EXHIBIT: Vanport: A Story Lived. A Story Told.
A “miracle city.” A “sociological experiment.” A “municipal monstrosity.” A “nasty ghetto.”
During its short life span (1942-1948) Vanport drew national attention and conflicting opinions, but for the multiracial community that lived there, it was simply home. With ten thousand units, it became the largest World War II federal housing project in the United States, and the second largest city in Oregon, reaching over 40,000 people in 1944. They came from all corners of the country to contribute to the war effort and in search of a better life, forming an instant community in a city with everything but a future. On May 30, 1948 a flood destroyed the entire city, killing at least 15 people and forcing Portland to open its doors to thousands of local refugees. Many stayed, forever changing the social, economic, and political fabric of our region.
Mixing archival photographs and historical records with personal testimonies of former residents, this Vanport Mosaic pop-up exhibit presents the multifaceted story of Vanport and its vibrant community. It is a story of migration, housing, displacement, and perseverance.
The Lake Oswego Public Library is able to host this exhibit thanks to the generous support of the Rotary Club of Lake Oswego.
This exhibit is curated by Laura Lo Forti and Greta Smith. Designed by Ryan Sullivan.
The Vanport Mosaic is a platform for memory activism. Their mission is to amplify, honor, present, and preserve the silenced histories that surround us in order to understand our present and envision a new chapter where we all belong.
Made possible by the generous support of: The Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, Portland State University and the Division of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Oregon Historical Society, and The City of Portland. Special thanks to: Oregon Historical Society, City of Portland Archives, Japanese American Museum of Oregon, Multnomah County Archives, Portland State University Special Collections and University Archives, Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources, Oregon Black Pioneers, Kim Moreland, James Harrison, Susan Barthel, Thomas Robinson, Tanya March, and Norman Gholston.