Portland’s waterfront area was susceptible to seasonal flooding, as well as fire danger due to the number of makeshift wooden buildings.
In December 1872, a fire started in a Chinese laundry and spread several block. Just eight months later, in August 1873, another fire damaged twenty-two blocks. As a result, the city began requiring new buildings to be constructed with brick.
Meanwhile, floods were a regular occurrence along Portland’s waterfront as the Willamette River swelled over its banks during spring runoffs. One of the worst floods happened in late May and early June of 1894. The river rose more than 30 feet, and flooded the downtown business district, covering over 250 square blocks.