What do you think of when you hear the word “park”? Do you picture acres and acres of greenery? Maybe some benches and fountains, or playground equipment for the kids? Enjoying a picnic with some fine Oregon wine perhaps?
How about 452 square inches of land, complete with a tree and some ground cover? For reference, that’s roughly the size of a large manhole cover. And that’s exactly how big Portland’s Mill Ends Park — aka the smallest park in the world — is.
Mill Ends came about almost by accident. The site, located across from legendary columnist Dick Fagan’s office, was originally intended to house a light pole. As Fagan told it, he looked out the window one day and saw a leprechaun.
Ah, the luck of the Irish!
The newspaperman ran outside to catch the elusive sprite, and when he did, he was granted one wish. Fagan wished for a park of his own. But since he failed to specify the size, the leprechaun gifted him the 452 square inch hole in the ground. Fagan accepted this and planted the park’s first flowers. Two years later, on St. Patrick’s Day 1948, the site was dedicated as a park and became known as the “only Leprechaun colony west of Ireland.”
Today, the small park with the big reputation remains a local treasure among Portlanders. Mill Ends is located in the median of SW Naito Parkway, so it’s not exactly the most relaxing park to hang out in, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from popping by to take a picture or leave a memento. A swimming pool for butterflies has been added, complete with a diving board, and annual events, such as a St. Patrick’s Day celebration recognizing the park’s leprechaun colony, are popular draws.
If you’re ever in Portland, take the time to stop by Mill Ends. You can take a picture of this infamous Portland gem, or even have a mini picnic with a bottle of Rainstorm Pinot Gris. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the resident leprechauns.