SW 5th Avenue & Washington, 1949

SW 5th Avenue was very busy place where it crossed Washington Street in this 1949 photo. Pedestrians, autos, buses and streetcars all vie for space. Other than the wooden “no left turn” sign in the middle of the intersection, there don’t appear to be any traffic controls. Both streets were two-way at the time, further complicating things.

A2005-001.900  SW 5th Ave and Washington St looking south on 5th Ave 1949(City of Portland Archives)

19 thoughts on “SW 5th Avenue & Washington, 1949

  1. Great photo. You can see the old divided crosswalks with “lanes” for pedestrians. There are traffic controls though – you can see single traffic signals hanging from the wires. One is right by the “O” in “The Owl Drug Co.” sign, and another can be seen next to the fourth car in line at the intersection.

  2. Also the Dr. Goodman sign. He and a couple of other dentists (Semler comes to mind) were persona non grata in the professional dentist world during the middle part of the 20th century because they advertised their services. Nowadays nobody gives it a second thought.

  3. What is the marker in the middle of the intersection with the wooden feet for? Isn’t that sitting in the middle of a trolley track?

  4. @Igor, I assume the presence of the bus indicates that the 5th ave streetcar is no longer in service. The marker says “No Left Turn”.

  5. it looks like there is a pedestrian control signal also on the far top right. I wondered why it is I have always felt a little uncomfortable seeing dentist signs. My parents must have commented on it when I was a child.
    It appears to be cold outside so I would guess these are Christmas shoppers. A number of them are carrying packages and there are a lot of women on the street also.

  6. I would imagine (guessing) the pole in the center of the street was for the traffic officer to direct traffic? Just a guess! :+)

  7. Some might notice that 5th ave has been divided here into five lanes in a short lived experiment to improve rush hour traffic flows. Notice that there are two lanes devoted to parking and one lane to north bound traffic and two lanes to southbound traffic. The temporary lane division is provided by the no left turn post which appeared at every city center intersection on the streets that were affected which were I believe, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. The allocation of the middle lane was decided by the morning or afternoon rush hour preponderances of traffic directional requirements. The decision to resort to the present one way grid was very soon taken.
    The sudden and unplanned for explosion in population that the area experienced with the coming of the second world war and it’s impact on a town that was designed for the horse and buggy was in every way traumatic. There was a great and fevered casting about for solutions to all the problems exposed by this growth.
    The bus is a nearly new Mack in the livery of the Portland Traction Co, (3rd) and that Brill Master Unit peaking out of Washington St is what was referred to as a “Broadway” as that was their original assignment is from the last class of streetcars ever purchased new in 1932. I believe it is coming off the Williams Ave line. Interestingly these 15 streetcars arrived in Portland aboard ship not by rail on flat cars as you might expect.

  8. middle right,parked at curb,studebaker with curved rear window.
    studebaker created a lot of interesting cars before their unfortunate demise.too much was sacrificed (including streetcars) to the automobile.

  9. I was a 7-year-old kid in 1949, frequenting overtown Portland when it was the retail center of the city.I remember tagging along after my mother in chilly December weather, making mandatory stops at Meier and Frank’s 10th-floor Christmas Wonderland and many other similar places. Every store had an elaborate holiday-related window display. I still have a photo, taken by a candid cameraman, of my mother and me on a busy sidewalk. (My mother in hat and gloves, don’tcha know.)

  10. It seems there are traffic lights there (buried among the streetcar wires) but based on the chaos, nobody seems to be obeying them.

  11. Great photo, the trolley tracks are what was know as an almost grand union allowing any trolley to continue on any route, this is not a full grand union. Karl

  12. Rod Taylor and the others are correct: Streetcars are still running in 1949; there is one visible entering the intersection at the left of the picture. Traffic lights were on the corner poles: this was a fully-controlled intersection. Those No Left Turn pylons were placed in many places — and others said Keep To The Right, used to delineate lanes during rush hours, e.g. on the Burnside Bridge.

  13. I worked from 1982 to about 1989 for Mr. Chung Du Shin in the Swetland building pictured here on the first level known then as Camera World. (Mr. Shin resided next door to my parents house in Lake Oswego with Mr. Shin recently moving there from New York in 1976). The Dr. Goldman sign above still stood at that time with patients coming and going. The Meier and Frank Building was towards the west and Far West Federal Bank towards the north with a light bulb sign showing time and temperature. Tri-Met buses were orange at that time. I also think the bronze “expose yourself to art” statue was nearby. All are gone now. Wow have things changed on that corner…

Comments are closed.