Removed from downtown, the incredible charm of Peninsula Park is often overlooked by most Portlanders, particularly those new to the city. Most forget that in the City of Roses, Peninsula Park predates the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park and is home to Portland's first, and arguably still the most beautiful, public rose garden.
The 2.5-by-3-block, 16-acre park in North Portland was first envisioned by the Olmstead Brothers* in 1903. This landscape architecture firm was made most famous by their design of New York City's Central Park. The City of Portland hired the firm to review its existing parks, but also to create a vision for new ones. The firm's vision for new parks included what would ultimately become Forest Park, Mount Tabor and Peninsula Park. According to the City:
The park was purchased by the city in 1909 for $60,000 with funds raised in a 1908 bond measure. Originally owned by local businesswoman Liverpool Liz, it had been the site for a roadhouse and racetrack for quarter-mile horse racing. An autopark and campground were also included in the original parcel. Planned by renowned Oregon architects Ellis Lawrence and Ormond R. Bean, the park was a result of Portland's 1912 'City Beautiful' movement. Completed in 1913, much remains of the original features, including the lantern-style streetlights, the stone pillars, vast brickwork, and the nearly 100-year-old fountain in the center of the rose garden.
Today the rose garden is home to some 5,700 roses consisting of 75 different varieties, including the official rose of Portland, Mme. Caroline Testout, which was originally cultivated here. Peninsula Park is also home to the city's first community center, it's second oldest playground, two tennis courts, two baseball diamonds, a basketball court, public swimming pool, picnic shelter, and a bandstand listed on the historic register.
*Interestingly, Central Park was actually designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his business partner, Calvert Vaux. Their landscape architecture firm would later be passed down to his son and step-son, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, who would ultimately be known professionally as the Olmsted Brothers.
Note: The sports field, picnic shelter, and bandstand (primarily used for weddings) can be reserved by calling 503.823.2525.