Ross Island Bridge Aerial, 1950

Another fantastic top-down image, this time of the area south of downtown around the Ross Island Bridge. The west side waterfront was highly industrialized in 1950, and the I-5 freeway had not come through this area yet. Lots of great detail in this photo, from the Brooklyn neighborhood to Pill Hill.

A2004-002.6938 Aerial of Willamette River and Ross Island, 219VV 1950(City of Portland Archives)

18 thoughts on “Ross Island Bridge Aerial, 1950

  1. The houseboats were still there up until the early seventies. It was the DEQ that eventually ran them and the log booms off the river.

  2. As long as the houseboats were hooked up to the sewer system which I imagine they were I don’t see why the DEQ would be concerned with houseboats. Was there some other concern the DEQ had with them?

  3. There weren’t any sewer line to the houseboats. Every houseboat on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers in those days emptied into the water. Houseboats were not the lifestyle of people of means like they are nowadays. It was more like slum housing, only on the water. When the DEQ started requiring them to be put on sewer a most of the houseboat moorages went away because it was not economically feasible. The people just moved to dry land , probably to trailer parks and S.E. The ones that remained were the wealthier ones. i once dated a girl who lived on a houseboat with her divorced mother. She hated it, but it was the cheapest housing they could find. Up until the late 70’s it was social stigma to admit you lived on a houseboat. Portland wasn’t always yuppieland, It was a blue collar working town which I am sorry to see gone.

  4. Great pic. Love the shadow of the Ross Island bridge. You can also see the original cloverleaf at the east end.

    You can also see Slavin rd winding down from Barbur/Capital Hwy. Is that the old quarry that it curves around? And does anybody know what those symmetrical pairs of structures are just between Slavin and Barbur are, just south of where Barbur curves east?

    What issue would DEQ have with log rafts?

  5. The bark would fall off, sink to the bottom and decompose using up oxygen in the water. You have to remember at one time these log rafts lined both sides of the riverbanks for miles on end. In the early 60’s my dad bought a small boat. We used to take it out on the Willamette River. The boat was white, but by the time we pulled out on the trailer it was more like gray in color. In my previous reply I neglected to say even though Portland had sewers they ALL drained directly in the river and every other town and industry along the Willamette did likewise. The whole river was an open sewer, nobody swam or waterskied in the Willamette in those days.

  6. Great photo—the west side “pill hill” still in it’s infancy. I rememember in the early 60s when they added the off ramp on the east side that allowed direct access to McLoughlin Blvd.

  7. I’m guessing that open field on slavin was a dairy? would also explain structures-milking barns

  8. Tad, the structures between Slavin and Barbur are the same ones that are there today– apartments.

  9. What was the big tank on 9th avenue – storage for water or gas? Interestingly enough the tank is gone but two circular parking areas remain – the tank must have had a partner. In all the intervening time you’d think someone would have had come along and paved the outlines of those things into a typical square block – although as this is where the tracks and 9th/Taggart/Clinton come together you’d have to have a typical parallelogram instead…anyway, the circle outlines are formed by shrubbery around a sunken area. There’s a No Trespassing sign on the fence around it, but cars are parked there.

  10. A stunning photo, as are many others posted here. Thanks for the effort. I would be interested in seeing any early aerial photos of the South Burlingame, Taylors Ferry and Terwilliger areas that might turn up.

  11. Shown at picture bottom was one of two giant tanks adjacent to one another, operated by Portland Gas & Coke (now NW Natural) for storage of natural gas. They were about six to eight stories tall and well recognized landmarks when traversing the Ross island bridge and Powell blvd.

    Today of course, we know these empty pits as the secret entrance to underground Portland Bohemia.

  12. Such a great photo! Where to start? Shadow of Ross Island Bridge on the river is quite beautiful! Re: Slavin Rd, I am fascinated by its importance to PDX history and then its sudden decay and disuse. It was the one of the first roads out of Portland that headed west. Rasmussen Village Apartments are the series of structures up from the open field on Barbur. I don’t know what the open field is. Was it a dairy? Notice the old railway lines that would become the blueprint for I5. Argh! Also, the original Hillvilla (now Charthouse) with terracotta roof is gone. Looks like they are making way for the new structure as the lot appears empty. Finally, the house my parents have lived in since 1965 is off camera just above the 5RT on Westwood Dr.

  13. The reason the circles where the natural gas tanks were have not been built on is the site is slightly contaminated. You can park on it but it would have to be cleaned up before you built on it.

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