A city of roses, by any other name
On the heels of the last weekend's Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, people are invited to learn the history behind Portland's famous moniker, the City of Roses.
Come explore an original exhibit "Madame Caroline Testout: The Rose that Made Portland Famous," on view through June 17 at the Oregon Historical Society, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., in Portland.
Portland's love of roses unofficially began at a backyard rose show hosted by Georgiana Pittock in 1888.
The city's Portland Rose Society was formed in 1989, and was instrumental in the creation of the city's official nickname, according to the society. The club's goal was "to beautify the city by endeavoring to have roses planted before all residences of the city … and to make Portland noted as a rose city in preparation for the Lewis & Clark Centennial," according to the historical group.
A committee charged with planning the World's Fair-esque 1905 Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition contacted the Rose Society's founder Frederick V. Holman for ideas on how to spruce up the city. His suggestion was to plant the Madame Caroline Testout, a hybrid pink tea rose named after a French dressmaker.
According to the December 8, 1901 issue of the Sunday Oregonian, Holman remarked, "If there is space for but one variety of roses, I urge the planting of Madame Caroline Testout: it lacks the perfume of the La France, but maintains its exquisite pink color, even in the hottest days of August … Portland has not yet a distinct name like San Francisco … but we can if we will give to Portland the name of the 'Rose City' during and after the Exposition of 1905."
The rose-lined streets of Portland astonished visitors when they arrived in 1905. Rose-mania was well underway as nearly 1.6 million paying visitors passed through the gates to the 400-acre fairgrounds on the northwest edge of the town, which was being recognized as the Rose City.
By 1907, the Portland Rose Festival was formed, with hedges and home gardens providing millions of roses for floats, women's hats, and anything else that roses could adorn, according to the society. A few years later, Portland was home to 200 miles of rose hedges lining curbs, an estimated one-quarter of the city's streets.
By the 1920s, the city's love of roses was beginning to diminish, but dedicated citizens kept the dream alive for decades.
It wasn't until 2003 that Portland officially adopted the "City of Roses" as its nickname.
The Oregon Historical Society museum is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
General admission costs $10. Admission is free for Oregon Historical Society members and Multnomah County residents.
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