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Council Crest was “Portland’s roof garden on the mountaintop.” It was an unproven belief that the park site had been a traditional council ground for Native American Indians; therefore, the name “Council Crest.”

If you are familiar with Portland, you know what incredible views are afforded atop Council Crest. From Council Crest (on a clear day) you can see five snow-capped peaks and 3,000 square miles of land and rivers that connect them together. But unless you were here early in the 20th century, you might not know that an amusement park once ruled the Crest. Council Crest Park opened on Memorial Day in 1907 and itwas in operation until Labor Day in 1929. Council Crest was heralded as “The Dreamland of the Northwest.”

 

The park was conceived by the Portland Railway Light & Power Company to attract ridership on the newly completed Portland Heights streetcar line which opened to Council Crest Park in 1907. PRL&P summoned LaMarcus Thompson from Coney Island to build most of the amusements at the park. This artist’s conception from an early postcard shows the “Big Tree” observatory in the center of the park. No evidence exists that suggests that the tree was ever erected, however, there are numerous photos and postcards of the wooden structure observatory.

This observatory was said to have been moved here from the Lewis & Clark World’s Fair and Exposition which was held in Portland in 1905.

In addition to the Lewis & Clark Observatory, there was the Trip Up the Columbia, the boat ride that encircled the park, as well as the L.A. Thompson Carousel, the Ferris wheel, the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway and other rides. There was also a Midway full of amusements as well as a dance pavilion.

 

Trolley station and entrance to Council Crest Park.

 

The Ferris wheel with the observatory and the Midway at the top of the town.

 

A postcard view of the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway and the Columbia Gorge Riverboat ride with the Trip Up the Columbia canal boats to the right. Both rides encircled the Park.

 

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Another perspective of the Scenic Railway and the Scenic Paddlewheel Boat.

 

A busy day at the “Top of the Town.”

The Canal Boat Ride and the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway on the west side of the Park.

The Midway was next to the Crest Pavilion, Portland’s most popular dance hall.

Newspaper ad for Council Crest from July 1, 1925.

Newspaper ad from the Portland News on May 10, 1919.

 

Patrons at the park lined up to take hot air balloon rides as the balloon was being filled withheated air. In the background you can see the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway.

 

Excited park guests ride the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway above the Scenic Paddleboat. Another group is shown riding the Miniature Railway.

 

The Japanese Tea Pavilion is on the left and the round carousel building is in the center.

 

The Council Crest Tavern featured Mt. Hood Ice Cream as well as confections, fruits, candies, cigars, tobacco and soft drinks.

Pittmon’s Guide for 1915 described the trip on the Portland Heights streetcar line to Council Crest as “One of the most beautiful trolley rides in the world, taking you in 20 minutes from the heart of the business district to the height of 1073 feet, unfolding before you a scenic panorama for grandeur unexcelled. The hustling city in the foreground nestling on both banks of the Willamette (wil-lamb-met) River is 12 miles from its confluence with the Columbia River.”

As the nation headed into the Great Depression, the Park couldn’t sustain another money-losing season and Council Crest Amusement Park closed for good on Labor Day 1929. The observatory was dismantled in 1940. Even after the amusement park was gone, Council Crest trolleys made regular trips to the Park until 1949 to make the breathtaking views available to all.

Last updated 06-27-14

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