Where the Portland Flag Flies

Where the Portland flag flies.  foursquare.com/meisikai/list/the-portland-flag
Where the Portland flag flies. foursquare.com/meisikai/list/the-portland-flag

Over the past few years I have been compiling a list of places in Portland that fly the city’s flag.  When it started in 2011 the flag could be seen only in a handful of places:  city hall, the Portland Building, Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Oregon Convention Center, Jefferson Office Park, and the Portland Timbers’ stadium (only on game days).  It’s grown to 23 entries, greatly helped by a decision by the city government to fly the flag at every Portland Fire and Rescue station across the city.

US and Portland flags flying at Portland Fire and Rescue Station No. 5 in the Hillsdale neighborhood. Photo by Scott Mainwaring.
US and Portland flags flying at Portland Fire and Rescue Station No. 5 in the Hillsdale neighborhood. Photo by Scott Mainwaring.

What’s keeping more hotels, restaurants, and other places that have invested in flag poles from flying the flag?  Perhaps there’s a misunderstanding that the flag represents only the city government, rather than the city and its people as a whole.  It may have started out as the former, but now is certainly the latter, in no small measure due to the fans of the Portland Timbers’ enthusiastic adoption of the flag.

Portland flags waving at a Timbers game in 2011.  Photo by Kristin Wolff, via Foursquare.
Portland flags waving at a Timbers game in 2011. Photo by Kristin Wolff, via Foursquare.

There may also be a misunderstanding that in order to fly the Portland flag, it must be accompanied by the US and Oregon flags.  Flag etiquette does require these “outranking” flags to be given more respect than the city flag, e.g., by literally flying them above it on a shared pole.  But there is no rule of etiquette saying the Portland flag can’t be flown by itself, or only with the US flag (as is the case at most of the Portland Fire and Rescue stations), or only with the Oregon flag for that matter.

Portland flag flying beneath the Oregon flag at the Oregon Convention Center is Portland.  A memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. is in the foreground.  Photo by Scott Mainwaring.
The statue of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Oregon Convention Center.  Nearby the Portland flag flies beneath the Oregon flag.  Photo by Scott Mainwaring.

The biggest factor limiting the public display of the Portland flag is probably not misunderstanding, but simply understanding that Portland has a flag.  Every time the Portland flag is raised in a new locale, used in merchandising or advertising, or spreads through word of mouth, public recognition grows.  This “virtuous cycle” is underway.

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

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