World’s Smallest National Park the Largest Leprechaun Colony west of Ireland
Celebrating 100 years of National Parks
The Legend of Mill Ends Park
Dick Fagan a columnist for the Oregon Journal, spins a tale of the origin of Mill Ends Park:
One day Fagan looked out the window of his office in the Journal building that overlooked the median in the middle of the busy street that ran out front. There he spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole where a light pole was once destined to reside.
Fagan ran down and grabbed the leprechaun, which meant that he had earned a wish. Fagan said he wished for a park of his own, but since he had not specified the size of the park in his wish, the leprechaun gave him the hole.
Over the next two decades, Fagan often featured the park and its head leprechaun in his whimsical column. Fagan claimed to be the only person who could see the head leprechaun, Patrick O’Toole.
Fagan published a threat by O’Toole about the 11 o’clock curfew set on all city parks. O’Toole dared the mayor to try to evict him and his followers from Mill Ends and threatened a leprechaun curse on him should he attempt to do so. Subsequently, no legal action was taken, and the leprechauns were allowed to stay in the park after hours.
The History of Mill Ends Park
Mill Ends Park in Portland, OR is only two feet in diameter. It was originally scheduled for a light pole in 1948. When the pole failed to appear and weeds sprouted in the opening, Fagan planted flowers in the hole and named it after his column in the paper, “Mill Ends” (a reference to leftover irregular pieces of wood at lumber mills).
Fagan started using this column to describe the park and the various “events” that occurred there. It was Fagan who started calling the space as the “World’s Smallest Park.” The park was dedicated, two years later, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1948, as “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland”, according to Fagan.
Fagan died of cancer in 1969, but the park lives on, cared for by others. It was named an official city park in 1976.
The small circle has featured many unusual items through the decades, including a swimming pool for butterflies—complete with diving board, a horseshoe, a fragment of the Journal building, and a miniature Ferris wheel, which was delivered by a full size crane.
On St. Patrick’s Day, 2001, the park was visited by a tiny leprechaun leaning against his pot of gold and children’s drawings of four-leaf clovers and leprechauns. The park continues to be the site of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The events held here include concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, and rose plantings by the Junior Rose Festival Court.