Vanport is a city that was. The country’s largest housing project for shipyard and other defense workers during World War II, it was built between 1942-43 on the floodplain between Vancouver and Portland. At its height, it housed 40,000 people and was Oregon’s second largest city, but the population dwindled after the war to about 18,500.
On May 30, 1948, a railroad berm gave way as spring runoff swelled the Columbia River, sending water flooding into the area’s sloughs and backwater into the residential areas. Estimates are that the city drowned in about 30 minutes and 15 people lost their lives.
Zita Podany, a professor in the computer science department at Portland Community College, has written a book, Vanport, about the city that once stood on the site of the current Delta Park and the Portland International Raceway. She will discuss the city’s history from 6-7:15 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Kenton Library, 8226 N. Denver Ave.