Honoring the History of Vanport

Remembering James Stanley Harrison, Vanport Placemarking Project’s first Board member

On Sept. 14, 2022, James Stanley Harrison, Vanport Placemarking Project’s first Board member, passed away. James Harrison taught History and Humanities at Portland Community College and served as the Social Sciences Faculty Department Chair for many years, teaching thousands of students about history and racism and inspiring them to join the struggle for social justice. Professor Harrison was dedicated to sharing the story of Vanport; he researched Vanport’s history, taught students about Vanport, and served as a key advisor to both the Vanport Mosaic and Vanport Placemarking Projects. His support and knowledge have been foundational to our work and mission, and he served as a dedicated Board member since the project’s inception.

James Harrison is remembered fondly by the Portland Community College community on their website, and family and friends in his obituary. A memorial service will take place on Friday, Sept. 30; details here

We thank Professor Harrison for his dedication to history and social justice, his contributions to the Vanport Placemarking Project, and his long and influential career as a teacher, historian, lecturer, racial justice advocate, and friend. He was a blessing to many and is greatly missed.

“What people don’t understand, they won’t value;

what they don’t value, they won’t protect;

and what they don’t protect, they will lose.”

– Charles Jordan, Former Portland City Commissioner and Director of Portland Parks & Recreation

Vanport was created as a temporary wartime housing project primarily for Kaiser Shipyard workers during WWII. During its heyday it was home to 40,000 people, making it the second largest city in Oregon. 

Located in what is now the Kenton neighborhood, Vanport was washed away in a flood on May 30, 1948. Today, all that remains are the memories of the survivors and their families, and a small piece of concrete slab from the original Vanport movie theater. 

The Vanport Placemarking Project will mark significant physical locations of the historic Vanport site to provide common ground for individuals and communities to connect and share memories, stories and experiences of Vanport.

Learn More About Vanport Placemarking Project

View Our Vanport Markers