Steel & Burnside Bridgeheads, 1935

A fantastic 1935 aerial photo showing the west end areas of the Burnside and Steel Bridges. The waterfront had been cleaned up and just a couple buildings had been torn down, but this was still a pretty intact “old” Portland. Today’s image is similar, but wider in scope, than this earlier photo.

(City of Portland Archives)

8 thoughts on “Steel & Burnside Bridgeheads, 1935

  1. At this point the arches on Third (by then Avenue) had separated into two groups due to widening on Burnside and a portion of Third. You can see one on Ash at the the bottom of the picture, as well as Couch, Everett and Davis. Ankeny, Burnside, Flanders and Glisan by then were demolished.

  2. I have to say, the East side of the Steel Bridge in the photo looks like paradise compared to what it is now – freeway, Rose Quarter, big mess. I think it’s one of the least pleasant areas of the current city.

  3. To be accurate, “Natural Gas” is not in the picture here. That tank stored coal gas, a very dirty by product of the coke making process. Natural gas replaced it in the late 50’s. Northwest Natural would very much like us to forget that. Just saying

    Great to see this view of the new land created after the seawall’s completion just before it’s development.

    The very heavy curvature at the east end of the Steel Bridge is well illustrated here on the line to the north. This sharp curve resulted in the Union Pacific’s decision to utilize the Sullivan Gulch line for passenger traffic due to the longer wheel bases of the equipment involved. That and the fact that the gulch was less prone to high water has helped insure the Gulch lines survival today.

    Looks like they were doing land office business at McCormick Pier depression or no.

    Great photo. Thank you.

  4. Great find, Dan! I have been searching for a building shown in this photo since I moved to Portland in 2009. I became fascinated by the rich history of the old town area, and by the beautiful historic buildings that had managed to survive the onslaught of 20th century progress. Through photos and archives I was able to create a mental map of turn of the century Portland, and gained a feel for what had been lost, and what had miraculously remained. If you try hard enough, you can still see the ghosts of the ornate cast-iron buildings that stood on the sites of what are now parking lots, scattered throughout the core of historic Portland. For the most part, these buildings are well documented. Then I became engrossed in a mystery.

    One fine morning visiting the Saturday market, I stumbled upon a lot that had not been converted to a parking lot. In fact, it seemed to have no purpose at all. Tucked behind a public restroom, and only accessible through a narrow alleyway choked with blackberry brambles, there sat a 1\8th block lot, complete with foundation and support columns. Weeds pushed up through the concrete, and a tree grew amongst the trash and rubble. On the walls of the adjoining buildings I could see the imprint of a long gone roofline and chimney stacks. I was amazed that this piece of property in the heart of downtown had been abandoned, and immediately began a research project that consumed my days and nights with tense speculation. What had been there?

    Information was sparse, and every picture I found of the area seemed to deliberately taunt me by showing every building in the neighborhood except the one I was searching for. One photo showed an adjoining building that had been demolished in the 1950s, but cut off within several feet of my mystery building. I was about to throw in the towel when a friend suggested that I try for information,and that’s when I had my first break. Records showed that the structure on that site had been demolished in 2004, and was termed a dangerous building due to a failing roof and floor joists. A permit for demolition was issued in February of 2001. The address was shown as 118 West Burnside, but gave no information as the the date or style of the structure itself. I was sifting through photos in the OHS archives several months later when I found it.

    What I saw was a plain white two-story structure, in a photo taken after the Burnside street widening in the twenties. I got the chills, as if I was looking at a photo of a ghost. To the west, the edge of the extant Salvation Army building, and to the east, the narrow sliver of what is now offices for the Saturday Market. Hundreds of people walk by this location every day, and I’m sure that a few of them wonder about this sad lot that has been forgotten by time. Some of them probably remember this unassuming structure. I picture the building in it’s last years, neglected, abused by transients and then unceremoniously torn down. I still don’t know much about it, but I have the picture. When I come home to Portland in a few weeks I will submit it to Dan Davis in hopes that he will post it on this site for people to enjoy. In the meantime, I wonder if anyone has any information about this building that has haunted me for three years. This is what the site looks like today:

  5. To bring my long winded story back to this photo, the building I was searching for is on the south side of Burnside, between 1st and 2nd Ave. The building on the SE corner of this block, once known as Leonard’s Block after H.C. Leonard, was torn down in 1957 as seen in this previous VP post:

    The south side of my mystery building can be seen in today’s post, and according to Sanborn maps, it may have been a Chinese clubroom at the time this photo was taken:

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