Eastbank Freeway, 1964

It appears the Eastbank Freeway was nearing completion in May of 1964. A lot of nice detail in this photo, including the new Memorial Coliseum in the distance. This view is north from SW Morrison Street.

A2005-001.428 Minnesota Freeway from Morrison Bridge north 1964(City of Portland Archives)

30 thoughts on “Eastbank Freeway, 1964

  1. Looking north from vicinity of SE Morrison street, I think. Also, the perspective is from too high an altitude to actually be from the bridge deck, and it has no towers. I think this must be an aerial view.

  2. Back in 1964 I can remember a great night time view of the west side of the river from the southbound part of the freeway before the ramp to the Morrison Bridge. I don’t remember the freeway going any further south until the Marquam Bridge was completed.

  3. I was just thinking the same thing. Also about the destruction of SW Portland and the cast iron building’s on Front Ave. The 50’s through the 70’s were a very destructive time and what replaced the destroyed items are not better in my opinion. Of course you have to realize the people in power at the time were a product of the Great Depression and hated anything old or worn looking because it reminded of the very hard times and did their best to eliminate these memories.Also they wanted to do it in the most economical fashion, not the best way again going back to their being raised during the GD. It was a nationwide thing not merely local.

  4. Ecogrrl, it was built on the path of Minnesota Street. I do not agree about it being ugly. I find it quite decorative, but then we are looking at it before all the smog built up on it. I remember the Marquam bridge being finished, my parents thought it was a sore thumb and would fall down in a few years. lol

  5. I was 14 when this photo was taken. I thought at the time that the freeway was going all the way to Minnesota.
    You’re right, Greg. I can remember some beautiful homes and buildings being torn down during that era. The Boomer generation has had an entirely different outlook than their parents. But, unfortunately it was too late by the time we arrived. A good example is the Portland Hotel. It was torn down and Meier & Frank’s parking garage took it’s place. It was considered “progress”. When Urban Renewal came to the cities in the early ’60’s even more buildings were torn down.

  6. Remember the constuction of the MInnesota freeway well—my buddies and I used to rides bikes all through the “cut” from Fremont street north to Ainsworth. Yes, there were some classic older homes taken out but luckily both Patton Home and Pilgrim Congregational Church (on corner of Shaver street) were saved

    I lived in the Overlook district to the west and during the 50s and 60s prior to the freeway Mississippi Avenue was a shopping district of small mom and pop stores, the Reo Theatre and Pfeiffer’s Bakery. Now it’s another generations turn.

  7. The people that “hate” the freeway are probably the same ones that use it, or one like it on a daily basis. You cannot please everyone and it is a part of Portland. Years from now we will look back on decisions made by the new, young generation and shudder. Again…you can’t please everyone.

  8. Ron Hylton, both Williams Ave. and Union Avenue had a lot of shops, too. The Egyptian Theater was on Union. I used to go to a record store (I think it was called Bop Records) on Williams to buy R&B records that I couldn’t find at the other record stores. Bought divinity at a candy store on Union and Alberta. There was an appliance store on that corner called Whiteman’s. Also a bowling alley nearby. I haven’t been on MLK for a lot of years so don’t know what it looks like now.

  9. This part of I-5 wasn’t that destructive because it was built next to active railroads in a part of Portland that has always been industrial in character.

    405 and 5 (in North Portland) were much worse.

  10. Hindsight is 20/20, I agree. But I believe that few of us don’t experience a significant twinge when we think of the old Portland Hotel… and what a beauty it might have been…if it had been saved.
    400 bucks a night, restored. (Sad, wistful smile). I have some very distinct memories of the parking garage…and believe Pioneer Square is a significant improvement over that. But the Portland Hotel? Not even close. I don’t know if I agree about the whole GD argument. I actually think that people saw destruction as progress, much in the way those two beautiful houses on Hawthorne have been replaced by the HUGE buildings presently going up, they have destroyed the tenor of the street. It’s now like driving through a tunnel. Progress?

    People like us will be sad in 30 years.

  11. Sometimes I wonder how much of the negativity towards those freeway and renewal projects in the ’60s and ’70’s is really a nostalgia for some idyllic past that people have that lets them only remember things like the Portland Hotel or other significant buildings.

