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Doc Lane put the bloom on our city

On the Town

It was a grand time, no doubt about it. Some historians have even called it Portland's Golden Age.

Most people still got where they were going on foot or by horse. Or bicycles, of course. Some things never change.

To give you some idea, the fire department didn't get its first motorized engine till 1913.

Men wore dark suits, even to the beach. Women wore long skirts and carried parasols as they promenaded along the boardwalk at Oaks Park, the town's spanking new amusement park, where John Philip Sousa and the Marine Band had played for the dedication ceremonies.

Popular songs of the day were 'The Glow-Worm' and 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'

The city itself was in the midst of a real-estate boom, created by the just-concluded Lewis and Clark Exposition, Portland's world's fair.

About 2.5 million people made the journey, and many had obviously liked what they saw. Almost overnight the city's population doubled to about 180,000.

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And presiding over this Northwest version of Camelot was a mayor by the name of Harry Lane.

As Jewel Lansing describes him in her excellent book, 'Portland: People, Power and Politics,' he was 'honest, down-to-earth, a fighter with no apparent ambition for personal wealth or status.'

A physician, bird-watcher and mushroom gatherer, he was champion of the little guy. He rode the streetcar to work from his home in Southeast Portland, and was the bane of crooked contractors.

Once, when he couldn't get the City Council to do anything about some shoddy concrete work in Irvington, he went out there himself and started making chalk marks where the pavement sounded hollow when he tapped it with a hammer.

When the contractor showed up and demanded to know what he was doing, the mayor told him to do the job right or he'd see that he went to the penitentiary. Not much later the sidewalk was up to specifications.

And one more thing about Lane: He never stopped fighting the special interests - at this time, the railroads and liquor lobby - that had all but captured Portland politics.

Not that he won many battles. His vetoes of bills passed by the City Council were usually overturned by a 13-2 vote.

But the people who elected him knew who he was and admired him for it. He was probably the best mayor Portland's ever had.

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So it's probably no coincidence at all that Doc Lane was also the father of Portland's Rose Festival.

In case you haven't been paying attention, this year's celebration marks the 100th anniversary of our annual civic celebration - and it was Lane who proposed it at the close of the Lewis and Clark Exposition.

'It's nothing more than a wild dream,' the mayor said, 'but I believe if the people would take hold of this proposition it would be one of the greatest things they ever attempted.

'Let them plant roses, which grow here in summer with but little care. Let them plant hedges of fir trees. We will then have a beautiful green and red city. … Let the people paint their houses and continue public improvements.

'Let the great railroads make this a center and a great seaport, and we will soon have the most wonderful and most famous city in the United States.'

It still seems like a good idea.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone at 503-546-5166 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..