Portland Fountain Tour: Skidmore Fountain

The historic Skidmore Fountain is located near the west end of the Burnside Bridge at SW First and Ankeny Streets.  The Skidmore is one of Portland’s many fountains and was dedicated in memory of Stephen F. Skidmore on September 22, 1888 and partly financed with $5,000 from his will and the remainder was all donated by his friends Henry Failing and Tyler Woodward and his business partner Charles Sitton.  It was designed by sculptor Olin Levi Warner for $18,000.  The fountain is styled after fountains Skidmore viewed on his visit to the Paris Exposition in 1878.  Its design was intended as a drinking trough, with tiers for dogs, horses, and men and is constructed from bronze and marble.  Henry Weinhard, whose brewery was just down the street, actually offered to pump beer into the fountain at the dedication! They did not take him up on the offer because they argued that too many people would tap into the pipe and none would actually reach the fountain.

Stephen Skidmore was a turn of the century druggist.  He arrived in Oregon by covered wagon with his parents in 1850 when he was 12 years old.  He started working shortly after arriving in Portland.  He was one of the first carriers for the newly established Oregonian newspaper.  In 1867 he launched his own druggist business.  He was also a long serving member of the volunteer fire company and served on the city council from 1875 to 1878.  In 1882 Skidmore increasingly suffered from a long standing lung ailment.  He spent the last year of his life traveling and died on June 18, 1883 in San Rafael, California.  He was buried in Portland’s Riverview Cemetery.

The Max light rail runs past the Skidmore and has a nearby stop named after it.  During the operating hours of the Portland Saturday Market, the open area around the fountain attracts street performers and very entertained on lookers.  The fountain also serves as a gathering place for several Portland events.

This fountain was also responsible for another of Portland’s fountains being built – Thompson’s Elk. Thompson was a Portland mayor whose office overlooked the fountain, and he wanted to try and outdo his rival. More details about that fountain can be found here.

To learn more about Portland’s wonderful fountains click here

Words by Glenda and Brian. Pictures by Brian.

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