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Learn the origin of myths and legends at Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon. This two-foot patch of land has a special designation, and for decades most people have walked and driven past it without knowing its significance. It is a story of great care, affection, and good humor, and perhaps, in several centuries and millennia, future historians will examine this little park and wonder just what sort of society existed in the post-World War II century. The correct answer would be that it is a good-natured and fun-loving society, and rare individuals like Dick Fagan embodied these exemplary values.

  • Address: SW Naito Parkway and SW Taylor St., Portland, Oregon, 97204, United States

The Origin Of Mill Ends Park

In 1946, at the end of World War II, the world was reeling from immense trauma and loss. However, in the USA, things were relatively prosperous. Still, people were eager to beautify the world again; they were eager to forget.

Dick Fagan was an Irish American World War II veteran who returned to his hometown of Oregon after the war. He resumed his position as a columnist for the Oregon Journal, which was headquartered on Front Street (now called Naito Parkway). From his office on the second floor, he would spend much time observing the street below, seeking inspiration for his writing. The street was being modernized, and he watched as holes were dug and medians were installed for streetlights. However, the streetlight directly below his office was never installed, leaving empty a little space of cordoned-off land.

After a while, life emerged, and plants started to grow in the two feet of abandoned land. A Catholic by faith, Fagan fancied himself as a creative type and longed to share the beauty of his soul. He bought some seeds and planted them in the median. This way, eventually, he and everyone else would have a bouquet of flowers gracing the street.

A couple of years later, the act of grace and the fragrant flora that bloomed from the land inspired him to write a lighthearted column. Thus, the legend of Mill Ends Park was born.

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The Legend Of Mill Ends Park

Fagan wrote that one day while he was at the office, he spotted a Leprechaun burrowing into the soil at the spot where he planted the flowers. With Irish instincts guided by ancestral memory, he hurried downstairs and dashed across the street, grabbing the Leprechaun before it disappeared beneath the Earth. According to Irish lore, catching a Leprechaun in this way granted a person one wish.

Longing for a place to relax and celebrate beauty, he wished for his own park. The Leprechaun, being a cunning creature, granted him his wish but with a twist. Since he did not specify the size of the park, his park was merely two feet wide and in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Portland.

Fagan was a man who counted his blessings and accepted what he received with gratitude. In his article, he called the park 'Mill Ends,' which is a logger's term referring to the fragments of wood left over after the milling process. Thus, from then on, the patch of land was called Mill Ends Park. His columns about Mill Ends Park were serialized, and many Portland residents kept up with the growing lore.

As it was technically his park, he maintained it with love and affection. He would tend to the flowers and, as a gift of novelty and humor to his readers, he would write regularly on the legend of the park. According to the lore, there was a colony of Leprechauns who lived there. The leader of the clan, a Leprechaun dignitary, named Patrick O'Toole, personally informed Fagan that Mill Ends Park was the only colony of Leprechauns west of Ireland.

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The Legacy Of Mill Ends Park

Given the popularity of Fagan's columns, Portland residents sharing the joy of myth-building would tend to the park as well. Over the years, a little swimming hole complete with a diving board for butterflies was installed. Later, a miniature Ferris Wheel was placed in the park. Kids would leave action figures and letters of goodwill in the sacred Leprechaun garden.

Dick Fagan passed away in 1969, and later the Oregon Journal ceased publication, but the legend of Mill Ends Park outlived its progenitors. In 1976, the city of Portland awarded Mill Ends Park with an official city park designation, and it became a cultural landmark for the Irish population of Portland. Concerts and gatherings were hosted at Mill Ends, complete with bagpipe performances. On St. Patrick's Day, picnics and speeches took place at the location, and during the financial crisis, an Occupy demonstration was hosted there. Tents were pitched, and slogans were chanted in a display of collective action and love for humanity.

In recent years, Mill Ends Park was renovated and moved. As of January 2022, the park is located six inches from its original location. The reopening ceremony was attended by Dick Fagan's family and descendants, who were also accompanied by the Royal Rosarians.

Mill Ends Park is truly a symbol of the better aspects of human nature, proving that joy is a persevering fact of history.

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