To begin with, it was necessary to clear out the dense second-growth forest of alder, big leaf maple, and the young hemlocks, Douglas firs, and western red cedar that had sprouted up since a catastrophic forest fire in 1889 burned almost everything to the ground. Since it was the Depression, WPA crews were the original workforce. Some of the 30-year old Douglas firs, Western hemlock, and western red cedar, and big maples were left undisturbed and today give Hoyt Arboretum its unique mixture of native and planted trees.
Trees began being planted at Hoyt Arboretum in accordance with the Duncan Plan in 1931. Some of the earliest collection trees planted at Hoyt Arboretum are the Coast Redwoods (found along the Redwood Trail (between Fairview Blvd. and Burnside Rd.). These trees some of which are now 150’ tall began their lives as seeds in the Parks’ nursery then located at Mt. Tabor and were planted as 4’ – 6’ specimens in 1931. Today these trees are over 150’ tall although they’re still babies in Redwood terms. Imagine them in another 75 years!
By 1944, all of the 40 plant families listed on the Duncan Plan were represented in the Arboretum, with most of the planting having occurred between 1931 – 1938. Planting resumed at a slower pace after the end of World War II and has continued ever since.
After the first tree plantings Park Superintendent Kayser directed Work Relief crews to the Arboretum and a significant amount of clearing and road building happened in spite of the harsh economic conditions of the Depression era.
In 1940 Ernie Fischer came to the Arboretum, working there until his retirement in 1970. He established connections with other botanic gardens and arboreta, kept meticulous notes and records and the collection grew steadily under his leadership. SW Fischer Lane, which connects SW Fairview Blvd. to W Burnside Street, is named in his honor.
During the 1940's and 50's the boundaries of the Arboretum changed somewhat to accommodate a new zoo and roads serving private developments. Land was added to the north to provide a link to W. Burnside Rd. The Portland Water Bureau built the three water tanks at the top of the ridge during this time.
In the fall of 1962 the Columbus Day Storm killed or badly damaged many of the trees tnd leveled areas of natural second growth. Much of the area required total clearing. One of those who assisted in this process was Jim Bray, who eventually took over from Ernie Fischer. Bray Lane, a gated road leading to the Wedding Meadow, is named in his honor. For many years Fischer and Bray accomplished an incredible amount with very little staff or material support.
In the 1980’s, some of the Arboretum’s land was viewed as “empty” which led to the siting of the beautiful Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Arboretum’s south slope. This in turn led a group of citizen volunteers to band together to begin advocating on behalf of the Arboretum. By 1986, this group realized that the Arboretum needed leadership, sustainable funding, and advocacy on an ongoing basis and formed Hoyt Arboretum Friends (HAF) as a non-profit organization.
Since 1986, HAF has built the Visitor Center, created the garden which surrounds it and which enchants visitors with surprises and beauty, rebuilt and greatly expanded the picnic shelter which is now the Stevens Pavilion, added the 90+ species holly collection, and added interpretive signs to major collections. These are the permanent changes. In 2009, over 45,000 people used free maps and educational brochures provided by HAF, while many more used the website to download a map and information. People from every state and over 20 countries dropped by the Visitor Center for information and help. And since a garden is always a work in progress, much of HAF’s contributions are to supplement the daily work that trees and plants outside their native habitat require. Twenty-five years later, Hoyt Arboretum Friends or HAF is an integral part of day-to-day operations at Hoyt Arboretum and long-term planning for the future.
HAF, however, is only a conduit for the volunteers, donors, and supporters who care about the Arboretum and are collectively nurturing and sustaining this special place. With its partner, Portland Parks & Recreation, HAF is providing the stewardship that a historical and living garden require.
Currently Hoyt Arboretum is managed and maintained by the partnership between Portland Parks and Recreation and Hoyt Arboretum Friends.
The Donation Land Law of 1850 spurs a rush of westward migration. In 1851, Eli and Anna Steward filed a homestead claim on part of the Arboretum’s land and the next year, the rest of the Arboretum’s land was claimed by Amos King.
Neither homestead was long-lived and both pass into ownership of Multnomah County.
A forest fire raged through the west hills and burned every building to the ground, as well as many trees.
Multnomah County established a “Poor Farm” and sanatorium for people with infectious diseases and mental illness near what is now the Oregon Zoo. In 1910 scandals involving lax and corrupt supervision and intolerable conditions eventually closed the facility.
The Portland Parks Board commissioned America’s pre-eminent landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Bros. of Brookline Mass., to make recommendations about developing a system of parks for Portland.
Multnomah County deeded the land to the City of Portland for the purposes of establishing Hoyt Park which then later became known as Hoyt Arboretum.
The Arboretum’s founders commissioned John W. Duncan to design a plan for Portland’s arboretum. In 1930, Duncan completed a plan for what would become Hoyt Arboretum. The plan provided specific locations for nearly 40 plant families of conifers and flowering trees, and envisioned over 500 species. As befitted Portland’s climate and timber heritage, much of the emphasis was on the conifer collections which comprised more than a third of the collections.
Planting of trees begins in accordance with the Duncan Plan. Some of the earliest collection trees planted at Hoyt Arboretum are the Coast Redwoods. WPA crews were the original workforce.
Ernie Fischer established connections with other botanic gardens and arboreta, kept meticulous notes and records and the collection grew steadily under his leadership.
All of the 40 plant families listed on the Duncan Plan were now represented in the Arboretum. Planting continued at a slower pace after the end of World War II and has continued ever since. During the 1940's and 50's the boundaries of the Arboretum changed somewhat to accommodate a new zoo and roads serving private developments. Land was added to the north to provide a link to W. Burnside Rd.
The Columbus Day Storm killed or badly damaged many of the trees and leveled areas of natural second growth. Much of the area required total clearing.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is installed on the Arboretum’s south slope. This in turn led a group of citizen volunteers to band together to begin advocating on behalf of the Arboretum.
By 1986, this group realized that the Arboretum needed leadership, sustainable funding, and advocacy on an ongoing basis and formed Hoyt Arboretum Friends (HAF) as a non-profit organization.
Nearly twenty five years later, Hoyt Arboretum Friends is an integral part of day-to-day operations and long-term planning at Hoyt Arboretum.