Collection Highlight: Vanport City, Oregon Photo Albums

Vanport, Oregon was a wartime public housing project built to shelter Kaiser Shipyard employees working in Portland and Vancouver, Washington. The city was destroyed in May 1948 when a 200-foot section of the dike holding back the Columbia River collapsed during a flood, killing 15 and leaving its population of largely African-American inhabitants homeless.

Two photo albums regarding the history of Vanport have recently been made available in Special Collections and University Archives. The Vanport, Oregon construction photograph album (PH203_064) and the Vanport, Oregon flood photograph album (PH203_025) document the city before and after the disaster.

Vanport City float at the 1948 Portland Rose Festival Parade (PH203_025)

The Vanport, Oregon construction album contains thirty four images and text produced in 1944 by the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation documenting construction and operation of Vanport in response to a query from a British official. Though Vanport would become home to the largest population of African-Americans in Oregon, the corporation’s report features only images of white residents.

The Vanport, Oregon flood photograph album contains one hundred photographs of the aftermath of the 1948 flood in Vanport and Portland. The album also contains a copy of the memo circulated to residents urging them to remain in their homes rather than evacuate the area.

These albums join our other resources on Oregon history and are now available for research in the Special Collections and University Archives reading room.

By Alex Bisio, Lead Processing Archivist

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