This is an extensive document.
It will take some time, but there are great mysterious rewards to those you
Us - Tour information available. Would also like to hear any tales of
the Underground that might have come down as folklore within your family.
This was an illegal maritime practice where
able-bodied men --- sailors, loggers, cowboys, sheepherders, ranch hands,
construction workers, and vagabonds, in addition to other hard workers who were
either employed or who frequented the waterfront, were grabbed or kidnapped and
sold to sea captains who forced them to work aboard their ships for no pay.
Portland was unique because trap doors (known as "deadfalls") were used to drop
the unsuspecting victims into the "Portland Underground", where they were
forcibly held in cells until the ship was ready to set sail. From 1850 to 1941,
the so-called Victorian-refined Portland was known as the "Unheavenly City" or
the "Forbidden City", due to this shocking practice. And, during "Prohibition",
the saloons literally went "Underground" and occupied a portion of this
so-called "Underground City", creating an even greater opportunity for men to
find themselves aboard a ship bound for the Orient.
The "Portland Underground" tunnels, more popularly known as the
"Shanghai Tunnels", were basements of buildings that connected to other
buildings through brick and stone archways that were intersected with tunnels
that connected under the streets, linking block to block. These "catacombs" or
"tombs", as they were sometimes called, created a unique network of passages and
thoroughfares that were used by unscrupulous individuals called "shanghaiiers"
or "crimps", in addition to "white slavers" who grabbed women and sold them into
These are educational tours of the infamous "Portland
Underground" that focuses on the shanghai trade in the City of Portland that
survived from 1850-1941, as well as "white slavery", prohibition, and even the
turn-of-the-century history of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.)
labor movement in the Northwest. In addition, the early history of the
Chinese is covered, along with the Japanese and the Gypsies. These tours are
operated by the Cascade Geographic Society (CGS) and provide a unique glimpse
back into the hidden (or buried) past of the "City of Roses".
The tour takes approximately an hour and a half, and
participants are with a guide at all times. The tour-goers receive an
above-ground orientation, and then the guide will lead participants into the
"Portland Underground", where they will receive the majority of the historical
and oral history about this infamous maritime practice that gave Portland a
notorious reputation throughout the world. Tour participants must be able to
handle stairs that lead to and from this hidden world. In addition, there will
be dust, dirt, musty smells, and anything else that would be associated with
this type of environment, so if you need a dust mask, please bring one. Also, at
each station people will be required to stand for at least 15 minutes at a time
in order to receive the necessary information. Also, the
"Portland Underground" is constantly in transition as more and more sections are
opened or restored, which is why some people have taken this tour several times.
A segment of the once-hidden world of shanghaiing. You will
venture into the "Portland Underground" to see remnants of this shocking
maritime history --- unique architecture, underground holding cells, a
"deadfall" trapdoor, unearthed artifacts of this terrible, misguided labor
practice, and more. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the secret
history of shanghaiing.
$13 per person (adults)/$8 (children under 12 years).
1 -- RESERVATION:
A must in order to attend! This places you on our attendance list but does not
hold your place unless you pre-pay. However, we are usually able to get everyone
who has confirmed onto the tours.
2 -- PRE-PAYMENT:
This guarantees you a place on the tour. Pre-payment allows us to be able to better plan for the tour, without overbooking. Pre-payment should be made over the phone by credit card (VISA or Master Card). Charges will be made to Cascade Geographic Society.
All of the tours offered are
educational in nature and provide a good deal of information on the shanghai
trade in Portland and on the West Coast. The three main tours currently offered
are the "Shanghai Tunnels Heritage Tour", the "Shanghai Tunnels Ghost Tours",
and the "Shanghai Tunnel Ethnic History Tour". However, there are other tours
that we can customize just for your group, so please give us a call or email us.
GROUP TOURS: Minimum of
15 people. If you do not have a group this size, we can include you with other
people to make the appropriate-sized group. The maximum number is about 30
people, depending upon the makeup of the group.
