1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition

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Westward the Course of Empire Takes It's Way

The 1905 Lewis & Clark Expo has faded into Portland's past, largely because little of the fair was left standing after the event was over. Only the Forestry building was intended to survive but it was destroyed by an arsonist in 1964. Something of the fair remains, however, and that is in St. Johns...

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Wet or Dry, That's the Issue

The worst thing about St. Johns in 1905 and 1906 was politics, spelled with a capital "P'.

The most volatile issues were water and booze. Prohibition was governed by "home rule" and the water supply was privately owned.

A ruckus really started on July 3, 1905, when it was announced that C.D. Edwards, one of the councilmen, had sold his home on the corner of Burlington and Gresham (Princeton) streets. Prior to this sale the council stood 4-3 against issuing any liquor licenses.

It seems that Edwards tendered his undated resignation to William H. King, his escrow agent. King also just happened to be the mayor. King added his resignation to the pending escrow and accepted the same "on closing".

Edwards then changed his mind and asked to withdraw his resignation. King denied the request. The council hadn't acted on the resignation, but there were those who contended he couldn't continue to serve if he wasn't a resident free-holder.

Edwards continued to attend council meetings and so the whole matter ended up in the Multnomah County Circuit Court on injunction proceedings against Edwards.

Judge Frazer ruled that King could not accept the resignation; it had to be accepted by the vote of the entire City Council, and it was not necessary to be a free-holder to hold public office. St. Johns remained "dry" for the rest of the year, but not for long thereafter.

The St. Johns Review alluded to graft and corruption of the city officials when it was noted that bootleg whiskey had been sold in town and the Road House (Claremont Tavern) directly across the river. Each of these two liquor sources was benefiting immensely by local probation.

The water supply problems were, in part, cured by the purchase of two Lewis & Clark Exposition water tanks, and more will be said about that later.


It all began with the publication of the first issue of the St. Johns Review. The newspaper, founded by J.D. Crome, editor and publisher, declared that everyone had great expectation for the Lewis and Clark Fair which was soon to be opened.

On the international scene, Russia was at war with Japan. The conflict, being on the other side of the globe, received little attention. The United States was following a policy of isolationism and the distance between here and China was beyond comprehension.

On the national scene, St. Louis was enjoying great financial success with its Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Twenty million people attended this 1904 world's fair. Members of the local Lewis & Clark Commission were in attendance seeking exhibits for the Portland fair.

The last of the great gold and silver rushes in the United States was under way in southern Nevada. Towns like Goldfield, Tonapah and Ryolite sprang up over night.

Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States and had just been elected to serve his first full term by a majority of nearly 2 million votes. Roosevelt was bullish and so was the nation.

Portland was girding for an onslaught of easterners, preparing its hotels, rooming houses, and restaurants to take care of the crowds. Progress at the selected location of Guilds Lake was moving along smoothly, although some state buildings had not yet been built. The ground-breaking ceremony had taken place on April 7, 1904. and everyone in downtown Portland was enthusiastic. Forty-six parcels of swamp land had been obtained, comprising 406 acres. One parcel was purchased for $6,000, and everything else was leased through December 31, 1905, with property tax exemptions allowed the land owners during the interim.

St. Johns was too preoccupied with it's own affairs to pay much attention to the upcoming fair. It was experiencing growing pains, including a new and inexperienced city government, and insufficient number of streetcars and poor utility service. The Portland General Electric Co. had promised power but hadn't fulfilled. Some businesses and a few residences were experimenting with gasoline "gas plants," costing about $85 each, to meet their heating and lighting needs. It is a small wonder that no explosions occurred during these days.

The local setting was a period of hustle and bustle, with business property being bought and sold daily. Land speculators, promoters and amateur politicians were the personalities of the day. The St. Johns Review, under the guidance of Crome and several of his successors, was organized for and geared to running legal notices for the City of St. Johns, inserting innocent advertising between items of local news, and invariably securing a favorable comment about St. Johns from every visitor to the community.

Site Location

Long before the St. Johns Review began publication there were several site areas under consideration, including Sellwood, Ross Island, City Park (now Washington Park) and some 10 other spots, including University Park. Undoubtedly, the citizens of St. Johns preferred and strongly supported the latter location, even though there is no written record of this support.

