15 Best Historic Attractions and Buildings in Portland

Officially founded in 1843, the city of Portland was originally quite a colorful place and was named as “one of the most dangerous port cities of the West Coast.” Today it’s much more sedate, but you’ll still find plenty of historic buildings dotted all over the city. Here are the best Historic Attractions and Buildings in Portland, Oregon…

1. Pittock Mansion – an astonishing French Renaissance sophisticated château full of history

Pittock Mansion - best historic attractions in Portland

Portland has a treasure trove of architectural gems, ranging from their iconic bridges to the gorgeous Pittock Mansion. Known as one of the most significant buildings in Oregon, this magnificent home was completed in 1914 by Henry Lewis Pittock for himself and his wife Georgiana. 

At the time of its construction, it was not only considered one of the most luxurious residences in Portland but also had some of the finest furnishings available. The Pittock Mansion is located in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon, and is an incredible national landmark that has been used as a museum since 1945. 

Visit the Pittock Mansion and admire the beauty of old Portland. The grandeur of the mansion will surely leave you beyond mesmerized.

  • 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR 97210

2. Otto W. and Ida L. Nelson House – a notable landmark noted on the National Register of Historic Places

The Otto W. and Ida L. Nelson House

The Otto W. and Ida L. Nelson House was commissioned by the Nelsons in 1896, designed by architect John Calvin Stevens, and completed in the same year. The home is one of the more notable examples of the Queen Anne Style architecture that came to be associated with Portland. A large brick house that has a corner tower, it is also an important example of the early development of the Arts and Crafts movement on Portland’s East Side. 

 

The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places and enjoys a “landmark” designation from the Portland City Council as it is such an important example of Victorian architecture in its city. 

  • 203 SE 15th Ave., Portland, Oregon

3. Portland Art Museum – the perfect place to learn about Portland’s history and art

Portland Art Museum - Portland

Located in the vibrant Pearl District, the Portland Art Museum is a private, non-profit organization that has been around for over 100 years. The museum was originally founded in 1892 by Charles Erskine Scott Wood as his contribution to the community. Today, the Museum is home to over 30,000 works of art and hosts around 450,000 visitors annually. 

 

The Portland Art Museum is one of the only ancient museums in the city that has an extensive collection of Asian art. The foundation for the museum was laid in 1892 with funds raised by public subscription. At its opening in 1893, the museum became one of the first art museums in the United States to purchase artwork. 

 

The museum is a hub for contemporary visual art and culture. The renovated galleries present a broad survey of Northwest art, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and installation by contemporary artists.

  • 1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205

4. Chapman and Lownsdale Squares – a beautiful greenery place ideal for nature lovers

Chapman and Lownsdale Squares

Chapman and Lownsdale squares are two public spaces located in downtown Portland, Oregon. Chapman Square is an open park surrounded by trees with picnic tables, benches, and a water fountain. It is right next to the United States District Court of Oregon building. The square is largely used for gatherings like rallies and protests. Lownsdale Square is more of an urban plaza with concrete steps providing access to the buildings surrounding it.

There you will find many vendors selling fresh produce and flowers, as well as artisans displaying their hand-crafted wares. Next to these two parks are buildings that date back to the early 1800s, which include boutique hotels, restaurants, and shops.

  • Portland, OR 97204

5. Old Church Concert Hall – a notable gothic church located in Portland’s west end

Old Church Concert Hall

Built-in 1908, the Old Church Concert Hall is a sanctuary for live orchestral music and opera performances. Located on the northeast side of Portland’s West Hills, the Old Church Concert Hall is one of the best historic attractions and buildings in Portland.

The venue has hosted huge names in classical music. Such a place is a perfect place to experience a whole new world of sound. Nowadays, it’s been converted into an event location that can host weddings or other similar celebrations.

  • 1422 SW 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

6. Pioneer Courthouse – the oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest established in 1869

Pioneer Courthouse Portland

The Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon is a majestic stone building that has been carefully preserved to maintain its historic integrity, making it one of the best historic attractions and buildings in Portland. Completed in 1869, this outstanding example of Italianate architecture was designed by Alfred B. Mullett.

 

The courthouse sits on the original townsite of Portland, and it is a reminder of the city’s origins as a bustling frontier community. Inside the courthouse are a variety of offices.  

 

The courthouse stands out for its beautifully adorned golden dome. The building also offers a library of legal resources to lawyers and local residents. Pioneer Courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.

  •  700 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97204

7. US National Bank Building a Roman iconic building that offers exquisite interior

United States National Bank Building - Portland

The US National Bank Building in Portland, Oregon is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the city. It was commissioned by Andrew Taylor Still, who also commissioned the building that housed the first medical school west of the Mississippi River. Completed in 1917, the building was designed by the famous architect A.E. Doyle.

The four-story building features a brick facade with terra cotta trim and an ornate cornice. The US national bank building has a long history of being an iconic structure. It was one of many buildings created as part of the city’s ambitious revitalization project.

