Vanport will be topic of arts festival, gets its own book in vintage America series

Vanport will be topic of arts festival, gets its own book in vintage America series

By Amy Wang, published on May 17, 2016

Sixty-eight years ago this month, Oregon’s second-largest city vanished off the map.

Vanport could have vanished out of memory, too. Each year, fewer of the 40,000 people who once lived there remain. But, The Oregonian/ OregonLive’s Casey Parks wrote last year, Vanport is having something of a comeback.

Last year saw a Smithsonian Magazine feature, an Oregon Historical Society exhibit and work on a Concordia University interactive app and documentary. This year, there’s the Vanport Mosaic Festival May 27-30 at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, which includes:

  • A youth poetry reading May 27
  • A theatrical production, “Cottonwood in the Flood,” about the African American experience in Vanport, May 27-June 12
  • Screenings of short oral history documentaries, “Lost City, Living Memories: Vanport Through The Voices of Its Residents,” May 28-30
  • A companion “Welcome Home to Vanport” tour at Portland International Raceway May 30
  • A companion exhibit, “Vanport: The Surge of Social Change,” that will run through July 13

Vanport is also the latest title in Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series, a line of local and regional history books that are stuffed with vintage photographs. Text by Zita Podany accompanies pictures of stockyards, the Kaiser shipyards, day-to-day life and the 1948 flood that spelled the end.

Ultimately, Vanport lasted less than six years. But this month’s festival and the May 23 release of “Vanport” ensure the memories will live on


Apartment buildings from Vanport wallow in floodwaters near North Denver Avenue. Buses can be seen on the road, lining up to pick up people fleeing the doomed city.

O.B. Hill, 73, shows Beaumont Middle School students artifacts from his life. Hill was 6 when the Vanport Flood happened. Hill wanted to go to the movies the day the Vanport flood happened. His mother wouldn’t let him go because the Columbia River was high.

James Thompson, 83, tells Beaumont Middle School students about his life in Vanport. Thompson lived and worked in Vanport when it flooded in 1948.

Portland State University students installed signs about Vanport, but that was nearly 15 years ago. A Concordia University professor hopes to update the documentation with an app.

Victory Boulevard used to be the main drag in Vanport. Today, it’s the only way into Heron Lakes Golf Course.

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