Review Changes Ownership

The St. Johns Review reported on May 26, 1905, just a few days before the fair was officially open, that the ownership of the paper had passed into the hands of the firm of McKeon and Thorndike. R.W. McKeon was from Graceville, Minn., and W.L. Thorndike was from Loveland, Colo. Both persons were experienced as editors managers of eastern newspapers.

It was common practice among small town newspapers of the times to promote their communities by "puffing" the growth rate and investment opportunities.

The new editors in their second issue, warned the citizens of St. Johns to be on the lookout for sneak thieves due to the great influx of people who would be attending the fair. This same sentiment was also being voiced by the Portland Police Department. Time, and circumstances, proved the warnings to be justified.

The Big Event

The official motto inscribed over the main gate, read "Westward the Course of Empire Takes It's Way." If the motto was somewhat meaningless then the official corporate name of Lewis & Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair should clearly indicate that this was a trade fair and of great magnitude. Lewis & Clark played only a minor part in the whole affair. They were used as an excuse for Portland to promote itself and future trade with the Orient.

Constructions Costs

The Oregon Legislature, at the session of 1903, appropriated $500,000, of which $400,000 was allocated for the exposition at Portland, $50,000 to an Oregon exhibit at the St. Louis Exposition, and $50,000 to a Lewis & Clark Memorial building to be erected at Portland.

The Attorney General for the State of Oregon ruled that the Portland corporation, which was organized in 1901 to hold the Exposition, was in control of the entire enterprise. As a result of the opinion, the United States and the State of Oregon, and all other states, were merely participants. The corporation and the State of Oregon, however, closely coordinated all of the matters pertaining to the construction.

It was mutually agreed that the basic architectural scheme should follow a free renaissance of the Spanish type, with the exception of the Forestry building. The standard building color was ivory white with vermilion and moss green and roof effects.

The private corporation, organized to manage the fair, sold stock subscriptions for $417,712. The capital stock actually paid up was $405,085, or nearly 97 percent of the subscription rolls. These funds provided the initial capital for the Exposition. The total receipts of the corporation from start to finish were $1,524,655.52, of which $918,560.63 went for organization and construction costs, $521,634.59 for operation and and clean up. The sum of $84,460.30 was returned to the stockholders and this resulted in a 21 1/2 percent profit for the participants. No federal, state or private expenditures are included in those figures.

The State of Oregon expended $398,374.20 for use at the Portland fair. The sum of $304,415 was for the Forestry, Oriental, Agricultural, European, Machinery, Mining, Auditorium and Oregon buildings, together with two small Administration buildings. All of these buildings, with the exception of the Oregon building, were managed by the corporation.

The United States appropriated $475,000 and expended $427,868. The Government building cost $249,115.05 and the remainder of the expenditure was for the Federal and Territory of Alaska exhibits. The participating states were Oregon, Washington, California, New York, Missouri, Idaho, Utah, Illinois, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, Louisiana and Arizona. The first 11 of these states erected state buildings.

Attendance and Gate Receipts

The exposition was officially open a total of 137 days from June 1, 1905 to Oct. 15, 1905, and the cost of operation during the period was $500,090.37 or $3,650.30 per day. The total attendance was 2,554,848 but only 1,588,858 people paid an admission charge of 50 cents during the week or 25 cents on Sunday, bringing in a revenue of $730,032.85. In addition to the seasonal revenue, there were 227,738 paid admissions of $30,043.67 for 360 days before the exposition was formally opened, and 18,225 paid gate receipts of $4,702.60 after the closing of the fair. It appears no one was allowed to stay on the premises for a "free" review of coming attractions or prologue of past events.

The fair itself was a financial success but "The Trail," the entertainment strip with 24 attractions was, on the whole, a failure. Admission to the amusement exhibitions were either 10 or 25 cents each, an amount people were apparently unwilling to pay. In some cases extra charge was made for reserved seats and some concessionaires had inside amusements for which additional amounts were charged.

