1905, Portland US – Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition

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1905 Portland

Name:Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition, and
American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair
Dates:1 Jun – 5 Oct 1905
Days:127 days
Venue:Beside the the Willamette river – 163 ha (402 acres)
Theme:100th anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of Oregon.
It was intended to attract immigrants and investors to the area.
‘Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way’.
Exhibitors: – 18 countries and 3 colonies
Visitors:1,588,858 paid entry, total admissions 2,554,858
– 50c adults, 25c children, 50 tickets for $12.50, 137 tickets for $20
Legacy:Total event cost $1,440,194 – with a profit of $84,840 and
paying a dividend of nearly 40% to the stockholders.

The venue was along the Willamette River, two miles north-west of the centre of Portland and offered views of Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and the Cascade Mountains – on a clear day Mount St Helens could be seen.



The Bridge of Nations, one thousand feet long, crossed the Williamette and led to the United States Government pavilion, on a promontory protruding into Guild’s lake, the causeway was the site for many of the Midway-style attractions. This was the largest pavilion at 6,950 sq m (74,800 sq ft), plus two ancilliary buildngs. It contained models of two major irrigation projects.

It was reached by the bridge or a ferry boat. Some of the show site was regularly inundated by the river, so extensive dredging and pumping was necessary to secure the fairground, the surplus creating Guild’s Lake.

Guild’s lake with bridge in the foreground
and showing a tethered balloon

An electric car ride, of under twenty minutes, took the visitors from the centre to the show.

Inspired by the Portland Board of Trade, the director-general for the show was Henry W Goode of Portland General Electric Company. Its full title indicated that the fair had a number of purposes – Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition, and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair. Initially it did find attracting oriental exhibitors difficult, Japan had the most significant presence.

The initial stock was taken up by banks, brewries, department stores, hotels, railroads and utility companies providing $300,000, Oregon state provided a further $450,000, the Federal government proposed to add $2m, but this shrank to £475,000 over fears for necessary funding of other events.

Main entrance


Visitors entered the site by the Colonnade Entrance to be greeted by the Pacific Court, and the Lewis & Clark Boulevard was the main avenue running northeast and southwest with the principal buildings arrayed along it. There was the Plaza of States and the Benton Plaza, Columbia Court, Jefferson Court and Monroe Court, Washington Avenue and Montana Avenue, there was a Waterfront Esplanade and the Sacagawea Fountain. A sunken garden was created between Coumbia Court, and the Agriculture and European buildings.

1905 Medal

Exhibiting nations were – Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia, Russia, Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

Exhibiting colonies were – Britain’s East India and New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Exhibiting states were – Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. (Those shown emboldened had pavilions)

Forestry building – external

Forestry building – internal

Perhaps the most significant building was the Forestry Building (given the local industry). It was billed as the largest log cabin in the world at 63.7m (209 ft) x 59.4m (195 ft) and would stand for 59 years (destroyed by fire in 1964). The large trunks min the picture above had a 1.5m (5 ft) diameter and weighed 32 tons each.

1905 Portland Buildings

But there was also buildings for Education, Electricity, Foreign Exhibits, Machinery, Oregon State, Oriental and Transportation. There was Administration Building and an Auditorium. However as the organisers had pledged to return the site to its original condition these were temporary in nature.

Attractions included electric lighting, the ‘Carnival of Venice’, moving picture displays, the finishing line for the first transcontinental automobile race, there was an ethnographic Filippino area,

The event was supported by seventy-five souvenir stands, fifteen ice cream and soft drink stands, and twelve restaurants.

The American Inn, within the site, had five hundred and eighty-five rooms ranging from $1.50 to $7.00 per night, depending on the European or American plan chosen. Nearby, in walking distance, were three new hotels, Detroit, Fairmount, and the Outside Inn, that offered a further five thousand rooms.

The media proved very positive and this led to a great deal of solid support for the event, with the total admissions at 2,554,858, with 1,588,858 having paid. These were predominently local with Portland visitors at 540,000, the rest of Oregon 361,243, Washington state at 279,775 – just 160,00 from the east of the Rockies.

After the event the lake heavily silted by the 1910s. It and the fairgrounds became a warehouse and industrial area. An annual Rose Festival is considered to be one of the legacise of the event.

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