Mill Ends Park (sometimes mistakenly called Mill’s End Park) is a tiny urban park located in the median strip of SW Naito Parkway, approaching esplanade along the Willamette River near SW Taylor Street in downtown Portland, Oregon, United States. The park is a small circle 2 ft (0.61 m) across, with a total area of 452 sq in (0.292 m2). It is the smallest park in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, which first granted it this recognition in 1971
The park was dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day, 1948, as “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland,” according to its creator, Dick Fagan. In 1948 the site that would become Mill Ends Park was intended to be the site for a light pole. When the pole failed to appear and weeds sprouted in the opening, Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal, 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’s office in the Journal building overlooked the median in the middle of the busy thoroughfare that ran in front of the building (then known as SW Front Avenue).
Fagan told the story of the park’s origin: He looked out the window and spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole. He 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.
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.
In February 2006 the park was temporarily relocated during road construction to a planter outside the World Trade Center Portland, about 80 feet (24 m) from its permanent location. It was returned to its home—now named SW Naito Parkway—on March 16, 2007, in true St. Patrick’s Day style with the Royal Rosarians, bagpipers, and the Fagan family, including Dick’s widow, Katherine, in attendance. The legend lives on in the Fagan family. One of Fagan’s sons, Pat Fagan, lives in Gladstone and has enjoyed sharing the park with his own son. “He loves it”, Pat Fagan said. “It’s still the largest leprechaun colony west of Ireland.”
In December 2011, plastic army men figures and small signs were place in Mill Ends as a tongue-in-cheek flash mob demonstration for Occupy Portland. One man, Cameron Scott Whitten, was arrested after he was asked by police to move from the sidewalk, and refused.