If Not for a Coin Toss, Portland, Ore., Would Have Been Called Boston
The city was founded by two New Englanders, but only one of them got to pick the name.
Hereâs a little piece of history that could have changed the fate of Carrie Brownstein and former Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisenâs series: if a coin used to decide the name of one of Oregonâs main cities had landed on the other face,Â PortlandiaÂ could have been calledÂ Bostlandia.
New England natives Asa Lovejoy, a lawyer from Boston, and Francis Pettygrove, of Portland, Maine, were trying to decide what they would call a portion of land they both owned after dividing it up back in the 1800s.
They found themselves in a stalemate and couldnât pick between their respective hometowns, so they decided to leave it up to a coin flip to determine who would have the honor of crowning the settlement with the moniker of their choice.
Obviously, the coin fell in Pettygroveâs favor after a best-of-three series.
âIt was Lovejoy and Pettygrove. One was from Boston, and one from Portland, Maine. They both had land here, and as they were plotting out the city lines, they started coming up with the names. Story has it, they had three coin tosses, and Portland came up two times out of three,â said Steve Schmidt, an administrator at the Oregon Historical Society Museum. âWe could have been Boston, just like you guys.â
Schmidt said the museum has the actual coinâor what historians believe to be the coinâsitting in the front lobby, so when people come through to learn about the cityâs history, they can catch a glimpse of the copper that decided it all.
Coincidentally, it was Lovejoyâs coin that led to his losing the bet. âIt was found in a safe deposit box left behind by Lovejoy,â said Schmidt, who added that the cityâs name would have likely become âLittle Bostonâ if Lovejoy had won.
âIt was a big deal. Iâm just as glad we are Portlandânot to say anything bad about you guys in Boston,â he said. âInterestingly enough, weâre considered a âPort City,â too. And we have lots of shipping coming up here. We arenât as successful as Bostonâs harbor but still, that was the history.â
To be honest, though, calling the city Allston would probably have been more fitting:
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2014/01/24/coin-toss-portland-called-boston/