The three primary tours of the "Portland Underground" are as
"Shanghai Tunnels Heritage Tour"
--- which is the main tour given and involves the history of shanghaiing in
Portland. You'll leave knowing more about the shanghai trade in the "City of
Roses" than you ever considered wanting to know.
"Shanghai Tunnels Ghost Tours"
Paranormal Investigations" has proclaimed that the shanghai tunnels are the most
haunted place in Oregon and, perhaps, the most haunted place on the West Coast.
Given upon request!
"Shanghai Tunnel Ethnic History Tour"
provides insights into the histories of the
Chinese, the Japanese, and the Gypsies and how their histories relate to those
infamous activities in the "Portland Underground". Dispels a lot of myths! Given
All tours are done by appointment only!
These include pre-organized groups or groups that we put together. Tours are
held after 4 PM, when our host/cooperating restaurant opens for business [Note:
When we have our festivals or special events, no tours will take place. Please
see our festival and events schedule.) You must make
arrangements with Cascade Geographic Society at 503-622-4798; the restaurant
does not schedule tours!! Tours include pre-organized groups or groups that we
put together. The majority are done during the evening hours, because this is
when shanghaiing took place. However, we will do afternoon tours, if they can be
Approximately an hour and a half.
Old Town-Chinatown, what was known back in the days of
shanghaiing as the "Old North End".
Hobo's Restaurant in Old Town.
Thanks to the owners, the tours of the infamous "Shanghai Tunnels" found a new
entrance into this hidden world of darkness and shadows where Portland's secret
history still hides.
Hobo's Restaurant, 120 N.W. Third Avenue, Portland, Oregon.
If you patronize the restaurant as a customer prior to your tour, let the waiter
know and we will find you in the restaurant. If you're not a restaurant
customer, please meet ten minutes prior to your tour inside Hobo's. [DIRECTIONS: Located two and a half blocks north of West Burnside, between N.W.
Couch & N.W. Davis Streets.] The restaurant staff does not schedule or lead the
tours; pre-arranged tours are available only through us, at 503-622-4798.
**Hobo's does not schedule the tours; please do not contact them
for tour schedules**
"Portland Underground Tours" highly recommends Hobo's
Restaurant. This unique antique Old Portland bar of yesteryear includes the
ornate mirror from a former "Red Light" establishment (that was tactfully
labeled in the old City Directory as a "woman's boardinghouse"). This 1880's
Victorian-era historic building creates an ideal setting for enjoying food or
drink. All of this, coupled with the fact this was a former shanghaiing and
"white slavery" joint --- known back then as "Lasso Saloon" --- makes it the
perfect place to gather before or after a tour of the "Portland Underground" and
have a meal or a place to toast the old shanghaiers and their infamous and
colorful maritime history.
ANOTHER POST TOUR GATHERING PLACE:
Boiler Room, 130 N.W. Third Avenue. This nightclub also has been
cooperating with "Portland Underground Tours", and has made it possible that
visitors can still take tours of this world beneath the cobblestone streets of
the "City of Roses". It is at this spot, where shanghaiers once grabbed so many
victims that Portland's reputation boasted of being the "Worst Port in the
World", that you can view photographs of the infamous catacombs of the past ---
that is, if you are 21 years of age! This is a great place for a drink or a
light snack, but, a word of caution: A trap door in the floor, which at one time
claimed a countless number of victims for the shanghaiers, is reportedly still
operational and yearns for those good ol' days when the Old North End was
reputed to be the rowdiest spot on the West Coast and any other waterfront area
in the rest of the world.
APPROPRIATE DRESS FOR A TOUR OF "PORTLAND UNDERGROUND":
Pants! No dresses or skirts please. Also, no high heels,
sandals, thongs, or open faced shoes. The best shoes are sneakers or closed-toe
The cost of the tour includes a small flashlight, which is
loaned to every fourth participant in the tour. In the past, people brought
their own flashlights which were too large and powerful, and became distracting
and took away from the experience and the ambience of the "Portland
Yes, cameras are allowed on the tour, but they must
have a source of lighting or flash due to the darkness of the areas visited.
