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Guide to Portland: 5 Must-Visit Historical Landmarks

What makes for an impressive edifice or structure? Among some considerations are great design elements, a classic aesthetic that endures the passage of time, and a solid build—all of which are taken into account in the process of building commissioning. Portland, Oregon is no stranger to breathtaking buildings and is, in fact, home to several historical, some controversial, landmarks that are must-visit destinations. Here are five of the most historic buildings in Portland and some interesting facts about them.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Built back in 1960, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (aka the Glass Palace) is an indoor arena known for its rich history. With a seating capacity of ten thousand, it is an impressively constructed building, which, as the names states, serves as a memorial for war veterans. Engraved names of the deceased are etched within its walls in honor of the fallen soldiers. Fully surrounded by grey glass and granite divisions, this architectural wonder continues to attract locals and tourists alike.

Portland Building

Speaking of controversial buildings, Portland Building is one of the state’s most criticized infrastructures because of its flawed design. Constructed back in 1982, the building’s purpose was to house several government offices, until it was pegged for renovation in 2019. It is considered controversial because of its structural issues, and because its original budget ballooned to over $200 million. It’s classification as a historic building has now been called into question, because of all the renovation work and changes that have taken place, and is under threat of demolition. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile attraction when in Portland, if only for the controversy surrounding it.

The U.S. Bancorp Tower

If you’re a fan of modern architecture and geometry, the U.S. Bancorp Tower is worth a look. The 42-story building is known as one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers, one with an interesting shape. Its parallelogram shape, devoid of any right angles, has made this building the talk of the town. It’s also known as the “Big Pink” for its eye-catching, standout color—how many pink office buildings have you seen or will you see in your day?

KOIN Center


Another interesting piece of architecture in downtown Portland is the KOIN Center. This massive orange-and-white-trimmed block stands as the third tallest building in the city. Inspired by Art Deco and definitely a stunning feature of the city’s skyline, the KOIN Center is easily recognized because of its unusual shape and striking color palette.

Portland Union Station

Railroad stations are, indeed, old-town, neighborhood classics. The Portland Union Station is your gateway to San Francisco or Seattle (save yourself the plane trip; take the more scenic route, if you have the time!) and is landmarked by its famous clock tower with the emblem “Go by Train”. With its burnt orange color, clock tower, and industrialized concrete, the building makes for a picture-perfect backdrop. Another part of its charm? The fact that it was built back in 1896, yet remains fully-functional, to date.

Portland is known for its rich history in architecture, as well as the standout designs of some of its most famous buildings in town. Make sure to pay a visit to these top five spots and immerse yourself in the city’s beautiful architecture and history.

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