Burnside Bridge, 1963

Traffic streams eastbound from downtown across the Burnside Bridge in this 1963 aerial photo. The clock just this side of the river shows 5:25; these are homeward bound commuters. Note the construction of I-5 alongside the riverfront.

(City of Portland Archives)

31 thoughts on “Burnside Bridge, 1963

  1. My after-work commute takes me eastbound across the Burnside Bridge. Thanks for this fun photo–when I get home today, I’m going to look at it in detail and enjoy each one that I find!

  2. Can’t resist saying how thankful I am that I never lived here prior to Tom McCall Waterfront Park–thanks to those who planned and carried out the change from that awful, traffic-choked freeway to the glorious green space and all those trees today. Thanks!

  3. Harbor drive was changed to Tom Mc Call park thanks to I-405 and I-5. Before that the best way to most places was down Harbor drive or through downtown.

    We were thankful for the new freeways that took a ton of passing through traffic out of downtown and cut down the time to get to most of our destinations.

  4. This photo also provides a rare glimpse of the Dekum & Reed (Helm) block on West Front and Burnside before the mysterious explosion ripped it apart.

  5. Look close.

    4 lanes westbound and 2 eastbound.
    This is definitely a morning commute.

    For afternoon commute, there
    were 4 eastbound lanes and two westbound.

    The center two lanes were controlled
    by overhead solid color signal lights.

    Anyone remember the bridge this way?

  6. This is the way we would travel out of the city. Once we got to Fishels, we would turn right and drive around the Fishels building, to get on the on ramp to the Banfield. Then after the gridlock in downtown, it was usually smooth sailing from then on.

    If you look close, you can see the cars circling Fishels and a highway sign next to their parking lot.

  7. I recall having breakfast at Thorp’s Restaurant on a few occasions when I drove truck locally in the 60’s.

  8. I’d go ‘overtown’ (downtown) more often if…we could park like we used to in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Go to Rich’s Cigar Store? Just pick a curb spot on Park Avenue and walk right on over. Miss those days…

  9. NativePDX…

    I was thinking exactly the same thing…over the bridge, hang a right at Fishels, hang another right, and yet, another right and then on to 80-N and a whole new series of frustrations!

    Great photo…thanks!

  10. Some fascinating info here. For instance I never knew that the Burnside bridge once had reversible lanes… when did they do away with that?

    Interesting that people are happily driving on the wrong side of the double-yellow line. 🙂

    So I-84 bound traffic once turned right at 3rd and Ankeny – that would explain the rounded corner there. I assume 3rd then lead to the 84 onramp?

  11. Well this raises almost as many questions as it answers. 🙂

    It appears that this 3rd avenue connection reversed directions between 62 and 63. Was it temporary for the I-5 construction? And why is there a blocked-off right-turn lane in the 62 photo? Were they preparing for the reversal?

    And where did the westbound traffic go in 63?

  12. @Tad, yes I think you have it exactly right. Looking at the photos linked by NativePDX and Dan Davis, I-80N westbound used to end at 3rd with Burnside bridge traffic turning left onto Couch and then right onto Union and right onto Burnside, while southbound 99E traffic continued under the bridge on 3rd before going left onto Ankeny and right onto Union. Eastbound (at least until 1962) started at Grand Ave.

    Once they reversed 3rd to lead to the I-80N eastbound on-ramp (and before I-5 was complete), westbound I-80N to 99E would have used the off-ramp that can be seen under construction in the 1962 aerial which looped back onto Lloyd Blvd at NE 2nd. Ave. Today there is still a stub of this old off ramp visible when taking the I-5 north ramp from I-84. (the Convention Center sits on what was NE 2nd, which no longer goes through).

  13. I see… I always wondered about that sub ramp. How long did that last? I (vaguely) remember the days prior to construction of the Convention Center, but I don’t recall that ramp ever going anywhere.

  14. I was there in 1964 and remember coming into City Center on the then 80N-Banfield and being able to take a westbound ramp onto the Morrison Bridge. Did the Banfield continue on or end at Morrison Bridge?

  15. Tom Jones

    The Banfield ended at 3rd . I think your thinking of after I 5 had started construction and we started to use parts of the new freeway as they built it.

    I don’t recall the exact route but when we would go south, we would leave the Banfield and drive across the Steel bridge, then head down Harbor drive and work our way over to Barbur blvd to get to the Terwilliger br to visit relatives.

    If it was the wrong time of the day, it could take what seemed like an eternity to get through downtown and past Barbour Blvd. We would watch with excitement, the new freeway construction, with anticipation on being able to use it some day.

