The heart of the city's downtown Pioneer Courthouse Square is located between SW Yamhill Street at Sixth Avenue and SW Morrison Street at Broadway and occupies 40 thousand square feet. "Portland's Living Room", the square was opened as an urban park in 1984. Named after the Pioneer Courthouse, the square is a business, shopping, and cultural district. This is a gathering spot hosting more than 300 event days each year, including a Christmas tree lightening ceremony and summer free midday concerts. In good weather, the plaza is packed with chess players, political activists, public speakers, and launchers.
A shoemaker Elijah Hill purchased the block (today's Pioneer Courthouse Square) and a pair of high boots for $24 in 1849, and six years later sold to School Board for $1000.
The oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest, and the second oldest in the West (west of the Mississippi River), Pioneer Courthouse is just east of Sixth Avenue. Built between 1869 and 1873, the courthouse became home to the federal government in the region—incorporating the post office, judiciary, customs office, and tax department in 1875. In 1973, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and, in 1977, declared a National Historic Landmark.
The plaza is circled by artistic fancy columns designed like ancient Greek ruins. A portion of the square is arranged as an amphitheater with the hillside of steps that serves as seating or staircase. The steps are used as seats for events and other performances.
The small amphitheater in the northwest corner is an echo chamber. If a speaker stands on the marble stone and talk, a huge echo is created. Nearby there is a unique pole-mounted weather machine that provides a weather forecast each day at noon by series of lights show, fanfare announcement and icon’s pops.
The bricks that pave the plaza are engraved with names or nicknames. You can order your own brick to become a part of history or honor somebody for $100.
Owned by the city of Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square is home to Travel Visitor Information Center, TriMet Office that operates the Portland's public transportation, KGW News Channel, Powell’s Book, Nordstrom, and Starbucks.