UTG Celebrates 50 Years


Below read about UTG’s 50 year history of providing an educational experience of Portland to young citizens. You can also learn about UTG’s unique entry into the 2020 Rose Festival Petite Parade by clicking here.

The Urban Tour Group was honored January 8th by Mayor Ted Wheeler who proclaimed January 8th as “Urban Tour Group Day” marking the beginning of our year-long celebration of 50 years of service to Portland area students and the city of Portland.

The Urban Tour Group is a Portland-based nonprofit providing free city tours of downtown Portland to Portland metropolitan area students since 1970. Students learn about Portland’s history, architecture, art and culture in one of three, two-hour tours, geared mostly for third through sixth grade students. Qualifying schools receive funds to use toward transportation costs. Last year we toured almost 4,600 students from 64 schools. Since our founding, as many as 190,000 area students have benefitted from our city tours.

We were founded in 1970 by members of the Women’s Architectural League as well as several wives of architects. They wanted to provide downtown walking tours for school children. In doing so, they hoped to create an appreciation of the city’s architecture and an awareness of their surroundings, both natural and manmade. Additionally, the tours were designed to help the children develop a sense of responsibility for their city’s past, present and future and to understand that “Good citizens are the riches of a city” (statement carved on Old Town’s Skidmore Fountain). Our tours are still fulfilling the original goal that was set out 50 years ago.

At the time of our founding, the Portland Public Schools were organizing an environmental education program for their teachers and were very enthusiastic about our tour. They offered suggestions as to specific content and financial support. In the beginning, there were several Portland organizations that provided us with a helping hand. The Portland Art Museum helped with the initial organization, providing administrative assistance in the form of scheduling school tours. The Women’s Architectural League initially contributed financial assistance and guides; the American Institute of Architects members contributed time for training plus meeting space; the Oregon Historical Society, meeting space and staff assistance.

Expansion and further development of the Urban Tour Group was made possible through the continuing support of those above organizations but especially through the help of the Junior League of Portland. A proposal written by the Urban Tour Group was submitted to the Junior League in the spring of 1974, and upon acceptance, the Junior League became a funding sponsor. In addition to financial support, the Junior League provided us with ten volunteer guides.
Today, the Urban Tour Group is self-sustaining. It now has a membership of 168 men and women from a wide range of professions, including many former educators and administrators. We recognize that we are probably one of the least known public service organizations in Portland, but we are one that has a long history of providing a meaningful glimpse of the city of Portland to area students.