Pages of Portland Exploring the BOok CULTURE of Portland

Heathman Hotel Signed First Editions
Central Library Children's Section
Rare Book Room at Powell's Books

"A book for every person, a person for every book"



The elegant 90 year-old Heathman Hotel houses a library of over 3,000 signed author editions donated by authors who have stayed at the Heathman while in Portland for book readings. The collection includes some impressive signatures: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, John Updike, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard and James Patterson are just a few. Guests are also invited to check out books to enjoy during their stay.



Built in 1913, this was one of the first public libraries in the west. It was started with a donation from John Wilson of 7000 rare books and gold coins to hire a librarian, Mary Francis Isom. Mary Francis Isom worked closely with an architect to create a place that would be a cultural center for the people of Portland. It's now expanded to 19 branches in the Portland area.


The library existed before the Art Museum, so it doubled as an art gallery for some time. There are many unique pieces throughout the library, including a statue of a tree in the children’s library. The statue is called “preserving a memory,” and the artist intentionally put different images at different levels so the statue can grow with the children. At the base there are different animals, a dog, a tennis ball with the artist’s name, and as the children grow in height the images grow in complexity, with an anatomically correct heart at higher levels. You can see which pieces are most loved, by how the tarnish has been worn off. A metal relief of Beverly Cleary, a beloved Portland children’s author, shows this as well. Librarians polish her ring as they pass by, and it gleams gold

There’s also lots of hidden images in the stairway and elsewhere, similar to art pieces that are hidden throughout the city. You never know what you’re going to find.


Stop at the info desk first. Powell's is so enormous that you need to a map to navigate the nine color coded rooms housing over 1 million books covering a city block.

Once a automobile dealership, Powell's opened in 1971 at this location. Employees loaded up shopping carts with books and wheeled them down the street from the original location.

Grab a badge in the Pearl Room in order to be admitted to the Rare Book room. Only a limited number of people can browse at once.
Cover of The Bello Judaico from 1480 with a price tag of $12,500 in the Rare Book Room,

"If you have a relative come into town, or a friend come into town, and they say "What is there to do in Portland?" If you name three things, one of them is going to be Powell's. Because the city's proud of it. You don't even have to be a reader—you just want to show it off. Biggest bookstore in America, maybe the biggest in the world. You know, if you've got the biggest ball of string, people think you're kooky. But if you have the biggest bookstore, it says something positive about the community—that it supports a store that large—and people like that message." -Michael Powell

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.