In Portland’s most far-reaching early city plan, planner Harland Bartholomew foreshadows future controls on sprawl. “The problem is not one of congestion,” he wrote, “but rather one of how much can we afford to spread out.”
Due to the traffic unleashed by the Columbia River Highway and in anticipation of the Bonneville Power Association’s damming and electrifying of the Columbia River, 25-year-old architectural wunderkind John Yeon (pictured) begins penning the Report on the Columbia Gorge. The Northwest’s first environmental impact statement, it outlines the first preservation plan for the Gorge.
Yeon designs the masterful Watzek House (pictured) and, soon after, a series of the world’s first plywood houses. These help establish the Northwest style of regional architecture, while foreshadowing by four decades such “green” innovations as thermodynamic ventilation systems and double-glazed windows. Sixty-five years later, famed Australian eco-architect Glenn Murcutt sees the houses and smiles, “All I’ve ever tried to do is here.”
Addressing the City Club of Portland, renowned urban historian and planning advocate Lewis Mumford (pictured) offers a challenge: “I have seen nothing so tempting as a home for man and woman as the Oregon country. You have here a basis for civilization on its highest scale, and I am going to ask you a question you may not like. Are you good enough to have this country in your possession?”
Portlanders—and mayors looking for publicity—lodge the city’s earliest known protest of pollution of the Willamette River (pollution pictured). In response, voters create the Oregon State Sanitary Authority (now the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality) and charge it with the responsibility of cleaning up industrial waste in the state’s rivers. Six years later, a report from Oregon State University declares that the Willamette is dead. (No oxygen registered in the river as it flowed past Portland.) The culprit? Industrial mills dumping sewage and a Sanitary Authority with no actual regulatory authority. The Willamette’s condition and the ineffectual government will later inspire Tom McCall’s documentary, Pollution in Paradise (see 1962).