The city's early economy was sustained largely by farming, and by the mid-20th century the city experienced a population boom, growing from 4,000 residents to over 10,000 between 1960 and 1970. The population was 105,594 at the 2010 census, making Gresham the fourth largest city in Oregon.
The area now known as Gresham was first settled in 1851 by the brothers Jackson and James Powell, who claimed land under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. They were soon joined by other pioneer families, and the area came to be known as Powell's Valley. In 1884, a local merchant petitioned the United States Post Office Department for a post office in his store, and offered to name it after Postmaster General Walter Q. Gresham if his request was granted. At the same time, other members of the community secured a post office called "Campground", another name for the area, referencing the religious camp meeting ground located there and the valley's usefulness as a stop-off for travelers on their way to Portland. Once the Post Office Department realized its mistake, it revoked the Campground post office.
Gresham was incorporated in 1905, the year of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition; its population at the time was 365. Lewis Shattuck, son of a pioneer family, was the first mayor. The town's economy was fueled largely by farming, including berries, grapes, and vegetables. At the time, trains ran between Gresham and Portland on an hourly basis. Gresham's early settlers would go on to form the outlying communities of Boring, Sandy, Fairview, and Estacada.
Gresham's city library, which began as a small book collection in the town's general store, was officially established as the Gresham Branch Public Library in 1913 with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie library fund.
Gresham General Hospital opened in 1959 in downtown Gresham. In 1984, the hospital moved to Stark Street and became Mount Hood Medical Center.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.43 square miles (60.68 km2), of which 23.20 square miles (60.09 km2) is land and 0.23 square miles (0.60 km2) is water. The total area includes parts of Fairview Creek and Johnson Creek.
Gresham is located twelve miles from downtown Portland; the dividing line between Portland and Gresham's city limits is at SE 162nd Avenue. Gresham's north and south borders are divided along U.S. Route 26, also known as the Mount Hood Highway, which begins on its western border along Powell Boulevard, then continues on Burnside Street before returning to the Mount Hood Highway in east Gresham. The city is located roughly seventy miles east of the Oregon Coast.
Though much of Gresham is relatively flat, it is characterized by a hill on its eastern border. Northeast Gresham is also hilly, particularly where the city meets Troutdale toward the Columbia River. Its elevation is 325 feet (91.7 meters). Johnson Creek, which begins at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, runs westward through Gresham, with 23 percent of the creek's watershed running through the city.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $43,442, and the mean income for a family was $51,126. Males had a median income of $37,701 versus $27,744 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,588. About 8.4% of families and 12.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.2% of those under the age of 18 and 6.7% of those 65 and older.2005-2007 American Community Survey Estimates
83.9% - White (71.1 non-Hispanic White)
18.3% - Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
5.1% - Asian
5.1% - Some other race
4.7% - American Indian or Alaska Native
3.7% - African American or Black
0.3% - Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
As of the census of 2010, there were 105,594 people, 38,704 households, and 25,835 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,551.5 inhabitants per square mile (1,757.3/km2). There were 41,015 housing units at an average density of 1,767.9 per square mile (682.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 76.0% White, 3.5% African American, 1.3% Native American, 4.3% Asian, 0.7% Pacific Islander, 9.8% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18.9% of the population.
There were 38,704 households of which 36.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.6% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 33.2% were non-families. 25.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.22.
The median age in the city was 33.6 years. 26.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.1% were from 25 to 44; 24.5% were from 45 to 64; and 10.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.0% male and 51.0% female.
The City of Gresham operates under the council-manager form of government. The mayor and city council are elected to be the legislative and policy-making body for the city.
The council appoints a city manager who is responsible for the daily operations of the city. The city manager of Gresham is Erik Kvarsten, who was appointed to the position on August 1, 2004.
The city council consists of the mayor and six councilors, all of whom serve four-year terms. Elections are held in November of even-numbered years. In election years divisible by four, (e.g., 2000, 2004, 2008), three councilors are elected. In election years not divisible by four, (e.g., 1998, 2002, 2006), the other three councilors and the mayor are elected.
Gresham is served by three school districts: Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, and Reynolds. High schools include Gresham High School, Sam Barlow High School, Centennial High School, and Reynolds High School. Private schools include Portland Adventist Elementary School, Eastside Christian School, and Morningstar Montessori school.
Mount Hood Community College is also located in Gresham, and is the only college located within the city limits. It offers associate degrees, as well as bachelor's programs through a partnership with Eastern Oregon University. According to the US Census, 27.16% of the Gresham residents had a bachelor's degree, while 9.93% had earned a master's degree or above.
There are numerous parks in Gresham, such as Main City Park, located near downtown Gresham. Other parks include East Gresham Park, Red Sunset Park, and Clatsop Butte Park, an upland butte located south of Powell Butte, which lies between Portland and Gresham. Other public points of interest are the Gresham Arts Plaza; Gresham Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1859; and the Plaza del Sol.
There are several National Register of Historic Places sites located in Gresham. The Louise Albertina Kerr Home, formerly a hospital and residence hall, is located in west Gresham, and serves as a social services facility. Other sites include: the Jacob Zimmerman House, a farmhouse built by German-American settlers in 1874; the Hamlin–Johnson House, a farmhouse built in 1888; the Emanuel and Christina Anderson House and William Gedamke House, both Victorian Queen Anne homes built circa 1900; the Gresham Carnegie Library, built in 1913; the Dr. Herbert H. Hughes House, built in 1922; the Charles and Fae Olson House, a modernist home built in 1946; and the David and Marianne Ott House, a ranch home built in 1952.
Gresham is accessed from the west via Interstate 84 and U.S. Route 26, from the east.
Gresham is serviced by TriMet's bus system and the MAX Light Rail Blue Line, which includes the following MAX stations:East 162nd Avenue
East 172nd Avenue
East 181st Avenue
Rockwood/East 188th Avenue (serving the Rockwood neighborhood)
Ruby Junction/East 197th Avenue
Civic Drive (opened on December 1, 2010)
Gresham City Hall
Gresham Central Transit Center
Cleveland Avenue (Blue Line's eastern terminus)
Gresham is also served by the fareless Sandy Area Metro shuttle bus to Sandy, Oregon.Springwater Corridor
Gresham Butte Saddle Trail
Kelly Creek Greenway Trail
Nadaka Loop Trail
Randy Alcorn (1954–), Christian author
Shannon Bex (1980–), member of Danity Kane
Brian Burres (1981–), Major League Baseball pitcher
Randy Couture (1963–), mixed martial arts fighter
Sam Crouser (1991–), Olympic athlete
Nikki Fuller (1968–), professional female bodybuilder
Robert Garrigus (1977–), PGA Tour golfer
Katie Harman (1980–), Miss America 2002
Jess Hartley (1967–), author, editor, and tabletop game designer
Fred Jones (1979–), National Basketball Association player
Mike Lamond, professional E-Sports commentator, known as HuskyStarcraft
Robert S. Lucas, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral
Ronald A. Marks, former CIA official
Stu Weber, Christian author
William P. Young (1955–), Christian author
Gresham has sister cities in other countries. They are: Ebetsu, Japan - 1977
Sokcho, South Korea
Owerri, Imo, Nigeria