Updated: July 14
O’Bryant Square–the small public square in downtown Portland–will soon pay homage to one of Portland’s most iconic and beloved figures.
Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office announced Friday, July 7, that O’Bryant Square will be renamed Darcelle XV Plaza, bearing the name of the legendary local drag performer. City commissioners unanimously approved the change Thursday, July 13.
Darcelle was the stage and performance persona of Walter Cole. Cole died in March at 92, but not before staking a claim in Portland culture with five decades of performances and the Darcelle XV Showplace. Darcelle, whose beehive wigs and theatrical eye makeup became part of the icon’s signature look, was the world’s oldest performing drag queen from 2016–2023.
Last month, Cole became the first Oregonian to be named to the National LGTBQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall Inn, in New York City. The club is widely considered to be the birthplace of LGBTQ pride and the gay rights movement, after riots broke out in 1969 when police raided the gay nightclub.
In a renaming announcement, Commissioner Ryan, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation, said Darcelle “enchanted audiences with dazzling performances, infectious energy, and a powerful message of acceptance and inclusivity.”
"By renaming O'Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza, we are embracing and celebrating the indelible contributions of Darcelle XV to our city's LGBTQ+ community," Ryan stated. "This renaming reflects our commitment to fostering a more inclusive city that recognizes the diversity and immense value of its residents."
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the park’s renaming “signifies the progress we have made as a city in embracing diversity and embracing LGBTQ+ history.”
O’Bryant Square was a nearly half-acre brick plaza anchored by a rose-shaped fountain on Southwest Harvey Milk Street and 9th Avenue. It was named after the city’s first mayor. In 2018, it was closed for safety reasons stemming from water intrusion to a parking garage underneath the grounds.
In April, the city authorized its demolition, but the future layout and features of the site have yet to be determined. The city’s parks department, along with Portland State University and other stakeholders, are currently planning what the plaza should look like moving forward.