Downtown Portland historic building

Looking Up in Downtown Portland – What Will You Find?

Posted on Posted in Look Up and See, Photography, Portland, Oregon, The Good Stuff

Do you need a new way to “see” a city, to explore the nooks and crannies of it all and come away with a different experience than the next guy?  A simple solution is to “LOOK UP!”  Easy in theory but when I walk the streets everyone seems to be looking down, no longer at their feet to avoid eye contact but looking down at their phones to tweet, like, share, text or follow directions.  Looking down makes you miss so much of what’s above you – not at eye level but way up toward the sky.  With my camera in hand, I wandered the downtown streets of Portland enamoured by the historic buildings, the architectural details and the fire escape stairs.  Downtown Portland, like most cities, will surprise you when you look up.  Here’s what I saw looking up in downtown Portland.

Portland downtown lights
Looking Up in Downtown Portland


The Architectural Detail

Both of my hotel stays, last year at Hotel Vintage Plaza Portland and this year at The Nines, were in restored historic buildings. Walking around downtown, past the malls, you will find small historic building and then the grand buildings, each with interesting design and architectural detail.  I was geeking out at the cool photo opportunities as the light was fading from the city during my walk.

Portland Architecture Details


Portland Architecture
The details in sun and shadow in Portland
Portland Architecture Column
So many details in the building and the column
Portland Architecture downtown
Looking up at the corners of the building in Portland

The Fire Escape Stairs

Seeing a city in a new light both literally and figuratively is always a treat for me.  I noticed one set of fire escape stairs and then for the rest of my visit, I saw fire escape stairs everywhere – it was as if the background of the cityscape faded away so that the stairs were in focus attached to a variety of buildings.  With sunlight and shadows, trying to capture the stairs became a bit of a photography challenge for me but one I wanted to see how it developed along my walk. I looked at the various differences in the stairs, in the buildings, in the designs, seeing so much more than just stairs. Rarely, have I become so one topic focused in my travels and photography – it was a nice way to explore the city and see it differently.

Portland Fire Escape Stairs
Simple apartment fire escape stairs



Portland Fire Escape Stairs
The stairs blend into the brick so I noticed the crosses above
Portland Fire Escape Stairs
Color, shadow and fire escape stairs in Portland


 Historic Buildings and Images of Portland

To be honest, while newer buildings are “pretty and sleek”, I love the character of the older buildings.  Growing up in Philadelphia surrounded by historic buildings, I find comfort in the artistry, craftsmanship and simple function of the architecture.  Give me a clock tower and I smile.

Portland Clock Jackson Tower Clock
The Portland Tower Clock built in 1912
Portland National Bank
The bank buildings are full of such detail your eye doesn’t know where to go first
Portland at Dusk Lights Wind Farm
Portland at Dusk with Wind Farm in background

So what will you see when you look up today?  Will you make eye contact with a stranger and smile?  Will you look up in the sky and see a plane fly by and dream of a trip?  Will you notice something new in your city?  So many possibilities to explore…….

Downtown Portland
Looking Up in Downtown Portland



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