The Lewis and Clark Exposition opened its gates on June 1, 1905 to fairgoers from all corners of the country and world. The fair was only open for four months, but during that time it attracted over 1.6 million visitors. The fair's motto was “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way”. That motto symbolized the selection of Portland as the location for the World's Fair to commemorate the centennial of the the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the early 1800's and the expansion of the American Empire from coast to coast.
Hotel Fairmount was constructed directly across the street from the fair's entrance, where it stands now on the corner of NW 26th and Upshur. During construction, fair workers stayed at the hotel, which also provided affordable lodging to fairgoers on a budget. The Fairmount Hotel is one of the last remaining structures from the fair and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to renovate it so it can be enjoyed for many years to come.
Buildings at the Fair
Fair buildings were not intended to be permanent and were largely constructed of plaster over wooden frames. The majority of the buildings were in the style of the Spanish Renaissance and decorated with architectural flourishes.
John Olmstead, the stepson of the famed landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmstead, developed the plan for the exposition grounds. His plan capitalized on views of the Willamette River and Mt. St. Helens. The fair included exhibitions from 21 nations and 16 U.S. states, as well as branches of the federal government and private organizations.
Prior to the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905, a string of expositions and fairs, such as The Chicago World's Fair and The St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition, had been held in major U.S. cities. The Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland stood out as the first of its kind held in a western city. Seattle and San Francisco followed shortly thereafter. The Lewis and Clark Exposition highlighted and explored the pleasures and possibilities of twentieth-century technology. It featured airships, automobiles, and an exhibit of infant incubators, and provided a fairy-tale setting at night through the intricate and beautiful use of electricity.
The fair closed on October 15, 1905, just four and a half months after opening. Today, there are very few remnants of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. The vast majority of the structures were designed to be temporary, and were torn down the following year. A few structures were moved elsewhere and remained in use for a period of time.