A Little Bit of Blarney…

Mill Ends Park - the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.

Mill Ends Park – the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.

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 of Portland had planned to put a lamp post, but the lamp post never materialized. Instead, the post 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 undeveloped piece of real estate as his very own personal park. Then he 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 articles centered around a group of leprechauns who had set up camp there, “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.” Their leader was a doughty, charismatic character by the name of Patrick O’Toole.

Soon, all of Portland was in on the joke. A mini ferris wheel was installed onsite. Someone else added a swimming pool for butterflies, complete with a diving board. Still others added trees, statues, little cars, and even an occasional super hero action figure to the landscape. Nearly 70 years later, Mill Ends Park continues to be used by the citizens of Portland as a site for concerts, picnics, and even 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.

Special Note:  Mill Ends Park is located smack dab in the middle of SW Naito Parkway, protected from traffic by two poles. A nearby crosswalk allows easy access.

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