Sunday, June 26, 2011

Picturesque River View

I’ve been thinking about cemeteries, River View Cemetery in Portland in particular.  The idea that would become River View, located in SE, off Macadam, at the west end of the Sellwood Bridge, starts in 1879 when Henry Corbett, W. S. Ladd and Henry Failing, among others, decided that the Lone Fir Cemetery, in what was still East Portland, wasn’t an acceptable burying spot for the up-and-coming of Portland.  They purchased 300+acres of wooded hillside and then went to Cleveland to hire Edward Otto Schwagerl, a skilled landscape architect who had designed several “rural” cemeteries, to transform the spot into a cemetery worthy of Portland.  “Rural” cemeteries, sometimes call pastoral cemeteries, were all the rage in the late Victorian era.  Nobody took death as seriously as the Victorians.

Schwagerl did a fine job and his plan over the years has been augmented by the work of a host of Portland architects, including Warren William, Ellis Lawrence, A. E. Doyle, and Pietro Belluschi.  Walking around River View is something like walking around Portland, with familiar names such as Terwilliger, Benson, Hoyt, Ladd and others all entombed here.  Harvey Scott, the longtime editor of the Oregonian is buried here, as is Henry Pittock, his boss.  Scott’s sister, Abigail Scott Duniway, who so fought for Women’s Suffrage in Oregon is here, near her brother who so opposed that concept.  The graves of many of Oregon’s governors, and Portland’s mayors, among other political leaders are here, as is Henry Weinhard and Virgil Earp, of OK Corral fame.

On behalf of Multnomah County I have been researching the history of River View, and will be preparing material that ultimately will provide for an interpretive site that helps explain the Cemetery’s important history.  In the meantime, it’s a beautiful place to visit, just as Schwagerl and his influential clients intended more than a 130 years ago.

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