Veterans Story

From the Memorial Coliseum registration form - National Register of Historic Places, July 2009 - section number 8, pages 7):


"While the building was, during design and construction, referred to as the Exposition-Recreation Center, it was intended from the beginning as a tribute to veterans. ln 1961 it was formally dedicated to the "advancement of cultural opportunities for the community and to the memory of our veterans of all wars who made the supreme sacrifice.' In a memo to Exposition-Recreation Commissioners, James A. Larpenteur, chairman, listed possible names being floated for the new building in tribute to veterans. Several of the names included the term "glass," and the memo concludes with a wry note about this: "Certain lumber people have indicated that if we cannot heal wounds by using the title 'Timber -----,'then there is nothing objectionable to the word 'Glass' since it does not supplant Wood, but is complimentary and supplementary to it." The title "Memorial Coliseum" was agreed on as a dignified and simple name for the new building.


After World War ll, the City of Portland had maintained a billboard in the downtown Park Blocks, which listed the names of Oregonians killed in WWll and in the Korean War. By as early as 1948 there were various attempts to have this billboard removed, but the City did not do so until Memorial Coliseum was dedicated. The Coliseum building included a room inside which was to be a "quiet shrine to the gallant servicemen who did not return from the wars." An honor roll book listing the war dead from Oregon was to be housed in the meditation room, with a page turned every day. A memorial fountain and two black granite memorial walls, located in the courtyards at the lower arena level of the building, were also constructed at a later time.


lnitially, the outdoor "War Memorial Court" was planted with lawn. The Exposition-Recreation Commission had approved $250,000 for memorial facilities at the Coliseum (not including the building itself, a "living memorial"). However, the Federated Veterans Council charged that the memorial facilities were less than promised to voters. Veterans' groups ended up donating flagpoles which stood for some 30 years at the Coliseum. in 2002 the City of Portland replaced these with new flagpoles."


(for footnotes and quotation credits, please see the registration form by clicking here)