Oregon Centennial Exposition, 1959

The Oregon Centennial Exposition was held in 1959 to celebrate Oregon’s 100 years of statehood. The 65 acre site was previously the Pacific International Livestock Exposition, and is now home to the Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center.

A2004-002.606 Oregon Centennial Exposition 1959(City of Portland Archives)

21 thoughts on “Oregon Centennial Exposition, 1959

  1. Fantastic picture, It doesnt say which way we are looking, would that be where PIR is now in the background or is that the dike road?
    Also, that train is the coolest. lol

  2. I didn’t go to the Centennial Exposition but each week a different class at Our Lady of Sorrows grade school dressed up in “pioneer” clothes. I think I was a cowboy .

  3. I think the clue to the direction and exact location might be the tall structure on the far right behind the tree. Wasn’t there a building like that by the wetlands just to the south of the Expo Center?

  4. I went to the exposition when I was 5 years old. I was totally blown away by that futuristic train, and the colorful tiger face on the station wall. It’s just that everything seems so much smaller in that picture than I remember…. That tower in the background lasted through the 70’s. Never could figure what it was though, it looked like a conning tower at an small airstrip.

  5. The building looks like the old transmitter building that was in the wetlands. They took the radio tower down some years ago. The transmitter structure was there for a few more years until the wetlands became an official protected area. There is a video somewhere of the tower coming down.

  6. I do remember pioneer clothing was big that year. The exposition had an international flair-I saw kabuki theater for the first time.

  7. I recently found a brandy snifter with Expo logo on it. I thought that was a pretty cool thing for a souvenir.

  8. Robert, it’s the Zooliner train (as mentioned earlier).

    The radio tower was KGW’s, giving it an excellent signal thanks to great ground conductivity of the wetland. It lasted until the late 90s when KGW-or-whatever-they-call-it-now was diplexed with KEX.

  9. I believe the road in the distance is interstate/denver. I believe this photo to of been taken from what is now the southeastern corner of the Expo parking lot. I grew up very close to there and have visited the expo center hundreds of times and never knew why it was named as such. I will now lose the rest of my day researching this event.

  10. I grew up next door to an elderly couple who loved history and loved sharing their stories. He was such a native Portlander that his Mazamas membership card was number 23 or some ridiculously low number (could be lower).

    This is told to give my info some veracity. Once he was showing me photos and he had this crazy handlebar mustache in one of them, I had to ask…as he NEVER had a wisp of facial hair. Apparently, to celebrate the centennial men were encouraged to grow “pioneer” facial hair to show support for the exposition!

  11. I remember that year well. As stated before men who never did before or after, grew beards and mustaches for the Centennial. One thing that didn’t get mentioned that the old River Queen was an operating paddle wheel boat (not steam though) at the time and was taking part in the festivities also. My third grade class went for a cruise on it as our school field trip. The steam paddle wheeler Portland was probably involved in the Centennial too, I don’t remember what it participated in as it was a working boat at the time. It and the Henderson had the last steamboat race on the Columbia river only a few years before

  12. Does anyone know if the train station/awning and other assorted items also went to the zoo? It sure looks like the awning currently at the zoo. The water tower looks familiar as well.

  13. I would say looking Southwest towards Downtown based on the way the West Hills in the distance are oriented in the picture.

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