Springville Road - A Brief History
In Forest Park, history is often literally underfoot. For example, Springville Road may look like an ordinary fire lane, but it’s actually a historic wagon road that predates Forest Park by at least a century.
Springville Road’s origins go back to the early 1840s, when several Euro-American communities sprang up along the west bank of the Willamette River, including Linnton and Springville. The two communities hoped to profit from their easy access to the Willamette and relative proximity to the rich farmland of the Tualatin Valley. This drove both communities to build some of the first roads over Tualatin Mountain.
The first detailed survey maps of the area date from the 1850s and show two roads passing through Forest Park. One road, labeled “Road from the Plains to Baker’s,” connected Springville—today’s Whitwood Court neighborhood—with the Tualatin Valley and followed virtually the same route as modern Springville Road. The other road, identified as “Road from the Plains to Linton [sic],” doesn’t correspond to any current road or trail, but it would have run close to Germantown Road and Firelane 10 before arriving in Linnton. Both of these roads may have originated as trails that the native Multnomah and Tualatin people traditionally used to cross Tualatin Mountain.
One of the first things you notice when you hike or bike on Springville Road is that it’s quite steep. Now imagine trying to move heavily-laden wagons along it, and you can understand why Springville failed to become a major commercial center. Both Linnton and Springville suffered a similar fate—their development was constrained by steep roads and little room to expand between the river and the mountain. Ultimately, both lost out to a young upstart community further south with a more favorable location: Portland. Springville Road was no match for the much gentler grade of Portland’s Canyon Road, especially after Portlanders built a plank road to make that route more passable year-round.
Today there’s little to remind you of Springville Road’s historic past, but don’t let the modern gates and manholes fool you—it’s the same age as the Oregon Trail!
Chris is an avid Forest Park Conservancy volunteer and an archaeologist who has worked on sites in the Pacific Northwest for more than 13 years.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Laura O. Foster
2013 Portland Hill Walks: Twenty Explorations in Parks and Neighborhoods .
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.(Second Edition).
Lewis A McArthur and Lewis L. McArthur
2003 Oregon Geographic Names.Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland, Oregon. (Seventh Edition).
Thornton T. Munger
1998 History of Portland’s Forest-Park [sic].The Friends of Forest Park and Portland Parks and Recreation, Portland, Oregon (Forest Park 50th Anniversary Edition).
Eugene E. Snyder
1970 Early Portland: Stump-Town Triumphant.Binford & Mort Publishing, Portland, Oregon.