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The History of Vanport

New book published on anniversary of flood

5/24/2016, 3:31 p.m.
In its heyday, Vanport was the second-largest city in Oregon with a population of over 40,000 residents. It was a ...
Zita Podany's new book “Vanport,” released this month as part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of American series.

Zita Podany is a longtime resident of Portland and has for many years been fascinated with the story of Vanport, a city that once thrived in an area full of marshes and sloughs between Portland and Vancouver.

Podany's new book “Vanport,” released this month as part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of American series, comes out on the 68th anniversary of the flood that destroyed the city.

Nestled on a floodplain, Vanport was a housing project to help house World War II shipyard workers. When the United States entered the war, the demand for ships and for workers to build those ships became a huge priority. Workers were recruited from all corners of the United States. A large population of African Americans answered the call for work and many residents of Portland and Vancouver today trace their geographical roots to Vanport.

Podany shares a wealth of photos before and after the flood in his book. He tells how Portland had a serious lodging shortage, so much so that these workers lived in cars, tents, parks, and whatever shelter could be found. Vanport, built in a little over a year to house them, was a city that did not sleep.

In its heyday, Vanport was the second-largest city in Oregon with a population of over 40,000 residents. It was a city with many firsts. It was a city that touched many lives in a very short period of time. And on May 30, 1948, it was a city that disappeared just as quickly as it came into existence, leaving a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.