Portland University

Portland University was a private, Methodist post-secondary school in Portland, Oregon, United States. Founded in 1891 in a split from Willamette University, the school closed in 1900. The campus was located in what is now the University Park neighborhood and later became home of the University of Portland. The original campus building, West Hall, still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Portland University
West Hall Portland University 1894
Location, ,
United States

45°34′19″N 122°43′28″W / 45.57182°N 122.72431°WCoordinates: 45°34′19″N 122°43′28″W / 45.57182°N 122.72431°W
FateCampus became home to the University of Portland


Willamette University chancellor Charles Carroll Stratton founded the Methodist school in Portland in 1891.[1] The school lured away some faculty members and students from Willamette, and even enticed Willamette's president Thomas Van Scoy to serve as dean.[2] In 1891, the school built the Administration Hall that became West Hall.[3] Portland University opened in September 1891 with an enrollment of 256 students the first year.[1] This was the only building on the campus with a nearby general store, Hemstock & Sons, serving as the bookstore.[4]

Located at University Park, the school sold plots of property surrounding the campus to raise funds for the school.[1] They had partnered with the Portland Guarantee Company to sell bonds, using the proceeds from the sale to buy 600 acres (2.4 km2) in what is now North Portland.[4] This venture then deeded 71 acres (290,000 m2) to the school and sold plots for as much as $550.[4] The location of the campus was on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River, with the river to the west.[5] Much of the area was rural farmland at the time and local homes served as boarding houses for the students.[4] Due to the remoteness, the school offered to have teachers meet new students at the streetcar stop located at University Park for the trek to the school.[4] One impressive home in the area was the university president's home, which was not on campus at the time.[4]

Courses of study included Latin, science, art, and literature.[6] The school grew to an enrollment of 500 by 1894 and included a literary department, a school of theology, music and fine arts department, and a college preparatory division.[5] This last division had affiliations around the state with academies including Drain Academy, Lebanon Academy, Ashland Academy, and the La Creole Academy in Dallas.[1]


Following the Panic of 1893, the school suffered a series of financial setbacks.[3] The panic led to decreased enrollment and a severe drop off in the sales of the homesites.[4] Bonds for the venture became due in 1896, but the school was unable to make these payments.[4] Thus the property reverted to the original owners of the property.[4] Internal disputes and these financial problems led the school to leave the campus and hold classes in East Portland in 1896 to 1897 after Van Scoy became president of the institution.[1] Other difficulties included a lawsuit in 1898 against the school's affiliated corporation that sold the plots for the surrounding homes.[7]

By 1898, the school had abandoned the University Park campus.[8] Others who served as president of the university were Arthur J. Brown[9] and George Whitaker (1899).[10] Portland University finally closed in May 1900 with many of students and faculty reuniting with Willamette University in Salem.[1][2] Alumni of the Portland school were then recognized as alumni of Willamette, and most of the records of the school were transferred to Willamette.[11]


In 1901, Rev. Alexander Christie with financing from the Congregation of Holy Cross purchased the former campus and opened a Catholic school at the site that would eventually become Columbia University and is now the University of Portland.[8][12] He was able to purchase the campus itself in trade for a couple of properties owned by archdiocese in Portland and $1.[4] Land sold by Portland University became the subject of a lawsuit by a subsequent landowner over an easement for a road through the campus.[13] West Hall still stands, but was renamed in 1992 as Waldschmidt Hall.[12] The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.[14]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ a b c d e f Corning, Howard M. (1989) Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing. p. 202.
  2. ^ a b Gibby, Susan. Salem Online History: Willamette University. Salem Public Library. Retrieved on April 8, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Horner, John B. (1919). Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. The J.K. Gill Co.: Portland. p. 273.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gauntt, Tom. "Moo-vers and shakers on Waud's Bluff", The Oregonian, September 26, 2004, p. H2.
  5. ^ a b Jones, Edward Gardner (1894). The Oregonian's Handbook of the Pacific Northwest. The Oregonian Pub. Co. p. 135.
  6. ^ Oregon. (1898). The Resources of the State of Oregon: A Book of Statistical Information Treating Upon Oregon as a Whole, and by Counties. Salem: W.H. Leeds. p. 90. OCLC 8902178.
  7. ^ Bellinger, J. Maxwell v. Akin, 89 F. 178, C.C.Or. 1898 (D. Or. 1898).
  8. ^ a b Herbermann, C. G., Pace, E. A., Pallen, C. B., Shahan, T. J., Wynne, J. J., & MacErlean, A. A. (1907). The Catholic encyclopedia: An international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church. New York: Robert Appleton. Vol. 15, p. 202. OCLC 1017058.
  9. ^ Scott, Leslie M. “Review of Mr. Scott’s Writings on his Favorite and Most Important Subjects”, The Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 14. (1913). p. 146.
  10. ^ Eliot, Samuel Atkins. (1911). Biographical History of Massachusetts Biographies and Autobiographies of the Leading Men in the State. Massachusetts Biographical Society, Vol. 3.
  11. ^ Gatke, R. M., & Gregg, R. D. (1943). Chronicles of Willamette. Portland, Or: Binfords and Mort. Vol. I, pp. 472-481.
  12. ^ a b About UP: UP History. University of Portland. Retrieved April 8, 2009.
  13. ^ Wolverton, J. Houston v. Zahm, 44 Or. 610, 76 P. 641 (Or. 1904).
  14. ^ "Oregon National Register List" (PDF). State of Oregon. Retrieved 2009-04-08.

Further reading

  • McIntire, G. R. (1942). History of the Methodist University of Portland, 1891-1900, in Relation to the Educational policy of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North). OCLC 28162598

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