A History of Eagle Point: From John Muir to John Kenward
Besides being a spectacular site, Eagle Point has a fascinating history. The property adjoins Terwilliger Parkway to the east and straddles the original Donation Land Claims of Elizabeth Thomas Caruthers (north) and James and Philinda Terwilliger (south); Lowell St. was the dividing line between the old claims.
John Muir bought 10 acres of Caruthers Addition in 1883, including Eagle Point, and built a house for his family nearer to the river below. This was not the same John Muir of Yosemite fame. Rather, this was “John Muir of Wall Street” who at the time was an executive with the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company/Northern Pacific Railroad and a protégé of Henry Villard. John Muir of Yosemite made occasional visits to Portland to lecture and promote conservation of Mt. Rainier and Crater Lake, and on one of those visits he dined with his Portland namesake who had also emigrated from Scotland.
Muir moved to New York City in 1886 and eventually became a director of the New York Stock Exchange. His biography is titled “John Muir of Wall Street: A Story of Thrift” by O.M. Fuller, Knickerbocker Press, 1927. Eagle Point was sub-divided around 1891 and named “First Street Terraces”. In 1893 an illustrator named Frederick Walpole purchased the entire subdivision. Walpole was employed by the U.S. National Herbarium (now National Museum of Natural History) and traveled around the Northwest making botanical illustrations. He was one of several naturalists that went on the 1899-1900 E.H. Harriman expeditions to Alaska that also included John Muir (of Yosemite) and John Burroughs. 800 of his illustrations are owned by the Smithsonian Institution and on indefinite loan to the Hunt Institute for Botanical Illustration at Carnegie Mellon University. More information about Walpole and samples of his beautifully detailed drawings can be seen here:
Walpole constructed a modest shingle style house on the top of the knoll that included a windmill. He was reported to be a fan of the writings of John Ruskin, which was reflected in the honest expression of his house. After he died of typhoid in 1904 the property went to his sister, Marian, and her husband Theodore Burkhart, and it stayed in their family until the 1960s. The original 1912 plan for Terwilliger Parkway developed by John C. Olmsted and his protegé Emanuel Mische showed Eagle Point as major viewpoint and attraction along the parkway. But the Walpole/Burkhart home was already located there and they were evidently unwilling to relinquish it. The Terwilliger Parkway Corridor Plan of 1983 revived the desire to provide public access to Eagle Point as shown in the drawing on the left.
In the 1960s the Burkharts sold their remaining 1-acre hilltop property and house to John and Mary Jane Kenward. John Kenward was the first director of the newly created Portland Development Commission and played a leading role in the city’s urban renewal program in the 1960s. He led the redevelopment of the South Auditorium Renewal Area and was instrumental in bringing famed landscape architect Lawrence Halprin to Portland to design the highly successful parks, walkways, and fountains of that area. Like other urban renewal and freeway projects in Portland in that era, whole neighborhoods of low-income African-American, Jewish, and Italian residents were displaced in the process (contact Prosper Portland - formerly Portland Development Commission - for more details.) In 2013, several years after John and Mary Jane had passed away, their heirs sold the property to Portland Parks and Recreation. Friends of Terwilliger had been in communication with the Kenwards since 2000 about the future of their property and our desire to see it preserved; we are fortunate that the Kenwards were interested in preserving it and that Portland Parks was in a position to purchase it. Thus, a one hundred year old vision to make Eagle Point a part of Terwilliger Parkway was finally realized. We are also extremely fortunate that both the Walpole/Burkharts and the Kenwards were good stewards of their unique property and sought to preserve its natural character rather than developing it to its fullest potential.