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The early years of Mt. Tabor
An extensive article by Grant Nelson - read more.

There seems to be every reason why a portion, at least, of Mount Tabor should be taken as a public park. It is the only important landscape feature for miles around, and the population in its vicinity is destined to be fairly dense. It is already a good deal resorted to by people for their Sunday and holiday outings, and it will be better known to and more visited by the citizens as time goes on. . . .There can be little doubt that public sentiment will cordially support the city government in acquiring considerable land on this prominent and beautiful hill (Olmsted Brothers "Report of the Park Board," 1903).

Mt. Tabor Park - Two National Register of Historic Places resources in one

Mt. Tabor Park is a special park in many ways.  It has views identified as some of the most scenic in the City, due to its elevation of 643 feet, as well as the beautiful open reservoirs.  It was the largest park in Portland for nearly half a century, until Forest Park was finally created in 1947.  Mt. Tabor Park is a hard-working park that earns its keep.  It even generates it's own electricity to light the lovely historic lampposts that follow the original roads and paths in the park.  Besides being a prime recreation center, Mt. Tabor Park has also served as the center of maintenance for Portland Parks and Recreation for more than a hundred years.  The site includes a large, historic plant nursery that has grown many plants, including street trees, for the City and the region. 

The butte was chosen for a park site because of its location and elevation when the Bull Run watershed was identified and tapped, by a gravity flow system, as Portland's municipal water source in the late 1800's.  Five reservoirs, two large open reservoirs and one small tank, were built on Mt. Tabor in a striking romanesque style that dates to the era of the City Beautiful movement.   All but one of these reservoirs have continued to serve Portland for more than a hundred years.  Reservoir 2, along SE Division St. was taken offline and sold for development, in the 1990's.  The remaining three open reservoirs are currently under threat of demolition.  These reservoirs, along with their two bookend companion reservoirs (also under grave threat) across the Willamette River in Washington Park, were all identified by the State Historic Preservation Office as some of the most historically significant resources in the City of Portland.  The Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association, the Friends of the Reservoirs, along with Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association and other interested individuals, prepared the nomination, called Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Historic District, for the National Register of Historic Places in a volunteer effort in 2003-04.  

Soon after the listing of the reservoirs, the entire 196-plus acres of Mt. Tabor Park, including the south end maintenance yard and the Lincoln St. long-block nursery, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.  This was another volunteer effort spurred on by the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association and interested individuals.  The Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Historic District includes approximately 50 acres.  This historic district is entirely within the park boundaries. 

A listing in the National Register is the highest level of significance given in Portland.  This distinction, however, does not protect a resource from demolition or other changes.  It does provide a review process that involves the City's Historic Landmark Commission.  Learn more from the City's website about historic resources.

Nomination of Mt. Tabor Park to the National Register of Historic Places

The park was nominated by an effort of the MTNA in 2003-2004. It was listed in 2004. The National Register of Historic Places is administered by the National Park Service. To get a resource listed in the National Register is a long and rigorous process that involves both the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) as well as the National Parks Service. Nominations for resources that make it through the large variety of hoops are definite treasures that we need to do
everything in our power to safe-guard, and maintain, for future generations.

To look up the nominations, go to:

The following documents contain the four sections of the nomination:

Mount Tabor Park Reservoirs Historic District
The reservoirs in Mount Tabor Park were nominated and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in January, 2004. Information has been assembled for those wanting to learn more about this process, includes the "official" National Register of Historic Places documents for the reservoirs from the State Historic Preservation Office in electronic format.

Report to the Park Board 1903, written by John Charles Olmsted

 This document laid the foundation for the parks system that Portland enjoys today.  It identified Mt. Tabor butte as a prime park site.   Click here to read or download this historically significant document.

Historic district aging well, report finds

In 2008 the Portland Water Bureau contracted with Cascade Design Professionals and architect Robert Dortignacq,to develop a Reservoirs Historic Structures Report (RHSR), in order to assess the condition, maintenance, rehabilitation and preservation of significant features within the Mount Tabor Park Reservoirs Historic District.

The report has been completed. Click here to see it. It found that generally speaking buildings and other structures were in good condition. "The structures and buildings were carefully designed and were built for durability and low maintenance. Those considerations have allowed the structures to age gracefully," the report says.

Mt. Tabor's Architectural Heritage
Realtor Jan Caplener has written an informative brochure about some of the architectural home styles found in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. Included are addresses of area homes built in each architectural style.
Download the Architectural Heritage file (380Kb) .

Mt. Tabor Park Master Plan Report
Download the Master Plan Report file (2.6 Mb)

A great place to live

Youíve always known Mt. Tabor was a great place to live. Now a national magazine, Menís Journal, says our neighborhood is one of the 30 best places to live in the entire United States. Itís also the only Oregon site to make the cut.

Hereís what Menís Journal had to say in its June 2009 issue:

Mount Tabor is a low-key neighborhood with acres of trails at the foot of a 600-foot volcanic peak. Right next door is Hawthorne, a funky district with trendy shops, good eats, and lively nightlife. Our advice: Call Mt. Tabor home and consider Hawthorne the fun uncle.