Portland’s First Public School

Portland’s First Public School

Portland’s “Living Room,” AKA Pioneer Square is the location of these two signs. Both were installed to commemorate the first Public School Building built in Portland.
Public School1

The older of the two simply says “This is the site of the first public school building erected by Taxation in Portland. 1858. Marked by Columbia Society Children of the American Revolution.”

The second is shaped like the State of Oregon and states:

“Portland’s First Public School. On this block, May 17th, 1858, Portland First Public School was opened: L.L. Terwilliger, Principal: L.L. Terwilliger, Primary Grades: Owen Connelly, Higher Section: 280 Students enrolled.

Enlarged in 1873, it became the central school building. Use was discontinued on July 3rd, 1885. From this small beginning grew Portland’s Great Modern School System.

This memorial erected by Lang Syne Society of Portland September 14, 1965”

Interestingly, Pioneer Courthouse Square’s History Page says the school building was purchased by P.A. Marquam in 1883 and moved a block north. The Portland Hotel was then erected on the spot, but construction started in 1882 and did not finally finish until 1890.

The hotel was razed in 1951 by Meier & Frank to make way for a two story parking garage. A later proposal to build an 11 story parking garage on the site by Meier & Frank eventually led to the creation of Portland’s “Downtown Plan.”

Among the plan’s many parts was the purchase of this lot, and the creation of Pioneer Courthouse Square which opened April 6, 1984. Since then it has become known as Portland’s Living Room and the site of many activities each year such as the yearly Christmas Tree, to Sand in the City, and many other events, scheduled and unscheduled.

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