    I realize there was a lot of homes wrecked and displacements that are now almost universally regarded as mistakes, but I’ve seen quite a few posts on this website pointing out “notorious” slum neighborhoods or discussing buildings and structures that would have likely needed severe, expensive overhauls to restore with no guarantee that the effort and cost would be recouped later on as well.

    I seriously doubt every single thing that was torn down for the freeways and office buildings needed to even could be saved. But at the same time I won’t argue that there seems to be a lot of significant history that definitely could have and should have been with a little foresight. Like the portlandhistorygeek said though, hindsight is 20/20.

    Interesting topic to debate, to say the least I suppose.

  12. Oh, and I also wonder what drove the city to build all the ridiculous, sweeping on- and -off ramps and shoo flies or whatever all over the place on that east side. It looks like gigantic concrete octopus splayed out across the east bank and it’s ugly.

  13. I realize nothing stays static, but it how we handle the change that is important. I have lived all my life in the same 1&1/2 sq mi area of Portland all my 62 years. I can tell you what was there over 50-55 years ago. All the freeways with the exception of the Banfeild are placed where they are because the people who lived or owned there lacked political clout; ie: the people who lived in the “slums”. The same with the SW downtown area. I can remember in the 50’s & 60’s people couldn’t wait to escape the city and move to East County in which the real estate agents were doing their damnedest
    play the race card. We had them knocking on our door when I was a kid saying we had better sell now because the blacks are coming and your house values are going to suffer. I was very aware of what was going on in those days, I have a picture of my dad on a fishing trip with the mayor, district attorney and and a few other people in power at the time. Nowadays the situation is reversed, most of inner east county is the new “slum” and Portland city proper is coveted. The question in my mind is how do we handle this new “sum”? The old options are clearly not feasible in today’s world, where do we go from here? Not all change is bad but wanton destruction is in my mind.

  14. Kevin, it’s not necessarily what was torn down to make room for the freeways, it’s the giant scar on the landscape that the freeways have left on present day neighborhoods. I’m not aware of any treasured structure that was torn down for I-405 (although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were), but I do have to deal with the constant noise, traffic, lack of safe bike/ped connections, dead zones under massive viaducts, etc. nearly every day.

    But yeah, I guess the Fremont Bridge is pretty cool.

  15. See, it’s interesting to read all these different viewpoints. Maybe a lot of my ambivalence about freeways in general stems from the fact that I grew up in a city (Los Angeles) that in large part expanded alongside its freeways to the point where it would be virtually impossible to do anything without them. My mom took a freeway to get to the grocery store when I was little! Obviously LA is different than Portland, and even in a city that practically owes its entire shape and identity to its freeways there have been instances of the same sentiments I see expressed by a lot more people here.

    As for the 405 specifically, I think the noise and traffic are really subjective depending on who you talk to. I worked a block away from it for several years and the noise didn’t seem any worse than other busy streets, at least at a subconscious level. For traffic, I’m sure someone could point to usage numbers to refute my point but even so it wouldn’t mean that surface streets like Burnside/Barnes aren’t snarled with horrendous traffic every morning and afternoon as well.

    Unsafe pedestrian/bike connections and dead zones? I’ll concede there, like I said growing up where I did nobody cared so I’m oblivious to those (or the lack thereof).

    Anyway, thanks for the response Reza, I appreciate you offering up a viewpoint I don’t think I’d really considered before.

  16. I think it is also dangerous to place the word slum on any neighborhood that harbors the majority of our poorer Portlanders. The reality is that these lost neighborhoods were largely ethnic (Jewish & Italian immigrants, African-Americans). And these neighborhoods often created opportunities for acclimation….and as they integrated..they migrated to the east side to “starter” homes (like the concentration of Italians around Brooklyn neighborhood).

    Given the intentional gutting of these communities I can’t help but think there wasn’t a little bigotry involved in Civic decision-making. The area around the east side freeways and Memorial Coliseum weren’t “slums”, but one of the largest congregations of black-owned business in Portland. Gone….this after these businesses were already pushed out of NW. It’s hard to stay upwardly mobile when you have to keep “starting over” to build community. The largely white neighborhood around Powell didn’t get their Mt. Hood Freeway. Hmmmm.

