I originally posted the Council Crest Park page on my old website as a PORTLAND PLACES page on May 21, 2008, and last updated it on May 16, 2010.
At an elevation of 1,073 feet, Council Crest Park is the highest point in Portland. It was originally claimed by settler John Talbot in 1849, who discovered it while searching for lost cattle. The hill has been known by many names, including Talbot's Mountain, Glass Hill and Fairmount. It was named Council Crest in 1898 by delegates to the National Council of Congregational Churches, who believed native Americans had used the site as a meeting place.
An inscription in the concrete at Council Crest Park tells the story:
In 1898 a party of thirty church ministers, seeking the larger view, boarded six horse-drawn carriages in town and headed uphill at 4:30 p.m. Two hours later they arrived here. Convinced that native people had also held council at this lofty site, the ministers named it Council Crest. Today, a two-hour drive leads to the limits of this view and beyond - to untrodden forest, snow-capped peaks, or the rugged Oregon Coast. And still, seeking the larger view, we gather here to gaze upon Portland, a city great but merely human in the grandeur of its natural setting.
Council Crest Park offers an incredible view of the city of Portland and beyond. An informational plaque is located at one viewpoint.
In the distance flows the mighty Columbia River, draining parts of seven states and British Columbia. Bridges in the foreground span the Willamette, flowing north to join the Columbia.
From the beginning, native people here looked to the rivers for their food, transportation and trade, and religious inspiration. Forty years after Lewis and Clark came down the Columbia, pioneers settled and began farming along the Willamette. The city of Portland grew to prominence when seafaring ships, seeking Willamette Valley trade, could probe this far - and no farther - from the Pacific Ocean.
The rivers today, still central to transportation and trade, also bring nature to the heart of the city. Salmon runs and nesting herons lift the spirit of the people who live here. The rivers remind us of vital connections - the natural to the man-made, the timeless to the new.
In addition to a spectacular view of Portland, Council Crest also offers views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.
Mount Hood, with a height of 11,235 feet, is the highest point in Oregon and the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Range. It is only 50 miles from Council Crest.
A Molala Indian name for Mount Hood is nífti yáŋint which means "great mountain."
Mount Adams in Washington has a height of 12,275 feet.
Mount Adams is 75 miles from Council Crest.
A Yakima Indian name for Mount Adams is pátu which means "snowy peak."
Mount St. Helens in Washington has a height of 8,364 feet and is 54 miles from Council Crest.
An Upper Cowlitz Indian name for Mount St. Helens is lawilayt-łá which means "the smoker."
Beyond Mount St. Helens is Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the Cascade Range at 14,410 feet. It is 104 miles from Council Crest.
An Upper Cowlitz Indian name for Mount Rainier is taxúma from which the city of Tacoma is thought to take its name.
An observation tower was built on Council Crest for the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition. This brought the spectacular viewpoint to the attention of the people of Portland. A streetcar line to the top of Council Crest opened in 1906, and an amusement park opened in 1907.
Due to the steep grades of the 2.5-mile streetcar line to Council Crest, it required the use of streetcars that were specifically equipped with low gearing and electric brakes with auxiliary hand brakes instead of the typical air brakes. A group of 10 streetcars were built in 1904 by the American Car Company of St. Louis, Missouri; they served in downtown Portland during the Lewis & Clark Exposition before their intended line was completed.
The amusement park closed at the end of the 1929 season. There were hopes that it would eventually reopen, but the Great Depression made that impossible and the buildings deteriorated and were gradually demolished. The site was acquired for use as a city park in 1937. The last remnant of the amusement park, the 77-foot observation tower, was demolished in 1941. The water tower that currently sits in Council Crest Park is on the site of the observation tower.
The Council Crest streetcars remained in service to the park until August 9, 1949, when the Council Crest Line was cut back to the intersection of Vista Avenue & Patton Road. They were retired when all of Portland's streetcar service ended in 1950. One of the 10 Council Crest Cars, #506, was donated to the Oregon Historical Society and was placed on display at Council Crest Park until 1972.
Another Council Crest Car, #503, was donated to a North Portland Boy Scout troop for use as a clubhouse. Both cars are now preserved at the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society's museum at Antique Powerland in Brooks, Oregon.
Council Crest Car in service (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#503 and a sister car in Portland (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#506 in service in 1920 (Portland Auditor's Office)
#505 on the Vista Bridge (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#506 in Downtown Portland (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#504 on the Council Crest Line (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#501 on the Council Crest Line (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#505 on the Council Crest Line (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#506 in service in Portland (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#501 on the Council Crest Line, 9/3/49 (Dave's Electric Railroads)#510 on the Council Crest Line (Dave's Electric Railroads)
#506 display at Council Crest Park (Electric Trolley Bus Web Site)
#506 on display in bus garage in 1973 (Portland Auditor's Office)
The Council Crest Cars are further remembered in Portland by the Portland Vintage Trolleys.
These modern replicas, built by Gomaco in 1991, were designed to replicate the preserved Council Crest Cars, with modern construction and controls, and the ability to operate on Portland's Light Rail lines.
This bronze drinking fountain statue was installed in July, 1956. It was sculpted by Frederic Littmann, an associate art professor at Portland State College.
The statue depicts the sister and nephew of George P. Staehli, who grew up near Council Crest when the amusement park was operating.
The fountain was funded by a $6,000 from the estate of Florence & George P. Laberee.
The fountain was originally located on the east side of the park. It was stolen in the 1980s and was recovered nearly a decade later, and was placed at its current location near the center of the park.
The plaques below are near the statue.
George B. Staehli
He Grew up in the Family Home Below Here
Played in The Amusement Park Here
He Loved Portland and This Park
The Statue Above is His Sister and Nephew
Sit Awhile and Enjoy This View
The distant Coast Range divides a good rain into waters flowing directly to the Pacific Ocean and waters running this way to spiral around Council Crest. The Tualatin River (coming east) joins the Willamette (streaming north through Portland) to find the Columbia (flowing north and finally west) to reach the Pacific at Astoria.
In the low foreground lies Beaverton, named for a beaver-dammed pocket in the Tualatin Valley that became rich dairy and farm land before the city spread into it.
The crest we stand on was claimed in 1849 by John Talbot. Searching for lost cattle - and concerned about malaria in the valley - Talbot found this place "high enough to be healthy."
From 1906 to 1950, electric streetcars looped Council Crest. Passengers debarked two hundred feet south of here and walked a wooden stairway toward the summit to savor the sweeping view.