Oaks Park, Amused at this Painting Thursday


Last Thursday, my painting buddy and I went to Oaks Park to paint.

Oaks Park is an historic Portland treasure, an old-fashioned amusement park, part of the Portland scene since 1904, when the Oregon Water Power and Navigation company built it along a street car line.

The Park has no entrance or parking fees, and you can set up your materials and wander all around without spending a penny. It’s kind of magical.

The Park has made some landscape changes but it’s still along the river — this was the scene behind us as we painted.


On the other side of the our painting setup was the little train that circles the park:


(That’s painting buddy Susan, way down the way, sussing out the best view. And my painting cart sits to the left, parked, waiting patiently for me to stop being wowed by the amusements.)


Oak Park has all the requisite things:

A ferris wheel:



A roller coaster (with squealing 13-year olds)OakRollercoaster


A Screaming EagleoakScreamingEagle


And running childrenoaksRunningChild

The park has had only five owners: the Oregon Water Power and Navigation Company, John Cordray who bought it  in 1924 when OWPN had to disinvest; Edward Bollinger, a park electrician who purchased it from Mrs. Cordray; Edward’s son, Robert Bollinger, and the Oaks Park Association, a non-profit created by Robert Bollinger in 1984 which received nearly all his assets. The non-profit maintains and operates the Park now.

It’s a sweet little lively space.











In addition to the rides, there’s a Dance Pavilion, where dances and celebrations are held.


And there’s the famous roller skating rink, at the end of The Avenue, open all year round, and famed for its slick and fast floor.


It’s a great place to take photos.


There’s a little historic train, parked, for the children to check out, as well as the red one that toots its way around the park.


The Park picked up gazebos from the Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1904, after it was dismantled. And they added lots of covered tables in the groves of trees for picnickers and groups. The whole Park is incorporated in and around giant oak trees — an aptly named place. The trees give it a kind of innocent air.




Oh yeah, I did a little painting. Mostly, though, I drank in the day’s sensations, listening to the music and the rattle of the roller coaster, the screams of the girls as it swooped, the jingle of the carousel, the tootle of the train, and the cries of crows, watching us as we watched the action.


This will be my last post for a couple of weeks. I’m going for two weeks to eastern Oregon (near Monument, on the North Fork of the John Day river) for a painting retreat. No magical city views there, just a lot of farm animals and some glorious scenery. I think I might get more painting done.

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6 Responses to Oaks Park, Amused at this Painting Thursday

  1. snicklefritzin43 says:

    On a rainy fall morning here in Missoula, I was delighted to visit by photo one of my favorite place in Portland…a place where my grandmother and I so often went during my summer month with her. The photos were looking just like the park looked back in the 40’s and 50’s…only some changes in clothing styles…A lovely, special treat to return there.


    • june says:

      It does astonish me that something so charming, so out of the past, still evokes the same excitement in the kids as it did once long ago. School had started when we were there, so the number of people was greatly lessened. But still, there seemed to be a good number of all ages and sizes, all having a great time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jeaniedee says:

    I’ve always loved Oaks Park. I lived a short walk from there for eight years and would walk down into the park at its north end on my way home from work in downtown Portland. I remember well one spring when the Willamette rose up and covered the trail at the base of the bluffs. I went wading through it, of course. There was also an undeveloped beach area to the south of the park. Only the locals knew about and used it. Later it was developed & a dock was added. Yikes! Outsiders!


    • june says:

      The materials I read said that there have been 3 major floods in the park, probably before the damns (although I don’t know about the one in the 1990s. And that beach area developed a fence and this year the fence has been locked. Damn! That’s where Susan thought we could paint on a previous trip. But not so.
      However, there’s the bike trail on the east side, which is quite nice, so that might make up for the loss.


  3. revab says:

    Thanks for the Oaks Park history; I didn’t know any of that.

    I love the County Fair at Oaks Park. The dance pavilion is where they exhibit the prize cakes, pies, jams, horticultural specimens and crafts of various sorts, with their respective ribbons.


    • june says:

      I didn’t know that the County Fair was at Oaks Park. Nor that the Dance Pavilion was the prize food place. What fun. I peeked inside while I was there, though, and it looks like it would work well for that. They’ve done a good job of upgrading the facilities while maintaining the old-timey presence.


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