  16. NativePDX…

    I sent this in, back in June…to you, in fact, but I thought it was worth sending again…it was your reference to “the new freeway” and the “anticipation” factor that “drove” me to do so!

    I still say “Banfield” and I’m still guilty of saying “Union Avenue” but as far as “never catching on”, one name that NEVER caught on was The “Baldock” Freeway! For some reason, “Baldock” just faded away and I-5 South became the common reference name. I grew up listening to that never-ending noise of the I-5 South freeway being constructed and thought it would never end…and then, when it finally did, I got to hear the sound of freeway traffic 24 hours a day! Oy! It was literally, right outside my bedroom window! The cars were one thing, but, because of the area known as “The Terwilliger Curves”, the constant sound of trucks and semi’s changing gears was really annoying, especially in the wee hours of the morning! And before anybody asks… Robert H. “Sam” Baldock, was an Oregon State Highway Engineer in the 30’s & 40’s. He was also a good friend of Thomas Banfield…both men were connected to the Oregon State Highway Commission way back when!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Jim

    Similar to your experience , I grew up near the Portland Airport, RR tracks and near the Banfield.

    I later lived near 39th and found it very noisy too.

    Maybe that is why, I was always playing my radio and later a stereo, to drown out the back grown noise.

  18. NativePDX,

    So I was on part of the to-be I-5 south and getting on the Morrison from it. That makes some sense. When I was there in 1964 I recall the Marquam Bridge was in the middle of the river waiting for ramps to be connected to land at both ends. I think when I wanted I-5 to Tigard and points south I just went down Broadway until I came to an entrance/stub down past the Ross Island bridge somewhere.

  19. It was all before my time so my memories can’t help, but I suspect from some of your memories that the entire ramp complex at the end of I-84 was opened before I-5, which would make sense. Those would include the northbound ramps (now stub ramp to Lloyd and the ramp to Holladay — the route to the Steel Bridge mentioned by NativePDX) and the southbound ramps to the Morrison Bridge. All of these ramps could be used without entering I-5 proper and from the looks of the construction photos of 62 and 63 they are much closer to completion than the freeway.

    @Tad: As for when they got rid of the ramp at Lloyd by the convention center, I have no idea either. When I started driving in the mid/late 80’s it was already just a stub. All I can see from the Google Earth timeline is that it was there in 1970 and gone by 1990 which isn’t much help.

  20. I remember harbor drive well I started driving in 1959 and looking at your picture the memory that comes back to me is the large Mobil Oil neon sign on the side of the building on the south side of the bridge ramp at the west end. It was there all through the 40’s and 50’s don’t remember when it came down, but it was one of those land marks that stuck in my memory.
    From my bedroom window on the Alameda ridge I could see the Montgomery Ward sign on the top of their building way over on the west side of town.

  21. “Overtown” is still used a lot among the people I know that are my age or better. I don’t know where it started…kinda of a combination of “going over to downtown”. Had to go over the bridges, etc. Yeah, I can tell a native if I hear “overtown”, lol.

  22. @Jim Kahn: Yes: I still like to throw a loop at my kids or others and say, we’re going down the “Baldock”. Then, I have to go through the spiel about “The Baldock, Banfield, Minnesota, 82nd Freeway, Harbor Drive”, etc. I still remember 224 being opened and the short freeway that ran from Sunnyside Rd. on 82nd, then south to the narrow 2-lane bridge at High Rocks, thence to Oregon City via Washington Avenue. Remember the fairgrounds there too.

    And I remember in the 70s it was the vogue thing to race our cars through the Terwilliger Curves. I had a friend who’s dad worked for Mr. Tonkin’s Italian cars, and they’d always be road-ralleying those Alfas through there…fun memories. (Dad’s Fairmont didn’t rally that well 😦 And, I’m glad no one hurt anybody.

    I even remember next to Harbor Drive, being in some flea market in the old Journal building right before it was torn down.

    And, remember going to Seaside using Canyon Rd? but having to go out Jefferson Street to get on the old 4-lane expressway, before the tunnels were completed? You can still see the old exit wall at the zoo (it looks like a retaining wall that is much lower than the exit grade today)…Also, can still see original 4-lane retaining wall going westbound between Sylvan and the zoo…it’s behind the jersey barrier on the right side.

    I grew up within a block of Kenilworth Park. I only left when I had to go to Navy boot camp. My dad’s side arrived in Sellwood in the 1880s.

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