Once Portland’s Million-Dollar Playground; Now a Lower-to-Middle Class Parking Lot
DOMA, the world-famous handwriting analyst and astrologist made only one public appearance in her fabled life. For one glorious weekend she freely pondered hearts dotting the tops of “j’s and i’s,” and sought out the untold wisdom hidden within fat and slim cursive loops of “e’s and l’s.” Fatuitous futures of thousands were carefully pondered and predicted.
Success, heartbreak, and even occasional hot pony were named. Where did this marvel of the 20th century choose to perform this miracle you ask? Where else but the “Coney Island of the West,” Jantzen Beach Park, the largest amusement park in America in 1926.
Sadly by her second day, rumor has it DOMA was so sauced up on what later became known as Vanport Wine, that she could not read the writing on the wall, literally, the amusement park’s sign was too blurry. It is here, like many gifts and talents squandered to drugs, DOMA could not predict the The Vanport flood of 1948, and the ensuing slow, sad death that led to the parks’ closure on Labor Day in 1970.
DOMA also could not see the horror that was to become the plywood and asbestos filled strip mall that grew out of its rubble.
Less horrific, dare I say, are three kind of cool things DOMA would have liked to have foreseen – kindly researched and reported on by our wise and thorough friends at pdxhistory.com:
- The wood from legendary Coaster Designer Carl Phare’s Big Dipper, the largest roller coaster in the West in 1928, was used to build a warehouse, condos and a bakery on SE 22nd and Division. The other part of The Big Dipper ended up at the Rebuilding Center where it was used to build booths, tables and chairs for Ken’s Artisan Pizza.
- The hydraulic system from the old swimming pools is now used to pump drinking water to residents on Hayden Island.
- The crown jewel of the park, C.W. Parker Carousel, spins on at the Jantzen Beach Center. Many ghost hunters and enthusiasts have supposedly witnessed ghost children still stuck on the carousel.
DOMA’S last tweet of wisdom as she sobered up trying to decide between going to Target, Home Depot, or the Dollar Store: “look towards the door in the middle of the carousel, if it’s open, the ghost children are waiting for you to step in and play.”
Thanks DOMA! ~RM Parish