One day I was browsing eBay looking at vintage postcards of Portland, Oregon when I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. There were all these postcards featuring an amusement park in Portland that I had never heard of, Council Crest Amusement Park. The following post is the result of me collecting those early postcards featuring the amusement park and writing about this attraction from Forgotten Portland.
While hundreds of Portlanders and tourists enjoy Council Crest Park every day, not everyone is aware of its history. A hundred years ago it was the site of an amusement park called the Council Crest Amusement Park. In an effort to increase ridership for their Portland Heights trolley line (it was eventually renamed the Council Crest line) the Portland Railway, Light and Power Company built an amusement park on top of Council Crest, which was then considered the highest point in Portland. Since the amusement park was served exclusively by the Portland Heights trolley line, the trolley line was very profitable for PRL&P.
Trolley service to Council Crest began in September 20, 1906 when the Portland Railway, Light and Power Company opened a new route to the summit of the hill. A year later the company built an amusement park on the site to increase ridership on the Portland Heights trolley line. PRL&P hired LaMarcus Thompson from Coney Island to build most of the amusements at the park.
LaMarcus Thompson was known as the “Father of the American Roller Coaster” after he opened the first roller coaster in American at Coney Island in 1884. He also invented the Scenic Railway concept which was intended to give riders a scenic view of the surrounding landscape. Besides building many of the amusements at the park, Thompson and his company built a roller coaster and a scenic railway ride for the Council Park Amusement Park which drew in large crowds. The amusement park featured a merry-go-round, a miniature railway, a Ferris wheel and other entertainments, served exclusively by the trolley line.
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By 1929, competition from the newly opened Jantzen Beach Amusement Park was causing a downturn in attendance at the amusemnet park on Council Crest. Now that Portland Heights had electricity and cars were more abundant, ridership on the Portland Heights trolley line to Council Crest Amusement Park decreased significantly and the amusement park closed that year.
Streetcar service ended on August 9, 1949, with the abandonment of the uppermost section of the Council Crest streetcar line, the service being cut back to the intersection of Vista Avenue and Patton Road. Removal of the rails along the line’s private right-of-way began the next day, and a road was then built along the former rail-only right-of-way. The line had been one of the most famous and scenic trolley lines in North America. (The remainder of the Council Crest line was abandoned six months later, on February 26, 1950, with the closure of the city’s last three urban streetcar lines.). Today, the Council Crest neighborhood is served by TriMet Line 51, but the bus service does not reach Council Crest Park.