School History

  • The history of Portland’s first high school encompasses much of the history of the city, the state at large, and civic, artistic and political events over 15 decades. Founded in 1869 with an enrollment of 45 students, on the second floor of an elementary school in the Alphabet District, Lincoln High School today has more than 1,500 students, studying a full roster of topics (including the International Baccalaureate and CTE programs), the school’s sports, Speech and Debate, Mock Trial, Constitution and other teams are nationally recognized. Student life is vibrant with over 80 student-led clubs including interest-based and racial affinity groups. Alumni have records of achievement in many fields, including sports, the arts and entertainment:

    More than 32,000 graduates have walked through the hallways of six different buildings in downtown Portland and enriched the city, state, nation, and world with their talents.  Alumni have records of achievement in many fields, including sports, the arts and entertainment:

    First located in the second story of the North School on Northwest 11th and Davis streets, Portland High School, as it was known then, opened on April 26 with 45 students and two teachers. Courses included Rhetoric, Philosophy, Astronomy, Geology, and Greek, in addition to the traditional 3 R’s. Five students completed requirements for the first graduation held in 1875.

    Throughout its 149-year history, Lincoln has been an integral part of the downtown core area. After out-growing its cramped quarters at the top of an elementary school in 1874, Lincoln shared space with Central School, where Pioneer Square now stands. Four years later, another move brought Lincoln to Park School on the Portland Art Museum site. Continued growth of Portland finally prompted the school board to build the city’s first structure designed expressly to house a high school. That building on Southwest 14th and Morrison was known as “the marvel of the West” for its imposing Gothic style and stately clock tower.

    In 1909 Lincoln took on its present identity to honor the 100th birthday of its presidential namesake. Three years later, it moved into yet another new building on the Park Blocks. That structure, part of the Portland State University campus, is now known as Lincoln Hall. In 1952 Lincoln moved to a building at 1600 SW Salmon Street on a site once occupied by the Jacob Kamm estate. This building was demolished in 2022 to make way for the current athletic field.

    70 years later, the school moved once again to it's current location at 1750 SW Salmon Street, in the tallest public high school West of the Mississippi. This state of the art new building houses a 500 seat theater, dedicated music rooms, makerspace, state of the art CTE classrooms and a three court gymnasium.

    Innovation has always been a hallmark of the Lincoln educational experience. Computer programming was first introduced in the 1960s. The International Studies Center, established in 1976, brought greater diversity to a school that had always been a melting pot of cultures since its founding. Intellectual challenges were broadened in 1987 when Lincoln became one of the first high schools in Oregon to offer the International Baccalaureate program. Current courses in Mandarin, Arabic, German, ASL, Arabic, Audio Engineering, Product Design, Construction, Cuninary arts and Computer Science demonstrate the school’s on-going efforts to meet the growing needs of the community.

    Throughout its history, Lincoln has contributed to the vitality of the city, state, nation and world with an illustrious array of alumni that range from senators, mayors, and governors to Olympic athletes, Pulitzer prize winners, and Rhodes Scholars. Add to that astronauts, generals, corporate executives, entertainers, and workaday citizens, and you have a school that is proud of its tradition and looks forward to producing another generation of leaders prepared to make their mark on society.