January 15, 2009 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Mysterious blue boxes, Pioneer Courthouse, Portland?

&panoidI've been to Portland a few times, and saw these two blue boxes sitting on the southwest corner of the Pioneer Courthouse block. What are they? What do they or did they do? I was once told Portland had a subway, but it flooded and was closed, but I can't find any sort of information to that effect, and I'm dubious about it.

In the upper right-hand corner

Google Street View
posted by gc to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hm. I'm going to say "no" on the subway. What I think these are are secure doorways to the jail area under the former courthouse? That's what I always assumed.
posted by amanda at 9:46 PM on January 15, 2009

Portland has never had a subway.

I believe those are restrooms.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:05 PM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

hattifattener: I certainly did look in them. They appeared to lead down to somewhere, and they had a good amount of trash and dead leaves inside.

Two views inside, and one more outside.

Ass =D
posted by gc at 10:45 PM on January 15, 2009

It looks like they might provide access to the ground base isolators.
posted by robtf3 at 11:11 PM on January 15, 2009

You know, I didn't remember until you posted the second pictures. Those things blend in so well to most Portlanders that they're almost invisible. If I remember correctly, those were the entrances to the areas underneath the courthouse that access holding cells and other administrative functions -- kind of like a secret back entrance. These days a modern jail/courthouse (like the new justice center a few blocks away) will have a garage that they pull into.

Most large buildings downtown extend underneath the sidewalks; those metal doors or grates that you walk over are usually freight elevators or shafts for dumpsters.

Re: the subway -- Portland has never had a subway nor was there one ever attempted, although there were attempts to tunnel through the west hills before the current MAX tunnel. There is a long history of streetcar, tram, and commuter trolleys in the area that could be the source that yo overheard.
posted by SpecialK at 11:16 PM on January 15, 2009

Not visible in this 1920 photo, taken about 50 years after construction, but visible in this 2005 view. Also Public Resource's youtube (part 1) looks interesting, but I've not watched it all.
posted by dawson at 11:30 PM on January 15, 2009

This article makes reference to them as entrances to underground public restrooms (men's and women's). The ladies even had bidets.
posted by MuckWeh at 12:46 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Gosh, MuckWeh. I'd love hearing how you managed to find that gem.
posted by dawson at 6:43 AM on January 16, 2009

Ooh, I remember using those restrooms (and the ones in MuckWeh's cited article around the corner from Mary's) as a kid. My dad was a commercial real estate broker/manager in downtown, and he knew all the secret little places.
posted by catlet at 8:19 AM on January 16, 2009

Bathrooms, and another photo.
posted by blueberry at 2:47 PM on January 16, 2009

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