Reporting During The Fair

The Portland General Electric Co. announced that there was electric power for St. Johns on the eve of the opening of the fair. The St. Johns Pharmacy and the Peninsula Bank both opened their doors, coexistent with the opening of the fair. A subscription to the St. Johns Review could be had for $1 per year. Mary MacLacklin, one of Oregon's first women physicians, was practicing medicine over Elliot's Drug Store, and Luzana E. Graves was her registered nurse. With Doctor Mary's urging Luzana herself became a physician and served St. Johns residents for many years, until she retired and moved to California.

It was more than a month before one of the editors of the St. Johns Review found time to attend the fair. He reported, on July 7, 1905: "At the Portland fair there is but one disadvantage to the man who goes for the pleasure of viewing exhibits - and that is the constant begging and pleading to 'buy something.' In at least two of the buildings this business was kept up at such an extent as to nauseate the spectator." This is the only direct report of the Lewis & Clark fair to be found in the St. Johns Review.

Airship Visits St. Johns

Thomas S. Baldin, the designer and builder of the "California Arrow," a dirigible 52 feet long and 17 feet in diameter, which performed so proudly at the St. Lewis Fair, was persuaded to participate in Portland. He built a new airship for this fair which he named the "Angelus." It was a revised and enlarged version of the "Arrow," 65 feet long and powered by a 7 1/2 horsepower two cycle gasoline engine. It weighed 400 pounds and had a capacity of 16,000 cubic feet of gas. His aeronaut was Lincoln Beachey, a fearless lad of 18 years, who was said to have had five years experience at this chosen profession.

On July 18, 1905, Beachey made a trip from the fairgrounds in the Angelus, the first airship flight in the history of the Pacific Northwest. The aeronaut stood erect on the gondola frame, moving forward or backwards to ascend or descend. There were no ailerons, only a rudder. This airship proved to be untrustworthy due to its small engine capacity and the periodic high air currents in this area. It made history in St. Johns during one of its unscheduled flights just prior to it's early retirement.

The St. Johns Review reported on Aug. 4, 1905 that "Just before 7:00 last evening the airship Angelus, carrying Leonard Beachy (sic), hovered over this city, with it's engine disabled. Prior to this the monster maneuvered in fine shape in plain view of a couple of thousand spectators. Willing hands towed the machine, still aloft, to the new dock where the launch Fox towed her to Portland. Another ascension will be made tomorrow afternoon".

This may well have been the last flight of the Angelus, despite the announcement.

"The City of Portland," an airship of about half the size of the Angelus, was designed and being built at this time by Capt. Baldin in the aerodrome at the fair site. This new airship made its first successful flight of 20 minutes on Aug. 19, 1905 and nothing thereafter was reported on the Angelus. Beachey referred to as the "boy aeronaut" stuck with his dangerous career until he was killed in an accident while performing at the San Francisco fair 10 years later.

The only other airship at the fair, as distinguished from a balloon, was designed, built and operated by G.P. Tomlinson of Syracuse, N.Y. His airship, the "Gelatine," similar in design to the Portland had ailerons, and a rudder for both vertical and horizontal control. Its ovalshaped gas bag had a 12,000-cubic-foot capacity. It employed a smaller 5 horsepower single-cycle engine, and although better designed, it did not have a daring pilot. The Portland and Gelatine were scheduled to race on Sept. 2 but due to high winds, Tomlinson withdrew. Beachey took off anyway and was swept across the river into the Albina District. He got caught up in a tree and tore a 10-foot hole in the side of the gas bag. That was the beginning and the end of racing at the fair.

Making a Big Splash

Among the early visitors to the fair was a young couple from St. Johns. This was their first date and both were dressed quite prim and proper. They went from exhibit to exhibit in deep concentration when all of a sudden the young man found himself drenched in ivory paint. It seems that one of the painters had dropped his bucket from a scaffold and the gay blade was the recipient of the splash.

The young maid thought the incident was hilarious but her beau didn't concur. Her laughter made their first date their last and the courtship came to an abrupt end. She went home to take up with a city official whom she wedded the following year. He returned to his usual place of business, never to return to the fair again.

This is one bit of news the St. Johns Review may never have even heard about; but no matter, they couldn't have printed it anyway. The young man was one of their regular weekly advertisers.

