of downtown Portland and seems to be a gathering point for the masses of the city of roses. The staggering variety of people that are always drawn to the nearly endless barrage of events has earned this location the reputation of "Portland’s Living Room".  Located in the center of Downtown Portland, this is a popular Portland gathering place during the summer months and year-round for the constant stream of fun Portland events.  It's also the central hub for the Downtown Portland shopping district centered around the popular Portland Pioneer Place mall.

From PioneerCourthouseSquare.org: On April 6, 1984, 9,000 citizens inaugurated what has become one of the most successful public spaces in America. The Square was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the "ten most notable design achievements" in the country. Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square is affectionately known as the City's "living room." With more than 26,000 people passing by the Square each day, and thousands more visiting the Square directly, it is the single most visited site in Oregon's most visited city.

The Square is one of Portland's leading outdoor venues, hosting over 300 events each year that range from large-scale concerts to cultural festivals. The Square is a true symbol of Portland with its bricks symbolizing the people that make Portland such an extraordinary city.

Click here to Download a Pioneer Courthouse Square Map (PDF format)

Click here to read the fascinating history of Portland Pioneer Courthouse Square

There are tons of events going on in the square:  this last summer it was weekly movies from Ghostbusters to Anchorman, the concerts that seem to come out of nowhere included reggae and ska, and I personally experienced the wonderful smells and tastes of a gathering of Indian culture. There are also many promotional and charitable events held at the Pioneer Square. The calendar of events is both descriptive and helpful to anyone interested in a visit to what has been a staple of this city for the last twenty-five years.

Visit the Pioneer Courthouse Square Events Calendar to find out what's going on in Portland's Living Room right now!

You never know what sort of event--planned or even random, might show up in the Square!

 

The tourist information center placed behind the waterfalls at the bottom of the Square is helpful. To anyone who hasn’t developed a discerning taste for the coffee bean that seems drives this city; the Starbuck’s at the top can serve as a wonderful perch for people watching. The food carts that grace the grounds every so often are hit or miss, like many of them in the city. Still, the Square is always well patrolled, clean, well lit, and wholly welcoming to both tourists and townies alike. Its location makes it a great place to visit. It’s centrality to downtown allows for an interesting event with the possibility of a night on the town when the crowd dies down.

Additional Information About Portland Pioneer Square (Source:PioneerCourthouseSquare.org)

Portland's Living Room
Every day from Monday through Saturday, you can view a short program hosted by KGW’s Russ Lewis and Brenda Braxton. This feature highlights the fascinating history of Pioneer Courthouse Square. “Portland’s Living Room” is shown regularly in the Theater on the Square, adjacent to the Visitor Information Center, Monday-Saturday every half hour between 10:00am – 2:00pm. 

Allow Me
There are several unique sculptures and icons in Pioneer Courthouse Square. You've probably noted this bronze stature of a man holding an umbrella, as it has become a Portland icon. "This bronze life-sized sculpture of a man offering his umbrella, was created by nationally known artist J. Seward Johnson of Princeton, New Jersey. The sculpture joins a number of Johnson's works in public spaces in cities such as New York, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Oakland, California."

Bronze Chess Boards
"Resting on the fallen column of the Morrison Street side of the Square, three bronze chess boards were installed to showcase the chess playing activities that occur on the Square. Designed by Soderstrom Architects P.C., these bronze chessboards were added to the Square in June 2003."

Portland Echo Chamber
This is a fun and popular Portland stop, for tourists as well as locals. "Just stand on the round marble stone in the center of the small amphitheater, face the steps and speak. You will be amazed at what you hear."

Historic Tiles
"Located in the small amphitheater, the bronze tiles handmade by Gail Martin, depict scenes from Portland's past."

Portland Mile Post Sign
Another popular Portland landmark in Pioneer Square is the sign pointing to all popular destinations. "Distances to nine sister-cities and other geographical destinations are listed on this whimsical signpost."

Pioneer Square Named Bricks
"The named bricks, which pave the Square's surface, were purchased by citizens and local businesses to raise money to build and maintain the Square. There are more than 71,165 named bricks currently in the Square. Famous bricks located in the Square are: Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Dan Rather, Sherlock Holmes, George Washington, and even Mr. Bill."  Want your own Portland brick?  Visit the Pioneer Square website to purchase one.

Portland Hotel Gate
Another example of Portland history is the Portland Hotel Gate. "Located exactly where it once stood at the original hotel entry, the exquisite gate is directly across from Pioneer Courthouse. The wrought iron gate and fence are believed to have been designed by McKim, Mead and White, architects of the Portland Hotel. During the hotel's history only one president, Warren Harding, did not pass beneath this lovely feature."

Waterfall Fountain
Portland is known for its wide array of wonderful fountains, so it is only fitting that Portland Courthouse Square would have one too.
"In keeping with a city celebrated for its fountains, Pioneer Courthouse Square features a central waterfall fountain. The waterfall cascades down a series of large granite blocks into a reflecting pool below. The fountain serves as the major entry into the Visitor Information Center."

Keystone Lectern
"Located at the top of the “Waterfall Fountain” this lectern was designed to be used as a focal speaking platform for the Square. The lectern is a great vantage point from which to view the Square's many activities. Also note the mosaic tiles on the floor of the lectern depict the design of the Square." 

The Famous Portland Pioneer Square


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As in all public locations in any city, there are some problems that need to be tended to. Panhandlers abound outside the square, especially along the TriMet MAX light rail stations bordering the square. Just ignore the panhandlers or politely decline to donate unless you feel compelled to do so. They are seldom aggressive enough to bother anyone significantly.  The shopping options and stores in the area are popular, but are mostly chains--so some of the wonderful unique feel of the city can be lost, but this is not to say that there are no shining jewels to be found nearby.   All in all, this is a great Portland destination!

Portions of this page were written by Portland local writer, Blaine Taylor.

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