Welcome to Mill Ends, officially designated as the world’s smallest park by none other than the Guinness Book of World Records. How small? Less than two feet wide. Yep, you heard right! The circular park is only about 20 inches in diameter, give or take an inch or two.
This unique park was created in 1948 by Dick Fagan, a reporter with the Oregon Journal. At the time, Fagan’s 2nd story office looked out over Front Street. (now SW Naito Parkway). In the middle of the median was a hole where the city had planned to put a lamp post, but the lamp post never materialized. Instead, the hole became infested with weeds. What’s a local journalist to do? Well this one finally went down, ripped out the weeds, planted some flowers, and claimed the little bit of real estate as his very own personal park.
He also began writing about it, in what would become a very popular column called Mill Ends.
From 1949 until his death in 1969, Dick Fagan detailed the many activities and festive events held at his park. Many of the columns told stories about a group of leprechauns who had set up camp there, “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland”. Soon all of Portland was in on the joke. A mini ferris wheel was installed onsite; someone else put in a swimming pool for butterflies, complete with a diving board. Still others added trees, statues, clowns, little cars, and even an occasional super hero to the landscape.
Interest in the park has remained constant over the years. Even today, Mill Ends continues to be used by the citizens of Portland as a site for concerts, picnics, and protest demonstrations.
Mill Ends was formally declared a Portland City Park on St. Patrick’s Day, 1976. (seven years after Fagan’s death) A fitting tribute for this local Irish journalist who turned a little bit of blarney into a city landmark.
Mill Ends Park is located at 899 SW Naito Parkway in downtown Portland, OR. (the intersection of SW Naito Parkway and Taylor Street) The park is smack dab in the middle of the street, protected from traffic by two poles. A nearby crosswalk allows easy access.
**Thanks and a tip of the hat to Kathy P. who gave me the idea for this story. Thanks, Kathy!