The Fair Closes

Very little remains to remind us of the Lewis & Clark fair today. The old fair site is now home to Montgomery Park and several surrounding businesses.

The private corporation which operated the fair refused to contribute $50,000 toward the erection of a Lewis & Clark memorial building with matching funds to be furnished by the State of Oregon. It was their contention that the proposed building could not be built for $100,000 and so the State of Oregon asked for the return of its money.

The Forestry building was the only building which permanently remained on site and this was given to the City of Portland. It has been reported that some buildings were seen on the site location as late as 1907, although the leases for their presence had expired at the end of 1905.

Only six buildings were removed from the premises and relocated. They included the Massachusetts State House, Illinois building, one of the Administrative buildings, Masonic building, National Cash Register building and an unidentified building now located at 8036 N. Overlook Terrace.

There were three water tanks located near the Forestry building and at least two of them were removed. The beautiful ornate Missouri building caught fire and burned just two days before the fair closed. The rest of the buildings were either razed or abandoned and the fair came to an ignoble end.

St. Johns Becomes Aeronautic Center

Probably one of the largest crowds ever gathered in St. Johns witnessed the balloon ascension and parachute jump of L.M. Paul on Sunday afternoon, April 29, 1906.

According to the St. Johns Review, "It was a very pretty exhibition and all were well pleased. The ascent was made from the city hall property on Burlington Ave. The spectators started to gather at 10 o'clock and with each arrival of the street cars brought additional people. It was 5 p.m. before everything was in readiness. A crude furnace built on the ground provided the hot air for inflating the immense balloon. When released the balloon drifted slightly to the south. Mr. Paul cut his parachute loose above the dry dock. Although intended to land on this side of the river, he missed his calculations and came down in the middle of the Willamette, where he was picked up by men in a boat. The balloon came down at a point (on the) opposite side of the river below the fair ground."

First it was an airship and then a balloon. St. Johns was fast becoming famous as an aeronautical center.

The Salvage Operation

If you ever viewed photographs of the fair and thought the statues were white marble and that the columns of those huge exhibition halls were made of the same stuff, you were wrong. Lath and plaster were the basis for most of the ornate figures, columns and scrollwork. Two statues survived by being case in bronze and placed in Washington Park, "The Coming of the White Man" and "Sacajawea, the Bird Woman."

The Massachusetts State building, a replica of the Massachusetts State House on Becon Hill in Boston, was purchased by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe. He was a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt and gave Portland most of its bronze statues, including "Sacajawea" and the mounted statue of Roosevelt in the Southwest Park Blocks.

The Massachusetts building was a 27-room colonial and became the administration building of the Crystal Springs Sanitarium, owned and operated by Dr. Coe, who was an early-day Portland psychiatrist.

The building was razed in the early 1940's after it spent several years as a rental unit. It is also interesting to note that Dr. Coe "bankrolled" the First National Bank of St. Johns. He was its first president, but soon sold out to those more willing to manage its affairs.

The Illinois State building, a replica of Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, Ill, was razed on Friday Feb. 6, 1981. It sustained severe fire damage on Jan. 29, 1957. The building could possibly have been restored, but the owners said it wasn't economically feasible. It should be noted that this building and all of the other buildings removed from the site, with the exception of the National Cash Register building, are or were of a colonial or New England design.

The huge southern Colonial at 4036 N. Overlook Terrace can't be certified as a building from the site, but it is obviously much older than those homes in the immediate area. It certainly "looks right" and there are those who say the old timers told them they remember the move.

The Masonic building was converted to a home when it was moved to the corner of Northwest 26th Avenue and Northrup Street.

One of the small administration buildings, said to have been situated near the main gates, also was converted to a residence and it found a permanent home at 3300 W. Rosemond Drive in West Linn in 1907, apparently the last building to be salvaged.

The National Cash Register building and two out of the three water tanks found a new home in St. Johns.

The St. Johns Water Works

A considerable amount of unrest brought about testing of the local water supply which came from several deep wells. It proved to be satisfactory, as Drs. MacLacklin and Hensel had stated earlier. The citizens then had to admit that the water was good but the real issue, service, had yet to be resolved.

