Bridges, Bubblers & Volcanoes: The Iconic Images of Portland, by Mark Petruska

Think of New York, and what comes to mind? Chances are it’s the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London’s got double-decker buses, and in Seattle, the Space Needle reigns supreme. All cities have certain images associated with them, and while Portland may not have one singular defining visual that comes immediately to mind when you think of the town, there are still a number of iconic images that perfectly represent the Rose City. When I think of Portland, here’s what pops into my head.

  1. Bridges.
    Like Brooklyn and San Francisco, bridges are synonymous with P-Town…but we’ve got a whole bunch of ‘em, and keeping track of them all is a task few can master. There are ten bridges that span the Willamette River, joining east side to west, and even after living here for more than 16 years, I’m hard pressed to recognize more than a handful of them by sight. Bless the pioneers for their foresight in providing multiple river crossings, but curse them for having so many of them. I can barely remember the names of all Three Stooges.
  2. Benson Bubblers.
    Let’s say you’re a filthy stinkin’ rich lumber baron. What would you like your legacy to be? Naturally, you’re probably thinking, “a water fountain!” Simon Benson was back in 1912, when he paid for his namesake “Benson Bubblers” that are now scattered throughout downtown. Simon had them installed so that his employees wouldn’t be sneaking off to the corner tavern for gin and whiskey on their lunch breaks, because – newsflash! – alcohol and chainsaws don’t mix. 
  3. That sign with the deer on it that keeps changing.
    You know the one I’m talking about – the sign in Old Town with a leaping deer that gets a red nose every Christmas in celebration of drunk Santa. I mean, Rudolph. It seems like every time you turn around, it’s advertising something new. Over the years, it has morphed from the White Stag Sportswear logo to Made In Oregon to just plain old Portland, Oregon. So, this is what happens when corporate sponsorships dry up.
  4. Roses.
    Personally, I think blackberries are far more prolific around these parts and – let’s face it – they taste a whole lot better, but changing the city’s namesake Rose Festival to a Blackberry Festival would be a thorny proposition, so flowers it is! Apparently our climate is ideal for growing roses. Interesting, because our climate is also ideal for growing moss, and you can bet that having a Moss Festival every year would be even less appealing than a Rose Festival.
  5. Mount Hood.
    Much like the Matterhorn – only not plastic, and without a two-hour wait for a three-minute ride down from the top – Mount Hood rises majestically to the east of Portland in all its snowcapped glory, providing a postcard-perfect view when the weather is sunny, and pretty much invisible the other 350 days of the year. But when the mountain is out, oh, how beautiful it is.

There you have it: Portland in a nutshell. There are some notable runners-up, like colorful mayors, microbreweries, “sun breaks” and bacon-topped doughnuts, but we’ll save those for another list! 


Mark Petruska is in love and wants the world to know it. The object of his affection? The Pacific Northwest, where he has lived since 1994. Born in Hawaii, his father was in the Air Force, and the family moved often. Over the years, Mark has called many places home – Dayton, Ohio; Rapid City, South Dakota; San Jose, California – but his heart belongs to Portland.

Mark is also passionate about writing, and has cranked out a number of novels and short stories over the years. His dream is to become a published author.

“I’d love to walk into Powell’s Books someday, and pull a novel with my name on it from the shelf,” he says. “It will happen…mark my words!”

A recent corporate layoff prompted Mark to pursue his passion and begin a freelance writing career. With a steady and growing client base, he hopes to make a living solely through his writing. Hobbies include cooking, blogging, photography, hiking, and “mind-numbing reality television.”