Search Google Appliance


PSU Library New Home to Estate Papers of Urban Planner Ernie Bonner
Author: David Santen, Office of Marketing and Communications (503-725-8789)
Posted: July 21, 2005

Portland State University’s Branford P. Millar Library has received the papers of the late Ernie Bonner, renowned urban planner and developer for the Portland area. The gift was made by his wife, Lynn Bonner.

Ernie Bonner’s four boxes of papers include notes, clippings, and reports concerning housing, waterfront development, the downtown Park Blocks, the east bank of the Willamette River, city hall, Portland Development Commission projects, and other documents relevant to Portland planning policies and history. The Bonner papers are a significant addition to the Oregon Sustainable Community Digital Library (OSCDL), a new project that will provide Portland-area residents and urban planning researchers a central online repository for key urban planning documents and data. The first documents and images will be available online through the Millar Library ( beginning fall 2005, free of charge.

Portland State will work with several government and non-profit agencies to assemble materials that will be digitized and added to the collection; today (July 21, 2005), the Metro Council signed a memorandum of understanding with Portland State supporting Metro’s support of and participation in the OSCDL. As a collaborative partner, Metro will work with PSU to identify and locate significant administrative, policy, and planning documents, and facilitate adding them to the collection.

“We are thrilled with Lynn Bonner’s generous gift,” said PSU University Librarian Helen H. Spalding. “These documents are important records in the history of Portland—and in the history of planning and urban development. Ernie Bonner was a brilliant, innovative urban planner whose work others continue to study and attempt to emulate. Ernie worked closely with the faculty and students of Portland State University, so it is appropriate that we make his papers available to the public through our Web site and archives.”

According to The Oregonian’s April 24, 2004 obituary, “From the moment he arrived in 1973 to become director of urban planning, Ernie Bonner began building a modern Portland, from Tom McCall Waterfront Park to Pioneer Courthouse Square. Up to the days just before he died…Bonner continued the mission, trying to move the Eastbank Freeway, to connect the north and south Park Blocks, and to draw attention to the city's shortage of affordable housing.”

A native Iowan, Bonner earned his master's degree in urban and regional planning from Cornell University. He rose to chief planner for Cleveland, overseeing the creation of that city's comprehensive plan, which was named a National Historic Planning Landmark by APA in 2003. He came to Portland in 1973 and left as the city's planning chief in 1978. He served as a Metro councilor, as president of Sunlight Energy Systems, as a distributor of solar equipment and then as energy conservation manager for the Bonneville Power Administration. More recently, he served on the Portland Planning Commission. Bonner died in 2004, at the age of 71 after a long bout with cancer.

About the Oregon Sustainable Community Digital Library (OSCDL)
The framework for the Oregon Sustainable Community Digital Library was created by College of Urban and Public Affairs Professor Carl Abbott, in a paper, “Planning a Sustainable Portland: A Digital Library for Local, Regional, and State Planning and Policy Documents,” with additional guidance from the Memorandum of Understanding signed between METRO regional government and Portland State University on July 21, 2005.

The OSCDL project will provide researchers, practitioners, students, policymakers and citizens with electronic access to detailed information from participating agencies via a searchable Web-based database hosted by PSU. The collection will include planning documents and reports, policy records, geographical information systems (GIS) data, digital images, maps, and drawings from the planning department of Portland State University, Metro, TriMet, Oregon Historical Society, and the counties and cities comprising the Portland metropolitan area. Eventually, the goal is to expand the reach of the project to appropriate agencies throughout the state of Oregon. The OSCDL is supported by a two year, $127,000 Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal grant-making agency.

About the Branford P. Millar Library
The Branford P. Millar Library at Portland State University is home to 1.3 million volumes, serving over 800,000 patrons annually. The Millar Library recently completed a major $2.8 million renovation, developing a state of the art research center and reorganizing the entire library collection. Ernie Bonner’s papers are the first major collection by a public figure (who was not also a PSU employee) to be given to the Millar Library. Plans are underway to add collections of other notable individuals in the near future.

# # #

Rose Jackson (503-725-3689;
Urban and Public Affairs Librarian

For Immediate Release (#05-102)