The St. Johns Review, Oct. 27, 1905, in speaking of the water works said: "The management assures The Review that no expense will be spared to give the citizens of St. Johns the service requisite to suit all demands (including a new pump with capacity of 35,000 gallons per hour). To this end arrangements have been made to secure one more of the huge tanks which stand beside the forestry building in the fairgrounds."

"This tank which is of large capacity will be elevated near the one now in use to a height to create a good fire pressure," etc. In keeping with this promise, at least two of the tanks were erected at the corner of Oswego Avenue and Willamette Boulevard (where the Bureau of Water Works maintains two steel tanks to this day). The wooden tanks disappeared from the St. Johns scene a long time ago, but not before the city finally purchased the privately owned franchised water works.

The First Congregational Church

Church affiliates quickly grouped together and organized during this period. Bickner's Hall (second floor of the old St. Johns Hardware Store) seemed to be the common gathering place for every church organized after the Seventh-day Adventists. It was in this location that the First Congregational Church of St. Johns was organized, the fourth denomination in the area.

On May 26, 1905, it was reported that "The Congregational people have erected a large tabernacle one block east of the evangelical Church, where they will hold services while building their church."

The St. Johns Review subsequently announced that the church would be built on Willamette Boulevard; however, someone much have had connections with the National Cash Register Co. because it donated its fair structure to the local congregation.

The building was barged down the Willamette, rolled up Main Street (Richmond Avenue) and placed on a corner lot at Ivanhoe Street.

The building was dedicated on June 3, 1906 after some renovation and modifications. An annex was subsequently added to the original structure after an additional lot was acquired on Feb. 25, 1907.

This property and building were sold to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri on Nov. 12, 1937, and the church then became known as the St. John Lutheran church. The property was subsequently sold to the St. Johns Post No. 98 of the American Legion in 1951. It has had two owners since. Known today as the St. Johns Theater & Pub it is one of many historic facilities operated by the McMenamin brothers in Oregon and Washington.

A Trip to the N.C.R.

An official fair publication had this quotation: "No feature at the whole exposition attracted more attention or comment than the exhibition know as a Trip to the N.C.R. First entertaining the audience by a beautifully staged stereopticon and motion picture exhibition, then instructing by its unique business organization, finally enthusing over the results obtained by this company with it's welfare work, these lectures will long be remembered by the people who heard them." The National Cash Register Co. was well represented at the fair. It had exhibits in three separate buildings.


St. Johns, like Portland, had a tremendous influx of new citizens after the fair. Nearly every brick and concrete building in the area at that time was built after the fair and before the end of 1906. The St. Johns Brick Works was in full operation in those days with M.F. Loy at the helm. The generous Merritt L. Holbrook, with the assistance of young Charles E. Bailey, reigned supreme in the real estate business with their St. Johns Land Co.

The Portland real estate firm of Hartman, Thompson & Powers guaranteed that the property which it sold would increase 20 percent in value in one year or they would refund the purchase price with 6 percent interest. Those were the good old days which really didn't last very long.

It is not known what happened to St. Johns illustrious mayor, William H. King, who had his fingers in all sorts of business deals, including part ownership of the St. Johns Brick and Title Co. He and others just faded away during the recession that preceded World War I. It might be said that the community slumbered during those years and it took another long nap before World War II.

News reached St. Johns in the spring of 1906 that J.C. Crome, the founder of the St. Johns Review, was seeking his fame and fortune in the gold fields of southern Nevada. Did he find his El Dorado? That is unknown because Crome was never heard from again.

Councilmen - Among members of the first city council of St. Johns, circa 1904 are F. Clark, recorder, extreme left, and Charles A. Cook, mayor, second from left.

St. Johns Review - Volume 1, Issue 1 - November 11, 1904

Columbia Park / City Park >>
Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds >>
Map shown on front page of St. Johns Review November 11, 1904.
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More Photos Of The 1905 National Cash Register Building & Exibits



A Brief History of St. Johns

St. Johns - A Look Into The Past

Historic Buildings - Then and Now

St. Johns Suspension Bridge



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