  • 309 SW 6th Ave # 210, Portland, OR 97204

8. Hollywood Theater – a non-profit organization historic movie theater with a lot to offer

Hollywood Theater - Portland

It’s not often that people think of Portland, Oregon as a destination for theater, but the Hollywood Theater is an exception. Established in 1927, it has been continuously operating since its opening and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first theaters to be built with organ accompaniment to silent films and has been home to many famous actors and filmmakers since then. 

 

The Hollywood Theater is a perfect place to catch new releases before they hit the theater. The theater boasts eight movie screens and provides an intimate viewing experience with stadium seating. The theater also specializes in hosting special events like live music performances that are often open to all ages.

  • 4122 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97212

9. Chinatown Old Town – a lively entertainment place where you can eat, shop or party

Chinatown Old Town - Portland

You know the streets of Portland, right? They’re always so busy and full of people. You can hear classic rock from a touring bus or an acoustic cover of your favorite song coming from the coffee shop down the block. But one street, in particular, is different from all the rest: Chinatown Old Town.

Down one side of this street are rows of shops selling pottery, jewelry, clothing, and more. The Chinatown Old Town in Portland is full of authentic restaurants, high-quality goods, and state-of-the-art buildings and facilities. People all over the world are drawn to one of the best historic attractions and buildings in Portland- the Chinatown Old Town area; because of its progressive values, breathtaking scenery, and eclectic culture. The place is home to many ethnic grocery stores that sell authentic Asian spices and ingredients.

10. Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery – one of Portland’s most valued historic places with over 25,000 burials

Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery - Portland

Lone fir pioneer cemetery in Portland is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. The cemetery was established in 1855. Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery was used by the city’s early settlers, with most being given plots free of charge or for a small fee that they could afford. The cemetery now has more than 25,000 graves and the area covers 12 hectares of land. 

It was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 2007 and has one of the most well-preserved 19th-century landscape designs on the West Coast. The cemetery features an extensive collection of wooden Victorian markers, sculptures, monuments, and other treasures that give visitors insight into the funeral practices of early pioneers.

  • 649 SE 26th Ave, Portland, OR 97214

11. Mt Tabor Stairs – a popular tourist attraction perfect to keep up with your fitness

Mt Tabor Stairs - Portland

The Mt Tabor Stairs provide runners and fitness enthusiasts alike a scenic yet rigorous workout. The historic stairs, first created in the 1880s, span a total of 234 steps on a steep grade.

The path was originally built as easy access for firefighters to get up to the Mt Tabor reservoir, but now is a popular spot for those looking to escape from the city life and clear their head up high. Although the hike up is tough, it offers hikers excellent views of Downtown Portland and the Willamette River, which motivates many people to keep climbing.

  • 6738 Mt Tabor, Portland, OR 97215

12. Benson Bubbler – a very distinctive and cultural drinking fountain that provides fresh water

Benson Bubbler Portland

Portland’s Benson Bubbler is a classic example of the work of modernist architect, Louis Sullivan. Designed in 1912, the twenty bubblers were installed to provide clean drinking water to all people without discrimination.

There are dozens of them left scattered around Portland for anyone to find. These classic cast-iron hoses are decorated with geometric designs and offer refreshing drinking water for all travelers.

13. Tilikum Crossing – a great reference point to explore that offers access to pedestrians and bike riders

Tilikum Crossing - Portland

The Tilikum Crossing is a $4.2 billion project that spans five miles and has three pedestrian and transit paths for bikes and walkers. The bridge is constructed over the Willamette River connecting the east side of the river with downtown Portland.

 

The bridge was open to pedestrians, vehicles, and bikers in 2015 after a 4-year construction period. The bridge features a cable-stayed design with suspensions and is easily one of the best historic attractions in Portland for sightseeing.

  • Tilikum Crossing, Portland, OR 97201

14. Portland White Stag Sign – one of the most well-known signs in Portland that became a huge attraction

Portland White Stag Sign

The White Stag sign, one of many in downtown Portland that is known for its lighted neon and incandescent bulb displays. This particular piece gives off an airy feel with its bright white lights against dark backgrounds on both sides which stand out nicely from afar. You can’t miss the White Stag sign blazing atop 70 NW Couch Street in downtown Portland. This neon beauty faces Burnside Bridge and is visible to all who pass by. 

  • 70 NW Couch St, Portland, OR 97209

15. Portland Center Stage at The Armory – a historic architecture that brings the community together

Portland Center Stage at The Armory - Portland

Portland Center Stage is one of Portland, Oregon’s most renowned performing arts venues and presents a variety of theatrical productions annually. The incredible performing arts space, The Armory, is the permanent home of Portland Center Stage. 

 

From their first production in 1913, the Armory has been a staple of Portland’s thriving creative community, as well as a regional destination for world-class theater experiences. The theater serves to promote and support excellence in theater and dance by providing space for production, performance, and education. Every year, more than 160,000 people attend events at the Portland Center Stage at The Armory.

  • 128 NW 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97209

 

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