    I work in Rockwood, and have for 17 years, the startling conversion of this area from almost entirely white to very ethnically mixed, blows my mind. 17 years ago there was still a dairy on Powell!
    The point, although less white, and perhaps poorer…I don’t notice it being any more “slum-like” than it was before. But there are more apartments!

  17. Portlandhistorygeek I am also a student of Portland history. Once upon a time third graders in Portland studied Portland history and facts for the entire school year. About 1 hour a day was devoted to the subject. I am not trying to insult anyone with my choice of words, only that I was raised in a different era than you and I have some trouble with being PC at times. Not trying to pick a fight but I call a spade a spade. Let me give you some background, I have had cerebral palsy from birth. I had probably a rougher time in school than 99% of kids nowadays and I was not coddled. Sometimes I had to literally fight for respect but I got it because I fought for it. Had a great many kids in school who respected me and would stand behind me if needed. Anyway to get back to the subject matter I just finished reading a 74 page report put out by the PDC in 2009 on the east county area. Maybe my terminology is archaic but the report states that at least 50% and as high as 80% of all school age children in the area qualify for free school lunches. To me this shows a majority of the people living in the area are either severely economically disadvantaged(being PC here) or are the biggest bunch of liars and con men in Oregon(I choose not to think this one). My original intent was provide some historical background, acknowledge that there is a problem that historic reactions are not feasible in today’s world and to ask if anyone has some answers to it. Not the PC touchy feel good band aids that seem to be the rage. I don’t have the answer either, but at least I am asking the question. I did not mean to get so far off the original post but I believe that blogs like this one could contribute to the rebirth of the original town hall conversations that made the US great. But then again I could be delusional to think that the exchange of ideas could help change thing for the better

  18. LOL…….and nothing has changed much since then capacity wise. I get a kick out of these people who are quick to judge the freeway system and lament the lost older homes, etc. We live in a city of over 2 million in the metro region and Portland is the hub. The freeway system now is way too small to accomodate the number of cars and commercial trucks. How do you think everything you buy gets here? On a MAX train?

    If anything Portland is decades behind in freeway building. I agree what we have now is an eyesore and in retrospect it could had been made to look a bit more appealing, but we all use the Freeways and they have to go somewhere so it is silly to be critical of the small system that we have now.

  19. Wouldn’t you always be expanding capacity though? I saw traffic described as a gas once – if you make more capacity eventually more cars just show up to fill the space – and I think that’s pretty accurate.

    The Portland freeways also offer some interesting challenges to expansion, assuming the city even wanted to do it. For instance, how would you add extra lanes to the Vista Ridge tunnel without a ridiculous amount of long term upheavel in traffic flow (not too mention probably a gigantic price tag)? Or look at the replacement for the interstate bridge – obviously something needs to be done to alleviate all that traffic, but how long has it been in various stages of proposal and still no action? By the time it starts whatever the final plan is will probably be on the verge of obsolesence already.

    I’m not saying nothing can be done either. The 26 westbound work that took that third lane out to 185th has helped that afternoon drive IMMENSELY. But some day it’s going to not be enough, and then what?

  20. Kevin, I never lived in Los Angeles but visited often. I used to be mesmerized by the freeways as a kid, with their majestic interchanges. But then I started driving, and constantly got stuck in traffic. Soon the allure of freeways wore off, but I’m still a roadgeek at heart.

    People who make comments like SamtheClam more often than not live in the suburbs, or at least east of I-205, and want to get downtown as quick as possible. That’s who the Mount Hood Freeway was designed for, suburbanities from Gresham and Clackamas who commuted downtown but were frequently stuck in I-80N or Powell congestion. That freeway would have paved over now thriving inner neighborhoods along Division and would forever become just as much a divider as the Minnesota Freeway is in North Portland, generations after it was built.

    Perhaps you should talk to business owners and residents at 26th and Clinton about reviving that freeway? Or better yet, we can just build a new freeway right in your backyard.

