Proposed Columbia River Bridge, 1913

Paddle wheel boats and tall-masted sailing ships frequented the Vancouver riverfront in 1913 when this new bridge was proposed to span the Columbia River to Portland. Construction on the Vancouver-Portland Bridge began in 1915 and would open in 1917.

proposed columbia river bridge 19130101(The Oregonian. Retrieved from

17 thoughts on “Proposed Columbia River Bridge, 1913

  1. Even with the technology of that time they were able to build it in 2 years, compared to what is the CRC group saying; 7 years or so?? (if it all) Dams, skyscrapers, everything was done in a fairly short time frame. A by gone era when men were men & corruption was in it’s infancy, what a shame today………..

  2. Iron is easy to build with, concrete has long cure times to develop maximum strength. It is not really appropriate to compare the two construction techniques.

  3. i think the comment was more to the speed with which decisions were made,before soundbites and environmental concerns.still 7 years and they still couldn’t come up with a design high enough for river users boggles the mind

  4. Yes Bruce that was my point, but you also bring up a great point too with 7 years of ‘planning’ & still literally NOTHING to show for it after 100+million spent & counting. Also Paxton it doesn’t take 7 years of construction time to cure concrete across this fairly short span. 1 example I think of time & time again is the Millau Viaduct in France, a remarkable structure that dwarfs any CRC vision! Done in a few short years & NOWHERE near what the proposed cost of a ‘simple’ bridge span here is proposed to be.

  5. Look up stream and check the construction stats on the Glenn Jackson bridge . All of you may be surprised . Google: Glenn Jackson Bridge .

  6. Interesting the drawing shows a swing span bridge. They must have changed the design later to be a lift-span, before it was built.

  7. I also don’t think it realistic to compare political times either. 1913 is not now, a hundred years later.

  8. Actually, in 1913, corruption was on a temporary hiatus. Prior to Harry Lane’s mayoral election in 1905, corruption among the old-guard city leaders was rife.

    The first four bridges linking the East and West banks of Portland were abysmal failures due to a combination of corrupt business practices, conflicts of interest, shody construction and lack of construction oversight. The primary objective of these early bridges were more to generate profits for business leaders than for the public’s benefit. Check out the lifetimes of each bridge:

    Morrison Bridge: 18 years – opened 1887 and replaced in 1905, the replacement was more successful, lasting until the current bridge opened in 1958.

    Steel Bridge: 24 years – opened 1888 and replaced in 1912 – The original bridge was also a double-decker. To give you an idea of the planning that went into the original bridge consider that the upper pedestrian and commuter deck was constructed of wood and regularly caught fire because of embers coming from the smokestacks of the steam engines on the lower deck.

    Burnside Bridge: 32 years – opened 1894 and replaced in 1926 (after the end of the reformist era) – Of the original four bridges, this one lasted the longest, but at the end of its life, modes of transportation allowed on the bridge was highly limited because of safety concerns. At the time it was replaced, the reformist era was over and city corruption was again business as usual. All three county commissioners were recalled because of inappropriate back-room dealings the the engineering company contracted to build the bridge. A new engineering company completed the work. Two of the recalled commissioners were founding members of Ben Franklin Savings & Loan.

    Hawthorne (Madison) Bridges:
    Bridge 1: 9 years – opened 1891 replaced in 1900.
    Bridge 2: 2 years – opened 1900 burned in 1902.
    The current bridge was opened in 1910.

    With the exception of the second Morrision Bridge, all of the city bridges built during the reformist era have lasted either over 100 years or are nearing 100 years in age.

    I have to say Sifton, I DO share your face-palming frustration with our current crop pols overseeing the replacement to the I-5 Bridge.

    FYI: The information detailed in this post was gathered from Wikipedia and E. Kimbark MacColl’s Portland histories.

  9. “How does a bridge even catch fire?”

    By burning. The replacement Hawthorne Bridge had wood decking – it was only changed to steel in 1945.

  10. They have been studying a bridge sense the 80’s and plans for a third bridge were long before that.

    The third bridge was killed for the west side max, as if the max was going to reduce congestion on the Sunset and I-5.

    November 4, 1988
    Author: BILL STEWART –
    At the present rate of growth, transportation officials expect the two existing Columbia River highway bridges to be
    clogged before the year 2010. Traffic volumes are growing faster than previously anticipated, IRC figures show.

  11. Fun to see that even in olde-timey renderings of proposed projects, unrealistic garnishes and illusions abound. Like those massive obelisks would ever be built!

Comments are closed.