September 22, 2004
Mount Tabor Park Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
On September 22, 2004, Mount Tabor Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, following the Reservoirs' Listing in the National Register in January, 2004.
Tradition of Citizen Involvement Carries On Into This Century
The community was inspired to action due to the highly controversial reservoir replacement project that would have assured massive changes for Mount Tabor Park, including a new road to accommodate heavy construction vehicles, removal of the historic nursery to be used as a construction staging area and the demolition of the historic reservoirs. Public outcry and a City appointed panel cancelled the contract for the reservoir project in July, 2004.
Mount Tabor Park, a 196 acre volcanic butte, is noted as an important regional park by the City, but has been prone to adverse effects by zoning changes in the past. In the mid 1990's, the park lost about 5 acres on the southwest corner when the City sold that area to a private developer.
Current citizen activists commend those from the last century who lobbied hard to get Mount Tabor, and other land, allocated and developed into public parks. Without citizen involvement, Portland would not have the distinction of being a city of parks.
Listing Does Not Guarantee Protection - Current Historic Resources Code Review Underway
Currently the City is engaged in a review of the Historic Resources Code and City Council could vote to give itself authorization to deny demolition permits for resources listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
City Hall Stalls Listing
The nomination for Mount Tabor Park was forwarded to SHPO in December, 2003. Voting on the nomination by the SACHP was bumped from February to May, 2004 due to an objection by City Commissioner Jim Francesconi. As Commissioner in charge of Portland Parks and Recreation, he wrote to the State Historic Preservation Office complaining that the City was short-changed three of its 60 days to review the nomination. At their May meeting, members of the SACHP unanimously voted to forward the nomination on to the National Parks Service administered by the Secretary of the Interior. (The reservoir nominations also received an unanimous vote of approval from the SACHP last year.)
Brief Historical Review Of Mount Tabor Park And Portland Park Development
Mount Tabor Park is eligible for inclusion to the National Register of Historic Places because it is one of Portland's first parks and its history dovetails into the national story of park development. In the early 1900's, citizen activists, in the form of what were known as "push clubs," clamored for the 643 foot Mount Tabor butte to become an official park. The citizen-led efforts, coupled with the siting of four of the City's drinking water reservoirs, prompted much of the Mount Tabor park land, that was later identified as a volcano, to be purchased by the City in 1909.
The design of the scenic driveway system and other park amenities are attributed to Emanuel T. Mische, a premier landscape designer, horticulturist and former employee of the Olmsted firm in Massachusetts. He established the nursery, still an important resource, on the southern flank of Mount Tabor to serve all of Portland's parks and public landscapes when he became park superintendent in 1907. Mische's assistant, Charles Keyser, served as park superintendent for over 40 years and helped to keep Mount Tabor's forested, rural feel as called for in the initial design. As Olmsted predicted, Mount Tabor Park has become a very important resource - a well-used and highly visible historic landmark in the City of Portland that provides scenic vistas, protected in the City's Scenic Resource Protection Plan.
CURRENT CITIZEN ACTIVISTS FOLLOW HISTORIC TREND IN THE CITY
More About Portland's Current Historic Resource Design Review in Progress
The Historic Resources Code review is currently in progress at City Hall. On October 6, many people testified in favor of the City Council having the ability to deny demolition and some, including developers, subcontractors of developers along with some property owners, argued that demolition denial was to restricting. Testimony pointed out that over 300 jurisdictions in the nation are able to deny demolition. Although called demolition denial, the fine print says that owners can plead for demolition if denying demolition will deprive them of income from the property, so in essence, risk still exists for historic resources even if the historic resource code amendment package passes into ordinance. An interesting piece of the dialog includes the creation of a new Type IV landuse review. For more information or to read the actual code go to: Portland Bureau of Planning or contact Nicholas Starin, 503-823-5837, firstname.lastname@example.org.