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Portland, Oregon

History Walking Tour: Portland Mayors

From the silly to the serious, a walking tour through the history of Portland’s mayors and the city itself.

Do you know your James Chapman from your Josiah Failing? Your Dorothy McCullough from your Vera Katz? The City of Portland’s history is intertwined with the history of its illustrious and quirky mayors, from its second mayor who simply walked out of office to go gold digging, to John Gates, who invented 72 different steamboats in his lifetime!

Led by Atlas Obscura Chapter Head Phil Busse, this walking tour explores some of the downtown spots that remember the various mayors over the city’s 150-year history—from the noble to the notorious. These mayors are responsible for what is, and what isn’t, part of Portland’s current state of being—its parks, its bike culture, and its defiance to conformity. The tour covers about two miles from Burnside (near the original City Hall location) to the current, century-old Italian villa-styled City Hall (thank you Mayor Mason!). In between, there are stops to talk about Henry Failing, who is responsible for the moniker “Stump Town”; Terry Shrunk, one of the longest-serving mayors who battled with Bobby Kennedy over gambling in Portland and is now honored with a downtown park; and Bud Clark, who famously exposed himself to art—and, in spite of his goofiness, was an earnest mayor who helped establish public art funding and bike culture in Portland.

Atlas Obscura Chapter Head Phil Busse was the Managing Editor for the Portland Mercury and covered City Hall extensively for six years, and was a candidate for mayor himself, in 2004; outspent $1 million to $11,000, Phil finished third out of 26 candidates behind a two-time city councilmember and the police chief, but in front of a clown and the naked guy on cable access television. He has conducted extensive research of past and present mayors—from the silly to the serious. It is a tour that both provides information about Portland’s history and also insights into what makes the city so unique.

QUESTIONS? 

Email Phil Busse at phil.busse@atlasobscura.com.

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Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.