Today is the 102nd anniversary of the Dedication of Multnomah Falls. They are the second highest waterfalls in North America, and are visited by two million people a year. We collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief this week as the falls area, and historic lodge were saved by the brave and hardworking firefighters. They are very worthy of our eternal gratitude for saving such a beautiful place.
The land that included this area was donated in 1914 to the city of Portland By Simon Benson. Benson was an immigrant who through hard work made a fortune in the lumber industry. The bridge below Multnomah falls is known as “Benson Bridge.”
He was thankful for his opportunities in Portland and America, so he was generous with his money. He also donated $100,000 so Benson Polytechnic institute could be built. It was was designed to be a place to provide job skills and training for returning World War One Veterans. It would later become Benson High School. His old house is now the home of the Alumni association at Portland State University.
If you walk around downtown portland, you will see many of what are known as “Benson Bubblers.” Originally, Mr. Benson paid for the installation of 20 of these fountains. Now there are 52.
There are two stories behind the “Benson Bubblers.” One is that Benson was very anti-alcohol, and wanted people to always have the option to drink water instead of alcohol while in Portland. The second version is that he was saddened when he saw a little girl crying because she couldn’t find anywhere to get a drink during a Fourth of July parade, so he paid for the new fountains.
I like the second story better.