Due to the volume of
communications we receive, please allow at least 48 hours for return of emails
or calls. We are a non-profit group with no paid employees, and our volunteers
access communications during evening hours
Street parking is available at meters, which are free after 6
p.m., Monday through Saturday, and free all day Sunday or holidays. However,
there is a "Smart Park" parking structure at N.W. 1st and Davis, just one and a
half blocks away from Hobo's Restaurant, where the "Portland Underground Tours"
Located two and a half blocks from "Portland Underground Tours"
at N.W. 1st and Davis. This is an excellent way to travel into Downtown Portland
and avoid parking issues. Be sure to get off at the Old Town/Chinatown stop. For
information on MAX [light rail] scheduling, please call Tri-Met at (503)
238-7433 or receive 24-hour recorded information at (503) 228-7246.
Trolley stops are located in and around "Portland Underground
Tours". This is Portland's latest addition to its transportation system, and is
an ideal way to travel in Downtown as well as all the way to Lloyd Center and
Northwest Portland. Be sure to get off at the Old Town/Chinatown stop. For
information on the Trolley and scheduling, please call Tri-Met at (503) 238-7433
or receive 24-hour recorded information at (503) 228-7246.
Another excellent way to travel to "Portland Underground Tours"
and avoid parking hassles is to arrive by bus. Just ask your driver for the
nearest bus stop to 226 N.W. Davis. For information on bus scheduling, please
call Tri-Met at (503) 238-7433 or receive 24-hour information at (503) 231-3199.
Cascade Geographic Society is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational
organization founded in 1979. It began conducting research on the cultural and
natural history of the Cascade Mountain Range and "all of the lands and waters
it influences". It received its official non-profit status in 1987.
Besides operating "Portland Underground Tours", some of the
things that CGS does are as follows: operates "Stage Stop Road Interpretative
Center" in the Village of Welches on Mount Hood, located at the junction of East
Welches Road and Stage Stop Road, focusing on the history of the Oregon Trail
and its cultural and natural resources; conducts tours of the Oregon Trail and
other historic sites and trails; conducts tours on Old-Growth Forests and other
natural areas; works directly with schools in a variety of ways, including
"Project Discovery" that introduces inner-city students to natural areas and
historic sites for field studies opportunities; provides storytelling and living
history programs; operates a "Sanctuary Lands Program" which protects natural,
cultural, and historical resources; restores fish and wildlife habitats; for the
past 13 years the "Oregon Trail Education Center" has provided upper-division
and lower-division classes through Portland State University's Division of
Continuing Education; works towards protecting final resting places like Native
American burial grounds and pioneer cemeteries; preserves historical landmarks;
sponsors the "Mount Hood Quilt Show & Old-Time Fiddlers Jamboree" during the
third weekend in July; sponsors the "Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow
Trail Days" the weekend before Labor Day Weekend in the month of August;
sponsors the "Mount Hood Salmon & Mushroom Festival" in the first weekend of
October; sponsors the "Mount Hood Public Lands Clean-Up" the first weekend of
November; and much, much more.
At one time, this great city that we know today as
Portland, Oregon, was a river town whose beginnings we often look upon as being
nothing more than a humble Victorian settlement. However, in reality it was
considered the most "dangerous port in the world" because of the
"Shanghaiing Trade" that existed. Stopping for a drink in such
notorious establishments as Erickson's Saloon, the Snug
Harbor Saloon, and the Valhalla Saloon, people became unsuspecting victims who found
themselves beneath the streets in tunnels and being carried out to the
waterfront and sold for "blood money".
Oregon, the Victorian-refined "City of Roses" along the Willamette
River, earned the reputation of being the "Shanghai Capital of
the World" because of the uncontrolled shanghaiing of unsuspecting men.
