SW Broadway at Night, 1935

Friday night and this city is jumping! Looking north on SW Broadway toward SW Madison, Portland’s brightly lit theater signs are on display; Paramount, Broadway, Orpheum, and Mayfair.

(City of Portland Archives)

18 thoughts on “SW Broadway at Night, 1935

  1. Dan,

    You neglected to mention the “Parking” Theater between the Paramount and Orpheum. 🙂

    I think the very blurry over-street sign beyond The Mayfair’s is for the Liberty Theater.

    I’d love to able to walk down this street with all of these buildings and signs intact. It was still magical in the mid-eighties and into nineties before the loss of the Broadway and Fox (former Mayfair) theaters, even though both of those theaters had become somewhat shabby. The Broadway was demolished in 1988 (I think) and the Fox in 1997.

  2. Great shot. Thanks for the history on the Fox, Jim. All of those theaters, plus the Music Box, were still in business when I was a teen in the 60s. Broadway looked pretty spectacular at night. Lots of nightime activity.

  3. One of my all time favorite photos, Dan! I do have to take exception with with the city jumping, though…Where is everybody? Possibly they’re doing their jumping at the bar in the Heathman. The car on the right is parked in front of what is now the parking lot for residents of the Ambassador apartments. My wife and I lived there a while back. I have fond memories of walking to and from work in NW through this area. What I find interesting about this photo is that while much has changed, it is incredible how much is still here.

  4. Mike-Most of the people would be north of the Paramount. It was the farthest south of the theaters. Most of the theaters had coffee shops nearby where folks would wait for the next show. There was always a lot of pedestrian traffic in the area at night. Plus all of the teenagers who would clog Broadway while cruising.

  5. I agree Chuck, I was actually being a little bit of a wise guy…I do like that there are no people in the photo, kind of gives it a surreal quality. Makes me wish I had a time machine!

  6. Mike and Chuck, if you look closely at the enlarged image, you will see very faint, blurry and eerie ghost images of pedestrians. A night shot using circa 30s camera equipment could take a long exposure times (depending on the camera). The people are there, but most of them were moving too fast to be captured on the film strip.

  7. Dan, The sign does say “Home of Pep co” It stood for Portland Electric Power Co. I have to check one of Kimbark McColl’s books when I get home, but I think Pepco was the predecessor to Pacific Power. They had a very interesting history in Portland. I know I still occasionally see “Pepco” manhole covers on streets downtown.

  8. Dan and Mike,

    I was thinking of a power company as well. However, Google shows some search results that reference PEP Co. as the name of a mass transit company (streetcar line). Here’s a link to one of the results. It’s from a copy of the 1927 year book for Cleveland High School. Cute story and if you click on the page image at the top of the URL, it takes you to different scanned pages.


  9. Dan,

    That would be the PEPCO (Portland Electric Power Co.) building on the corner of Broadway and Alder. A great picture of this building can be found on page 141 of “Electrifying Eden” by Craig Wollner.
    Professor Wollner thought history at Portland State when I was there. I always enjoyed his descriptions of the area around PSU when he was a student there in the early 60’s (before urban renewal).

  10. According to Tri-Met’s history page:

    Portland Electric Power Company (PEPCO), [was] a holding company that
    included Portland General Electric (PGE), Portland Traction Company and an
    interurban system.

  11. Ah, mystery solved. I’ve heard of the company before but I’m surprised they would have such a big theater district-type sign. I guess providing power and transportation in a time when there was none before was a pretty big deal and merited something a little flashier.

  12. Here’s a 1940 photo from the other end of Broadway looking south where the sign has been changed to read “Home of the PGE Co.” Perhaps it had something to do with PEPCO filing for bankruptcy in 1939?

    Broadway at night, 1940

  13. My Grandparents moved to Oregon from Idaho in April 1936. My Grandmother said that every business had a huge lighted sign back in those days not just the theaters. She marvelled how well lit Portland, Salem and Eugene were as they traveled to Southern Oregon.

  14. Now that I read about the long exposure, the lack of people makes sense. Now I see the ghostly images of pedestrians and tail lights. The are a bit eerie. It looks like a bicycle paused at the Mobil station long enough for its wheels to make a faint impression.

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