Views of Portland from Council Crest on the 4T’s Path (Trolley, Train, Trail & Tram)
Running: Council Crest
Sweaty and breathing heavily, I made it to the top and was disappointed that the sky was so overcast. I caught my breath and trotted past the dog-walkers to the amazing water fountain near the crest. One of a mother holding a child aloft. The fountain area had several bronze plaques, mentioning that the early pioneers had seen a bevvy of beaver dams on the Tualatin river, and they named the area Beaverton in honor of the state animal. The plaque mentioned that this was not the ceremonial gathering sight for the Native American Indian tribes in the area. No war councils assembled there. Only merry makers.
What is Council Crest?
More than a park…
Picnic in the park at Council Crest
Many newcomers to Portland, including some not-so-new-comers, like us, do not know that Council Crest is the tallest peak in the Tualatin Mountains and one of the highest points in the city limits of Portland (the honor of the highest point goes to a stretch of N.W. Skyline Blvd north of the Willamette Stone Heritage Site). At 1,073 feet above sea level, Council Crest provides visitors with great vistas in all directions: east to Portland and Mt. Hood, north to Vancouver and Mt. St. Helen’s, west to Beaverton and the coastal range, and south to the Willamette Valley.
The land around the summit of Council Crest was once a flourishing amusement park. It opened in 1907 and thrived right up to the point when it closed: September, 1929. One month later the stock market crashed and the country became paralyzed by the Great Depression.
In it’s prime the amusement park featured a roller coaster-like “Scenic Railway,” a steam powered miniature railway, a water boat ride billed as a “Trip up the Columbia” and a giant Ferris wheel.
Scenic Railway on Council Crest, Portland, OR
Despite the closure, much of the park relics survived until they were demolished in 1941. The base of the 77-foot tall observatory tower was rebuilt into the water tower that is visible today. Like most Portland Amusement parks, the area was served and heavily promoted by trolley lines. Even after the amusement park closed, trolleys continued to bring tourists to see the spectacular 360-degree views until 1950.
Today, the area is much quieter than in the amusement park era. As local realtors say, “The peaceful, grassy lawns contrast sharply with the chaotic, carnival atmosphere of the park’s heyday.” The views, however, remain the same. On a clear day visitors can expect to see five snow-clad volcanoes and the entire city of Portland laid out below them. We also know Council Crest as the spot where young weather reports stand for their nightly TV shoot, when the temperature dips below freezing. They hope to spot and video the first Portland snowflakes descending on the summit.
Joy, Joy (Pioneer Woman)
The bronze statue/water fountain near the top of the Crest is call Pioneer Woman. It is also known as Joy, Joy (Pioneer Woman). The bronze was created and cast by Frederic Littman in 1956. The statue was given as a gift to the city of Portland by the Florence Laberee, in honor of her husband, George Laberee, a successful contractor in the city. According to another plaque on the summit, the models for the rendering of the statue were George Staehli’s sister and nephew. Staehli grew up in the area and he loved Portland and playing at the park at Council Crest.
“Sit Awhile and Enjoy This View,” George Staehli and the plaque maker insist.