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Artist’s conception of Oaks Park circa 1904.

Oaks Amusement Park, which was known as the Coney Island of the Northwest, opened May 30, 1905. One of the 10 oldest amusement parks in the country, it is the only amusement park in Portland that is still in operation.

Built by the Oregon Water Power and Navigation Company along the Willamette River in Sellwood, Oaks Park was built to increase rider ship on the streetcar lines from Portland to Gresham, Estacada and Oregon City.

 

This panoramic view of Oaks Park from the east side gives a view of the roller coaster. The streetcar tracks can be seen in the foreground in this 1907 view.

While the Lewis & Clark Exposition and Oaks Amusement Park were being built in 1904 and 1905, a friendly rivalry developed between The Oaks and the Exposition. A race soon started to see if The Oaks could open before the Expostion. The Oaks won, opening two days before the Exposition.

 

West view of Oaks Park with the Swimming Pavilion in the background.

When the Lewis & Clark Expo closed on October 15, 1905, The Oaks purchased park benches, Gazebos, the Whirlwind ride and lamp posts. One of the lights still works and it is on display in The Oaks Museum.

 

“Grab an electric car at First Avenue and you’ll be at the main gate in a matter of minutes. The Roller Rink is the largest in the Northwest and the music perfect. Then there’s the riding devices galore, funny monkeys, cool picnic grounds and other attractions.” This quote comes from Goin’ Places Magazine from August 1944.

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Looking north On the Avenue.

Did you know there was a roller skating elephant on the midway?

 

Looking south On the Avenue.

Beyond the Joy Wheel you can see a streetcar at the Depot.

Another view looking south down the Avenue at The Oaks.

Boat Landing, Swimming Pool and Natatorium at The Oaks.

View of the Bath House also known as the Natatorium.

 

Oaks Park had bears on exhibit in this view from 1915.

Fly-o-Plane Ride as shown in “Goin Places” Magazine August 1944.

Ad from “Goin Places” Magazine from August 1944.

Oaks Park ads from 1931.

Over the last 100 years or so, Oaks Park had four owners. One of the managers, John Cordray, purchased the operating company stock when laws were enacted preventing utilities from owning amusement parks in the early 1920’s. In 1925, after John Cordray passed away, Edward H. Bollinger, who started working at Oaks Park in 1905 as an electrician, purchased the stock from Mrs. Cordray. He later purchased the 44 acres of land under the park from the Portland Electric Power Company in 1943.

When Edward Bollinger passed away in 1949, ownership passed to his widow. Edward Bollinger’s son Robert purchased the park from his father’s widow. In 1984, Robert Bollinger used nearly all of his assets to create the Oaks Park Association, a non-profit organization that now maintains the Park. Over the years, Oaks Park has survived at least three major floods. At the age of 95, Robert Bollinger passed away in 2004.

Oaks Park has a midway full of games and there are amusement rides inclusing a roller coaster, a carousel, a ferris wheel, an octopus, bumper cars and go-carts. The Oaks has the oldest roller skating rink (complete with pipe organ) west of the Mississipi River as well as a dance pavilion and grassy areas for picnics. At one time there was a roller skating elephant on The Midway.

Be sure to stop by the Oaks Park Museum the next time you visit Oaks Park.

My favorite memories of Oaks Park include running the Bumper Cars and Roller Skating at the Rink, which are still popular today.

For operating schedules: http://www.oakspark.com

Last updated 12-06-08

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