Mill Ends Park is located at the intersection of Southwest Naito Parkway and Taylor Street, near the Willamette River in downtown Portland, Oregon. It is situated on a median in the middle of the parkway.
In 1971, the Guinness Book of Records declared Mill Ends Park to be the world’s smallest park. The park is twenty-four inches in diameter, and contains 452.16 square inches of land.
The story of Mills Ends Park began once upon a time in 1946, when newspaper columnist Dick Fagen (1911-1969) was looking out his second-story office window at The Oregon Journal and observed a small patch of earth surrounded by a circle of concrete. The area was supposed to be the sight of a light pole, but the pole failed to appear. As time went by, weeds covered the tiny plot of land, so Dick Fagan decided to plant flowers within the circle and Mill Ends Park was born.
Fagan explained the origins of the park as follows: “I looked out the window and spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole. He ran down and grabbed the leprechaun, which meant that he had earned a wish. Fagan said he wished for a park of his own; but since he had not specified the size of the park in his wish, the leprechaun gave him the hole.”
Fagan continued to planted flowers in the hole, and wrote about the resident family of leprechauns and their adventures in and around the park. The leader of the clan was Patrick O’Toole, who reportedly informed Fagan that Mill Ends Park hosted the “only leprechaun colony west of Ireland.”
Fagan named the park after his “Mill Ends” newspaper column and referred to the tiny plot of land as the “World’s Smallest Park.” Over the next two decades, Fagan often featured the park and its head leprechaun in his whimsical newspaper column.
In 1948, the park was dedicated on St Patrick’s Day. Since then the park has become a focal point for St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the city. On St.Patrick’s Day in 2001, there were reports of a leprechaun leaning against a pot of gold at the park.
Over the years, the tiny park has been decorated with a swimming pool for butterflies (complete with a diving board), a horseshoe, a fragment of the Journal building, and a miniature Ferris wheel.
It has also been the site of bagpipe concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, weddings, and demonstrations. The Junior Rose Festival even planted rose bushes in the tiny park.
Dick Fagan continued to write about activities in the park until he died of cancer in 1969 at age 58. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1976, Mill Ends Park was named an official city park.
In 1982, Fagan’s former employer, the The Oregon Journal ceased publication, but despite the demise of both Fagan and his newspaper, the legend of Fagan’s Mill Ends Park lived on.
When construction began on the Naito Parkway in February, 2006, the City of Portland relocated Mill Ends Park to a planter outside the World Trade Center in Portland, where it remained for a month until it was restored to its original location on March 16, 2007. Well, not to its original location. It ended up being placed about seven and a half feet from where Dick Fagan had planted it decades before.
The restoration ceremony featured members of the Fagan family, including Dick’s 92-year-old wife, Katherine, Mayor Tom Potter, bagpipers and the Royal Rosarians – the ambassadors of goodwill and the official greeters for the City of Portland and the Portland Rose Festival.
In December 2011, the Occupy Portland movement placed a cluster of tiny plastic soldiers and signs at the park to promote their cause.
In March 2013, the park’s only tree was stolen by persons unknown. The Parks Department immediately replaced the tree (pine), after all, even Leprechaun’s need shade.
NOTE: “Mill Ends” refers to rough, irregular pieces of lumber left over from the milling process.
Prince’s Park in the English town of Burntwood in Lichfield, Staffordshire also claims the title, “Home of the Smallest Park in the World.” Their park (15 feet by 30 feet) has been around for 100 years. It’s fenced, with three large trees, a bench and space for children to play.
With this in mind, some of the disgruntled folks in Burnwood consider Portland’s Mill Ends Park to be just a “glorified flower pot.”
Mill Ends Park
SW Taylor St
Portland, OR 97204
Portland Parks and Recreation (Website)