These men, primarily sailors, loggers, cowboys, sheepherders, those who worked
on the river, and others that lived a wanderlust life, and who played just as
hard as they worked, found themselves victims of the worst
"skullduggery" imaginable. Thousands of them found themselves in the clutches of shanghaiers and crimps who
either forcibly grabbed them off the streets, slipped "knockout drops"
in saloon, pool hall, and gambling parlor drinks. They were hauled out of opium dens
and houses of prostitution, or cleverly dropped through
"deadfalls" (trapdoors) that were conveniently situated in a wide
array of vice establishments.
in early Portland's history, had to also be cautious when venturing into certain
areas of the city. They were warned not to go to dances and to stay out of
restaurants, saloons, and other establishments of the evening, They, too, became
victims of this shadowy part of the city's history, and found themselves being
carried or dragged through this infamous "network" of wharfrat-dominated
shanghai tunnels, and, unfortunately, sold into "white slavery". Like
a "speck of dust", most of these women just seemed to vanish and were
never heard from again.
The victims were held captive in small brick cells
or makeshift wood and tin prisons until they were sold to the sea captains. A
sea captain who needed additional men to fill his crew notified the shanghaiiers
that he was ready to set sail in the early-morning hours, and would purchase the
men for $50 to $55 a head. "Knock-out drops" were then slipped into
the confined victimıs food or water.
Unconscious, they were then taken through a
network of tunnels that "snaked" their way under
the city all the way to the waterfront. They were placed aboard ships and didn't
awake until many hours later, after they had "crossed the bar" into
the Pacific Ocean. It took many of these men as long as two full voyages ---
that's six years --- to get back to Portland.
All along the Portland waterfront, from the North End
(today's Old Town, Skidmore Fountain, and Chinatown) to the South End (today's
southwest downtown area), "Shanghai Tunnels" ran beneath the city,
allowing a hidden world to exist. These "catacombs" connected to the
many saloons, brothels, gambling parlors, and opium dens, which drew great
numbers of men and became ideal places for the shanghaiers to find their
victims. The catacombs, which
"snaked" their way beneath the streets of what we
now call Old Town, Skidmore Fountain, and Chinatown, helped to create an infamous
history that became "cloaked" in myth, superstition, and fear.
With the cooperation
of police, politicians, and big business leaders, these riverfront neighborhoods
became more notorious than the "Barbary Coast". The "Shanghaiing
Trade" was not just confined to Portland's Downtown. Instead, it existed
along the waterfront in a network of "Shanghai Tunnels", with some
areas more extensive than others.
Oral tradition has kept the history of the "Portland Underground"
alive. Today, 150 years after "Shanghaiing" began at this former
"stumptown" along the Willamette River, you can still view
of the past, venture through the "Shanghai Tunnels" and cast your
sights on a history that has been nearly forgotten and buried. Tours have been given by the
Geographic Society reveals the stories of shanghaiers and crimps who, at one
time, controlled West Portland, East Portland, Albina, Northwest Portland, Lair
Hill Park, Corbett, St. Johns, Linnton, Brooklyn, Lents, Kenton,
Oregon City, Sucker (today's Lake Oswego), and other waterfront towns and nearby
communities. During the "heyday" of shanghaiing, a minimum of 1500
people per year were shanghaied out of Portland.
The remnants of
Portland's infamous history of the "Shanghai Tunnels" and the
"Portland Underground", are still with us. The stories have lingered,
along with the rubble, the trapdoors, the secret entrances, and the catacombs
that still extend their presence beneath the sidewalks, streets and buildings. So
join the Cascade Geographic Society and view the remnants of these infamous secret catacombs that
earned Portland such a dubious reputation. See the surviving artifacts of this
shocking history of shanghaiing. Explore the remnants of this intriguing and, up
until now, hidden piece of Portland and the West Coast's maritime heritage.