South Waterfront, 1964

The Oregonian recently printed this story about the proposed cleanup of the Zidell Marine Corp. site along the south waterfront. The story said, in part, “There were dozens of oil spills on the site from the 1960s to the 1980s. Fires burned docks and buildings. Ship dismantling included salvaging transformers full of toxic PCBs and burning PCB-laden wire insulation to salvage the underlying copper. Debris was buried in open pits. The riverbank was shored up with scrap metal, asbestos, basalt ballast blocks from salvaged ships, and other debris.”

Here is what they are talking about. This aerial photo from 1964 shows the extent of the debris field. The lot is pretty barren these days, mostly gravel and puddles and a parking lot on the north end that was once the asphalt floor of the Alaska Steel Co. buildings. Note the supports for the Marquam Bridge, then under construction, as well as the sawdust-fired power plant and industrial area where Riverplace now is.

(City of Portland Archives)

11 thoughts on “South Waterfront, 1964

  1. Some friends & I got lost in that area one nite after a dance at St. Mary’s Academy. The roads were in pretty bad shape and ran downhill towards the river. Somewhere in there we turned a corner & came upon a donkey with a junk wagon he was toting. A surprise for us ‘city kids’ to see a donkey living practically downtown! I think it was where those groups of trees & houses are on the left center of the photo.

  2. Chuck – In that treed area several of those big buildings and a couple of the houses are still there. That’s the corner of Caruthers and Water Ave. closest to the camera. You can also see the old Greyhound terminal at far left, just south of where they’re making the I-405 cut. The terminal and the brick building to its south still stand.

    I just noticed off in the distance above that group of trees it looks like a building is on fire. There’s sure a lot of smoke. I’d place it up about Broadway and Hall, somewhere in the PSU area.

  3. Yes, Dan, I can see the fire you’re talking about. And I looked on google maps to see SW Waters & Caruthers today. Talk about an isolated neighborhood! I’m not sure how you’re able to see the old Greyhound terminal unless you’re talking about one other than the main one behind the Pacific Building where the Hilton Executive Hotel now stands.
    In the foothills you can see the Panorama Apartments going up & the Auditorium hasn’t yest been remodeled. All of the classes fron Central Catholic HS graduated from there – except mine. In ’67 it was being remodeled so we graduated at the old Oriental theater next to the Weatherly building on the eastside. Another beautiful movie palace that no longer exists.

  4. Chuck – The Greyhound terminal I’m talking about is at the far left edge of this photo, just to the south of the isolated neighborhood and the path of I-405. It’s the building with all the windows. It’s still there; here’s the Google street image:,+or&sll=45.828799,-120.146484&sspn=44.587587,70.400391&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Portland,+Multnomah,+Oregon&ll=45.504783,-122.675775&spn=0.005482,0.008594&z=17&layer=c&cbll=45.504662,-122.675784&panoid=fQjGnDU459HLT4EFYTc2Qw&cbp=12,307.16,,0,-9.27

  5. Thanks for sending that, Dan. I wonder if that Greyhound building was where the buses spent the nite before the next run.

  6. There it is! I still remember the ships being broken up at Zidell when I was a kid. I’d always look down while riding with my dad going across the Ross Island Bridge.

    Also, from the left side, you can see the ‘temporary’ I-5 connector from the Baldock to Harbor Drive. That was how I-5 was temporarly routed after Tigard to Harbor Dr. was opened, pending construction of the Marquam.

    I still remember looking down from Front Ave. and seeing construction equipment on the top deck of the Marquam, prior to its opening in ’66.

    Neat stuff!

  7. Judging from the architectural style of the Greyhound Depot that was on SW Taylor, I would guess it was built in the ’30’s, Ryan.

  8. Ryan – The Greyhound building shown here never was a passenger terminal. It was opened in 1930 as a general office building with service and storage facilities.

  9. Dan. Not to put to fine a point on it but the building in question held only the maintenance office. The general offices were downtown at 509 SW Taylor. In the trade lingo the “barn” above held the shops, cleaning facility, and fuel rack and storage. Trailways’ barn was nearby at 1855 SW Harbor though when they, TW moved in there is unknown to me. Must have been around 1945 or so. Their general office was also downtown above their terminal. I drove a few trips for Trailways around the time of this photo on airport transfers between PDX and Seatac.

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