SE Hawthorne & 50th, 1936

A Works Project Administration crew applies plenty of human muscle to a rail project on SE Hawthorne at 50th avenue in 1936. In the background a bus heads downhill from Mt. Tabor. Did the bus replace the trolley line?

A2000-025.1148 Crew doing street resurfacing SE Hawthorne and 50th(City of Portland Archives)

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17 Responses to “SE Hawthorne & 50th, 1936”

  1. knickatknite Says:

    Wow. This area looks amazingly similar today (minus the trolley line of course)! The apartments to the left look almost the same 75 years later. The building in the upper right is now the Sapphire Hotel.

  2. josh Says:

    Interestingly, today there is no bus line or other pubic transit routes that run down from Mt. Tabor to 50th.

  3. Dave Brunker (@dbrunker) Says:

    Wow. That area has NOT changed. Too bad the trees are in the way.

  4. JohnH Says:

    The #4 Division bus used to turn off Division onto 60th, then turn west on Lincoln to 54th. Then it would go north on 54th to Hawthorne. So the bus coming down the hill on Hawthorne would have been just like it was in the 1970’s when I used to ride it.

  5. Jpgreen1 Says:

    Actually, trolley buses replaced the Hawthorne Line streetcars in 1936, then they were removed in 1949 in favor (?) of gas buses. See

  6. Brian Says:

    Looks like they’re removing the rails which would correspond time-wise with what Jpgreen1 says about the switch to trolley-buses.

    Also, the photo above reminded me of this earlier post from almost the same spot (though a different perspective) three years later. The window that can be seen in the upper-right corner of the 1939 photo is on the south side of the white building in the upper-left corner in today’s photo.

  7. Tad Says:

    “Okay guys, I’m going to take the picture. Everybody look busy!” :)

  8. Dave Johnson Says:

    Somewhere in that area the sidewalk on the south side of Hawthorne still has WPA spelled out. Have to get my hi8 tapes converted to disc to pin it down. One summer about 10 yrs. ago I went around and video taped all the sidewalk builder names.(I know..get a life.)

  9. Kevin Rietmann Says:

    The 1943 PTC system map at the City of Portland page I linked to yesterday shows trolleybus lines up here; “trolley coach” was what they termed them actually, as opposed to “streetcars” and “motor coaches.” The Belmont line was still a streetcar in 1943.

    I found another source for old system maps etc on flickr: Misc Portland transit. May be of interest. The 1943 map is there, along with various TriMet ephemera covering the span of their existence, and things like highway maps showing the proposed route for I-205.

    The extension of the curb out into the street at 50th + Hawthorne means you have to do a bit of a dogleg to stay on Hawthorne. I figured this was a relic of the streetcar trackage, but it doesn’t seem to be show in this picture – I wonder why it was added later – to discourage vehicles from heading up Mt Tabor? Building owners wanted a patch of lawn?

  10. Steve Sharp Says:

    Glad to hear you did that, Dave, I’d be happy to transfer your Hi-8 tapes to DVD. At a VintagePortland discount of course! :-)


  11. Kathleen Says:


    In 1948 I took public transportation from SE 47th and Hawthorne to downtown Portland and back.

    I do not know if the conveyance ran on tracks, but I do know that it was connected to overhead wires by some sort of rod.

    Each time the connecting rod passed over an intersection of two or more overhead wires, there was a spark.

    The spark was both visible and audible.

  12. Tad Says:

    @Kevin: I think discouraging traffic from heading up Mt. Tabor is the answer.

    IIRC that reconfiguration of the intersection is quite recent.

  13. Brian Says:

    Tad is correct that it was recent. From Google Earth it looks like it went in between June 2006 and May 2007.

  14. Dick Prather Says:

    Trolley buses replaced standard gauge streetcars in 1936. Trolley bus on Hawthorne line inbound on SE Hawthorne after turning from SE 54th Ave. Trolley wires turning right on SE 50th belong to the Foster Rd line. Both lines used SE Hawthorne to Downtown Portland

  15. oldwxwatcher Says:

    Very interesting photo. The building on the right (with the “For Rent” sign) was at various times in the 1940s and 1950s a Red & White store and a Piggly-Wiggly store.

    During the same time period, to the right of the camera and out of the picture was the Mt. Tabor Market. As a kid I used to ride my bike there to buy comic books, which were in the back of the store.

    Behind the store was a blacktopped parking lot and one thing about it has long been a mystery to me. SE 49th Avenue is on the west side of the building and it goes downhill south of Hawthorne. The parking lot was level with the building so it was about four feet above 49th. Next to the sidewalk below the parking lot was a bank of dirt and just east of the market you could see a piece of track sticking out of it. So some track must have gone through that area before the market was constructed. I often wondered when the track went through there and when it was moved to Hawthorne.

  16. Scot W. McLean Says:

    Hello Dan and Portland, Trolley tracks were a pain/$ to install and the wiring support system as well. Buses, well are just easy and require little infrastructure. Moreover, years if slipping trolleys down Vista and other hills, and the repairs to trolleys, people and damaged infrastructure made the “modern” bus an easy decision.
    The Post war view was that depending on the old Trolleys was unsafe, not-progressive, slow, and was unbecoming to a bright future of any city. San F. and New Orleans, have trolleys only because of corruption, constant near bankruptcy and missing pots of money. Now Trolleys are their are a key idenity and asset, only by poor planning and curruption.

  17. Tad Says:

    Interesting take on trolleys Scot.

    I’d argue that SF is a special case in that they have hills that only cable cars can (could) effectively tackle.

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