Located in downtown Portland, Oregon, in the median strip of a parkway is Mill Ends Park. This park, according to the Guinness Book of World Records as of 1971, is the smallest park in the world measuring only 452-square inches – that’s only 2 foot across! And co-incidentally, Portland is also home to a 6,000 acre urban-forest – the largest in its country.
The space where Mill Ends Park sits was to become the site for a light pole. The park was created when the light pole failed to appear and local Irish columnist Dick Fagan sat staring at the vacant space from his second-story office window. Deciding to take action, Fagan planted flowers in the vacant space, naming it ‘Mill Ends’ after his column in the Oregon Journal. Some contextual info, ‘mill ends’ are the odd, unusable pieces of wood left over at a mill. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1948, the park was officially dedicated to the town of Portland.
Known for his sense of imaginative humour, Fagan often wrote of ‘goings on’ at the park in his column, and of the many trials and tribulations of the leprechaun colony that inhabited the park. He often published work about his meetings with his friend and head leprechaun Patrick O’Toole. In Fagan’s writings of his meetings with O’Toole, the leprechaun leader claimed that Mill Ends Park was ‘the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland’! In 1969, Fagan sadly died due to cancer, but since then the park has still been cared for by many of Portland’s townsfolk and continues to thrive.
Before and after Fagan’s death, many different things have been placed in the park. These have included a small swimming pool for butterflies complete with a diving board, a fragment of the Oregon Journal building where Fagan worked, a horseshoe and even a little leprechaun leaning happily against his pot of gold in 2001! In 2006 the park was temporarily relocated due to roadworks on the parkway, but it was moved back to its original location with a festive celebration that featured Royal Rosarians, bagpipers, and Fagan’s own family including his widow Katherine.
To this day the legends of the leprechauns still live on within the Fagan family. One of Dick’s sons, Pat Fagan, is known to have enjoyed sharing the experience of the park with his own son, and it quoted as saying “it’s still the largest leprechaun colony west of Ireland!”