Guild’s Lake Area Floods, 1948

This very detailed aerial view looks down on west side flood waters in the Guild’s Lake area of Northwest Portland during the spring 1948 flood. It also gives a great view of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway yards between Front and Yeon Avenues, including the turntable at the bottom. The Kaiser shipbuilding yard on Swan Island is visible in extreme upper right.

(City of Portland Archives)

12 thoughts on “Guild’s Lake Area Floods, 1948

  1. Looks like two CVE escort carriers near the top the the pic, but I could easily be wrong (Kaiser did build a lot of CVEs though). Are the Pope & Talbot offices in this shot? My Mom & Dad both worked there then– I remember them telling me about the flood.

  2. Not to nitpick, but the roundhouse and much of the yard is that of the Northern Pacific Termincal Co. (now Portland Terminal Co.). The SP&S roundhouse was down along 9th and Lovejoy. It was torn down in 1984. The Terminal Co. roundhouse was torn down in 1986.

  3. Yeah Sheldon’s right and this is a nice view of that company’s balloon track used to turn entire passenger trains. Also shown is the passenger equipment cleaning facility. Front and Yeon are still two lanes and Kitterage is on a wooden trestle, Also note the coastwise tanker unloading (usual) presumably although it could be loading (less often) product to the pipeline serving the tank farms to the north.

    Most of the land area, in the photo on both sides of the channel is fill, pumped from the river by dredges and it is good to remember that fact because when we suffer the big one, as we must, some very interesting things are sure to take place here as the soil liquifies.

    Does anyone know the date certain the POW camp, just out of view here closed.

    Another great view. Thank you

  4. Drats . I also meant to point out what appears to be an entire railroad logging camp lining Yeon, at the least, a very long string of camp cars. Wonder if they were being used here in some capacity or if they were ” off to see Aunt Mary” and they were just taking a break. Portland was still desperately short of housing even before the Vanport tragedy.

  5. There sure are a lot of freight cars in the yards. Was that normal, or might they be stuck there because of flooded tracks elsewhere?

  6. The Gunderson plant is just left of center near the top of the photo. I think they focused mainly on barge manufacturing at the time this picture was taken. The plant has expanded considerably since they switched to rail cars. There is also a lot more infill on the west side river bank than there was then. I wonder if the “big one” would have the effect of recreating a close approximation of the original river channel and lakes?

  7. This would be about the norm for the freight yards in this era Carter, as I recall. Though this was a little beyond our normal range in our boyhood wanderings I would sometimes get around here on a ride along with my dad. I am guessing though that those huts were barracks to house the many Navy and Marine crews tied up here waiting for their vessels to complete repairs or refitting. The Swan Island Facility was not large enough to handle that many people and a lot of the work was done on the west side. Many times repair work would leave a ship unlivable so the crew commuted . By the time of this photo they were re purposed. During WW2 Portland was a big time military town and transit center as well as a giant shipyard and that revived somewhat during the Korean War. We used to see a lot of troop trains and downtown on a Saturday always was very well attended by the Navy.

    That white splotch just north of kitterage is a lime pit associated with a acetylene gas plant on the site and the gas was piped down Front Ave and over to a Liquid Air plant on Yeon for mixing and bottling. A leak in the plant resulted in a huge explosion in either ’67 or ’68 that pretty well closed the plant although the bottling facility was rehabilitated and resumed operation. I was just up the street in the Pierce Freightlines terminal when it blew up with a huge whump that shook the ground all around. .

  8. What looks like quonset huts is Guild’s Lake Courts. The Kittridge Viaduct was built out of wood in 1945 to help African American children get safely to school. The project of 2,606 units of housing was segregated.

  9. I still work in the original Gunderson Buildings in the photo, but yes, the rest of the plant is on fill material.

  10. I worked for the NPTCo in 1961-1962 as a yard clerk, and spent many hours tramping up and down the yard. By then, the large South End Yard Office had been built in the area of the extreme lower right corner of the photo between the yard tracks and the roundhouse area, and the North End Yard Office was a box on stilts at the place between where the main yard narrows down at the far end and splits off from the auxiliary yard.

    Sometime before 1961, the yard had been enlarged to 36 tracks wide, if I recall correctly. Waterways Terminals was built across Front Avenue from the yard. It was a very large paper warehouse serving the Crown Zellerbach Mills in Oregon City and Camas, WA. They shipped about 75 carloads of paper five days a week and about 50 carloads on Saturday. The business was so lucrative for the railroads that NPTCo and SP&S swapped the right to service the facility every year. I remember that we had to have at least a three day car supply on hand, so we had about 200+ boxcars stored in the yard for them at all times.

Comments are closed.