You know it’s the holiday season in Portland when our skyline gets a red-nosed reindeer. On the day before Thanksgiving, the stag next to the iconic “Portland, Oregon” sign gets a seasonal Rudolph-like nose. The sign is a piece of city history, but its current iteration and location are relatively recent:
- It hasn’t always said Portland!
- It started as a sign to advertise commercial goods. First "White Satin Sugar,” then "White Stag Sportswear,” and thus arrived the deer.
- Later, it promoted “Made in Oregon” shops (like the ones in the airport). The change was a way to get a private venture to keep paying for it.
- At one point, it was going to become “Oregon” when the University of Oregon moved into the building.
- The city ultimately stepped in to keep the lights on. It became “Portland, Oregon,” in 2010, with an agreement where the city paid $2,000 a month for 10 years in maintenance costs through parking revenues.
- The city has been aggressive about the trademark when commercial ventures have tried to use it in marketing, but it’s actually a pizza shop (not the city) that owns the trademark to use the white stag in beer, wine, and alcohol ads.