Hidden Portland: Remember & Celebrate

The Weirdest, Most Wonderful Memorials and Museums in Portland (and Beyond)

Whether you dig planes, trains, or the insane, there's a place for you.

By Kelly Clarke, Margaret Seiler, and Allison Place December 21, 2018 Published in the January 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Evergreen Aviation Museum

A Bird! A Plane! A Goose?

Created by famously bizarre tycoon Howard Hughes in collaboration with shipbuilding magnate Henry Kaiser, the H-4 Hercules airplane, affectionately known as the Spruce Goose, was a prototype for an all-wood aircraft. It was thought up in response to competition for metals and the need for transoceanic shipments during World War II and was the largest aircraft ever built at the time (until 2017 it also held the record for largest wingspan). It was flown only once, and then kept in a climate-controlled hangar with a crew at the ready, just in case Hughes felt like hopping in the cockpit again. The “flying boat” lost its former Long Beach, California, home in a Disney-related ’90s property shuffle, and McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation Museum bid to be its new caretaker. Prior to its relocation (by barge and truck—it didn’t fly here), Oregon’s strongest connection to the craft might have been Spruce Moose and Plywood Pelican parodies on The Simpsons, similar craft devised by a Hughes-like Mr. Burns. But now it’s ours. Museum visitors can check out the cargo hold or book a premium cockpit tour before visiting flight-themed Wings & Waves waterpark next door. —MS

Lone Fir Cemetery

Dead Moon Knight

Should you stroll through Lone Fir Cemetery appearing vaguely hungover and wearing your finest leather pants, don’t be surprised if someone assumes you’re also visiting Andrew Loomis’s grave. The drummer for legendary Portland rock band Dead Moon died in 2016 and is now listed, along with some of the city’s pillars of industry and street namesakes, as one of Lone Fir’s “notable residents.” His final resting place is often decorated with Jack Daniel’s bottles, cigarette butts, and candles—a nod to Loomis’s routine of placing a candle in a bottle on his kick drum during shows to light cigarettes. —AP

In Her Footsteps

By the food carts and bike garage behind the Portland State library, an outdoor museum hides in the shadow of Stott Field. At PSU’s Walk of the Heroines, walls with more than 1,000 names honor marquee figures like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barbara Roberts, as well as the likes of local rose researcher Mary Drain Albro and Jamaica-born journalist Amy Jacques Garvey. Many of the honorees and engraved quotes along the walkway have a ’90s-era, usual-suspects, herstory vibe, but lines from Nation columnist Katha Pollitt and novelist Arundhati Roy bring the walk into the 21st century. SW Harrison Street between 10th and 11th Avenues —MS

Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum

Image: Michael Novak

Kayak Attack

We all have that friend. The one who’s going to build a boat. And then starts to build a boat. And then gets frustrated. That half-finished boat is still in their garage, a drink perch during parties. Don’t take that friend to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum, because it will just torture them. The narrow former store and beauty salon packs in about 60 watercraft along the walls and a central rack. Most are replicas hand-built by Harvey Golden of traditional models used by indigenous groups in the Arctic or South Pacific, bursting with historical details from harpoons to seal camouflage. (There are also several original artifacts Golden’s collected.) “You get pretty fast once you’ve made about 80 of them,” says the hobbyist-turned-global expert. Open 5–7 pm Thursdays, 5340 SE Lincoln St —MS

Museum with no Home

Like its siblings in Boston and San Francisco, Design Museum Portland could pop up anywhere. Through the end of February, it exists around downtown’s World Trade Center as an outdoor collection of “street seats,” artists’ takes on the park bench. —MS

