During the early 1940s, Vanport, Oregon was the second largest city in the state. Home to a multiracial and multicultural community of over 40,000 residents, Vanport was built to house migrant workers and their families who relocated to the Portland region during World War II. At its peak, Vanport became the largest wartime federal housing project in the nation and second largest city in Oregon. 

By1948, about 18,500 people still lived in the city. About one-third of the population was black. That spring, heavy snowfall in the mountains and sudden warm temperatures sent a torrent of water down the Columbia River. Vanporters were assured that the dikes would hold.

But on Memorial Day weekend, one of the dikes collapsed. Vanport City disappeared under water in less than two hours. The catastrophic regional flood produced a sea of refugees – many with few options for permanent housing.

Vanport was never rebuilt, but its legacy lives on.