  21. I lived in LA for 8 years. I couldn’t wait to get out of there when the opportunity came my way. Traffic was so bad that I could walk from my office in Beverly Hills to my apartment in the Melrose/Fairfax area faster than the bus. It doesn’t matter whether you take a freeway or a surface street. Both options were always crawling. It took my nephew 4 hours to drive me to the LA train depot downtown from Venice. He tried both surface streets and the Santa Monica freeway and they both were choked with traffic. Seattle’s just as bad. I’ve never lived in the suburbs but wonder how people can endure so many hours commuting and then have to sit in traffic just to go to the store. I don’t get it. I love living in San Francisco because I was able to sell my car and walk or MUNI my way around town.

  22. LA is definitely the poster child for what can happen at the opposite end of the freeway construction spectrum from where Portland sits right now.

    I still think they are necessary, at least in terms of being able to grow economically in a country that for the better part of a century has been “driven” by the combustion engine and the personal vehicle (sorry). But then are the freeways a result of that link or a cause of it? Probably both, at least for a long time. Beside the point at this stage really. And I also don’t think there is going to be a massive shift away from the necessity of freeways for probably one more generation – unless gas shoots up past 5 dollars per gallon for good sooner rather than later. But it probably will happen, eventually.

  23. Read The Power Broker to get an insight into the limits of expanding transportation systems willy nilly. Robert Moses would build no end of expressways to enable New Yorkers to get from one point to another, each was applauded as being the final nail in the coffin of traffic congestion, heralding an era of unrestrained motoring about – and every last one only lead to more new commuters and clogged arteries, ad infinitum.

    This is a massive generalization and not entirely 1:1 analogy to what we face, but it’s good that people literally put the brakes on Moses’ style of neverending gleeful build out, starting in the late 50s mind you. Even then people were becoming wary of bulldozing entire landscapes.

  24. Greg (and others, I forwent the latin!) I too believe we are engaged in a healthy discussion (not a debate, where one side has to “win”)

    But before I go on; in the interest of full disclosure….the 17 years I’ve spent in Rockwood have been as an educator. As well, I grew up a child on “free” lunch…quotes because nothing is ever free. I also teach Oregon history… required by the state…thank goodness!

    My point regarding the “slum” word is that it connotes many negatives which often imply people don’t care about their surroundings, or community, so they’re happy just let it all go to ruin.

    My students are, as you described, often on free lunch. They are also at, or very near, the poverty level. But they CARE and to be honest, their parents show up to 90% of the parent/teacher conference meetings I schedule….even when the school environment is immensely intimidating. I often have a different experience with my “advantaged” (quotes because in this economy, who is?) parents who don’t show to conferences, stating they are too busy, they may be….but my poorer parents will skip a shift to meet with me….it’s that important.

    They’re “poor” but they have pride. It is these same parents who will volunteer their time to maintain our school grounds, beyond the minimum…budget cuts ya know.

    Since I also teach economics, one might also note that the buildings in disrepair that often lead to the “slum” designation were owned by someone who chose to take in the money, but not maintain their property. Probably not the fault of the renters!

    Once again, I am only uncomfortable with the poor=slum correlation. On my street (a “good” neighborhood) I have a dentist-owned house, the neighbors have had to often complain to the city regarding its “slum-like” condition. It’s the only way things get repaired/maintained.

    I, obviously, know the age you are, but you don’t know mine. I do know that when I was going through school in Portland, a CP kid would rarely be in the mix of other students. So, I whole-heartedly offer you thanks for your struggle, so many others would have accepted an “alternate placement” so everyone else wouldn’t be “uncomfortable”. And additional cheers to your friends who backed you up! PHG

  25. It is nice to see the myth of freeway building alive and well.

    Freeways need to expand as the population grows to accommodate the needed capacity. La has fewer freeway miles per person than Portland, that is why they have a congestion problem!

    The old myth that is you build a freeway it will just fill up? Where do you think the traffic comes from?

    Before I-205 was built 82 was a stop and go parking lot.

    Before I-5 was built harbor drive and Barbur blvd. were parking lots.

    Before the 26th tunnels downtown was a parking lot as you tried to get to Jefferson st to go under the Vista bridge.

    It is real easy to look back now and say it is bad or in the wrong place but as I grew up, every one I knew was excited about it being easier to get to friends and family events or go to the coast or mountains.

    The Portland Metro area has not added a major expansion of our freeways system in 30 years with the I-205. Sense then the Population has grown and congestion is now everywhere not in just a few places.

    Population growth and density mandates cause congestion, not freeways

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