Zymoglyphic Museum

Museum from Mars

Above the garage of a stately home at the foot of Mount Tabor hides an other-world devoted to the fantastical flora, fauna, and artifacts of the Zymoglyphic region, each exhibit carefully labeled, organized by era, and explained in near-exhaustive detail. Rust Age shamanic figures, the Age of Wonder’s dehydrated aquariums and self-destroying automaton, a hardback mermaid specimen, and framed stamps from the Zymoglyphic Post Office—they’re all here. The best part? Creator Jim Stewart made it all up. The Silicon Valley retiree has been meticulously constructing his wry, brain-bending Zymoglyphic Museum from yard detritus, bird bones, electrical wiring, mannequin parts, and pond scum for nearly 20 years. The result is like a roadside attraction managed by an eccentric, rigorously organized natural history docent, or a miniature free Field Museum on Mars. Stewart makes most everything in his garage, crowded with 18th-century children’s shoe forms, tarantula molts, and stacks of plastic spinach containers packed with seed pods, bark, and bird’s nests. The only drawback? This pocket universe is open only the second and fourth Sundays of the month. 6225 SE Alder St —KC

Stark's Vacuum Museum

Image: Michael Novak

Still Sucking

Stark’s Vacuums is already a relic along fast-changing NE Grand, once home to furniture stores galore. Residents of the new apartment buildings rising nearby can still pick up a space-saving Míele Blizzard or Electrolux Sanitaire—and they can get a dose of vacuum history at the in-store museum, home to vacuums of yore and a timeline tracking tech innovations, advertising, and names from Bissell to Hoover to Dyson. 107 NE Grand Ave —MS

Game On

Plenty of closer-to-town spots offer a table and a board game to borrow and discover: the local library branch, game shops’ back rooms, your friend’s basement. But it’s hard to match the selection at the International Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery. Hidden on the back side of a strip mall past Tigard off 99W, its shelves rotate through the nonprofit’s collection of more than 7,000 items, which can be unpacked and played atop IMOGAP’s large tables for a small admission fee. Can’t decide which game to try? Co-owner Carol Mathewson stands ready to fill visitors in on her current favorites or dip into a discourse on the anthropological history of gaming—this is a “museum,” after all. 15607 SW 116th Ave, King City —MS

Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club

All Aboard

Every weekend in November, the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club opens its 4,200-square-foot paradise to the public. Visitors collectively gawp at a frozen-in-time 1950s Northwest, with depictions of Union Station, Gorge towns like Hood River and Lyle, a riverfront logging operation, and an underground mine, among its three miles of twisting track. Last fall’s display also included several dinosaurs, Bigfoot, and some Daleks chasing Dr. Who outside the Tardis. 2505 N Vancouver Ave —MS

Milk on Milk

The Harvey Milk Street Project, which advocated to rename a stretch of downtown’s Stark Street for the LGBTQ trailblazer, gifted a wild Milk portrait by Clarione Gutierrez to the Roxy Diner in honor of the staff’s work in the campaign. It now hangs on the back wall of the quarter-century-old, 24-hour diner, next to a portrait of Empress José I. 1121 SW Harvey Milk St —KC

Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home

Massive Mausoleum

Depending on the vantage point, Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Funeral Home in Sellwood looks like a Spanish mission, a bird-loving muralist’s giant canvas, or Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. Unless you have a relative inside the eight-floor, maze-like mausoleum, visits are by appointment, plus a Memorial Day open house. It’s worth exploring. 6705 SE 14th Ave —MS

Out-of-Town Attractions

Catherine Coulson’s grave in Jacksonville Cemetery An image of two hands cradling a log adorns the gravestone of the woman who played the Log Lady on Twin Peaks—the Ashland resident’s long career included many seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day Preserved 1870s pharmacy and general store that served Chinese immigrants, open May–October. oregonstateparks.org

Living Rock Studios in Brownsville Biblical and other scenes created from thinly sliced rock, in a building made of rock (dress for a cave-like chill, and take the self-guided Stand By Me walking tour while in town).

Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health in Salem An old work farm and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest filming location, with first-person accounts of what was once known as the “insane asylum.”

Tillamook Air Museum Planes and WWII exhibits in a blimp hangar—imagine the party you could throw in this place!

Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict An Alvar Aalto–designed library, a taxidermy-filled museum (whale eardrums! a bezoar!), and a Benedictine brewery urging tipplers to “taste & believe.” —MS

Show Comments