Wilshire Park claims its history

We’re pleased to report that a new friends group has formed in support of Northeast Portland’s Wilshire Park. We’ve been in touch this week with a history assist as they get the Friends of Wilshire Park website up and running. Right now their site features minutes from the inaugural meeting this week and some information that might look familiar to AH readers, but stay tuned for more as plans develop and more neighbors get engaged. The next meeting of the Friends is Wednesday, April 25th at 7:00 p.m. at nearby Bethany Lutheran Church, 4330 NE 37th Avenue.

As a refresher, the 15-acre park located just east of NE 33rd Avenue–once part of the Jacob Kamm Estate–was slated to become a tourist campground in the 1920s, a plan that provoked quite an uproar in the neighborhood. And in the 1930s, multiple developers had plans for subdivisions before the city bought the lands with emergency funds in April 1940 (spending a grand total of $28,500).

This detail of an aerial photograph from 1943 shows the 15 acres of trees and rough trails. Though the city owned the parcel at this time, there were no developments or facilities yet. Have a look at the rest of the young neighborhood…plenty of vacant lots. It was (and is) a green island in the midst of the neighborhood.

So many other interesting stories and memories over the years: Christmas trees cut in the 1920s and 1930s from the “33rd Street Woods” as it was known; the World War 2 “victory gardens” planted along the park’s southern edge; the jackstrawed piles of trees and branches left over from the Columbus Day storm of 1962; the generations of baseball players, soccer players, runners and dog walkers who have loved this place. Given its role in our local history, and in our daily lives today, Wilshire Park deserves a few more friends.

We wish them well.

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