Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Gateway and Heritage Markers
On Monday, August 27, 2012, the celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Heritage Markers marked the fulfillment of a longstanding community goal as well as Prosper Portland’s goals to promote neighborhood livability and economic vitality and create a culturally affirming space that enhances the unique character of the North/ Northeast neighborhoods.
During the planning of the space, Prosper Portland held public meetings to hear the stories of the people, places and events that shaped the North/Northeast neighborhoods. The themes that emerged from those stories were Community; Civil Rights; Immigration & Migration; and Commerce & Culture; and those themes are reflected in the markers throughout the plaza.
Each of the markers celebrates something important about the Northeast neighborhoods – the people, places, politics, the clubs and churches. The steel screen wall and the vertical markers symbolize the strength and endurance of the community as well as the connection to the railroad and ship building industries that drew the early Northeast residents and workers.
More specifically, the markers talk about:
- Community – the churches, organizations and community centers that have supported the people of the neighborhood and evolved over time
- Civil Rights – recognizing the role of civil rights in public education and employment here and how people have rallied to pursue equity in economic, community and educational development. The fragments of the quote on the two screen walls are from Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and are intended to inspire all who pass through the gateway, whether they’re on foot, on two wheels or four.
- Immigration & migration – In the late 1800s, waves of European immigrants came to Albina to work at the rail yards and in manufacturing; later on, a second wave of African Americans came to the area for jobs at hotels and with passenger train travel.
- The cultural richness of these different populations inspired the Commerce & Culture markers, honoring the vibrant business and entertainment district that flourished during and after World War II.
The project team included Dan Layden of Portland Bureau of Transportation, Jonathan Beaver and Melinda Graham of 2.ink Studio Landscape Architects, Michael Reed and Kathy Fry of Mayer/Reed Visual Communications, Janice Dilg, consulting historian; and the many members of the stakeholder advisory committee who volunteered much of their time to shape the design. Irene Bowers of Prosper Portland served as project manager for the six-year effort. Metro assumed the long-term maintenance of the space.