St. Johns Bridge, 1937

The heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) travels under the St. Johns Bridge in this 1937 photo. The ship, named for Portland, Maine, is heading upriver with the St. Johns neighborhood seen across the Willamette and the Portland Woolen Mills seen below the bridge.

A2004-002.2773 St Johns Bridge looking east 1937(City of Portland Archives)

16 thoughts on “St. Johns Bridge, 1937

  1. That IS a great and perfectly timed shot! Thanks for posting this!

    Photogrpahers Cross and Dimmitt were better known for postcard prints and landscape photos of the Columbia River Gorge, but did work all over Oregon.

    “Arthur B. Cross partnered with Edward L. Dimmitt to sell real photo post cards of the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood and Portland. Cross opened his Electric Studio in Portland in 1909. Dimmitt was born in 1881 in Columbia, Missouri. In 1909, Dimmitt was first listed in the Portland City Directory as a waiter. In 1914, he began working for Cross at the Electric Studio. In 1916, they became partners and named their business Cross & Dimmitt.

    Cross & Dimmitt sold post cards off the running boards of their Model T at Crown Point. A set of 20 views, which are fairly common today, sold for $1. Their business grew and they built a post card stand at Crown Point. In the 1920s, they set up a studio at 72nd and Sandy Boulevard in Portland. Cross died August 6, 1940 and Dimmitt died on April 26, 1963 at the age of 82. He had managed the Vista House for 40 years.”

    Info above from:
    which also has a selection of other C&D images…

  2. @ Dave Brunker: It was very likely July 16, 1937. On this website you can find a photo of the USS Astoria (CA-34) also passing under the St. John’s bridge with the caption:

    “USS ASTORIA CA-34 steams under the St. Johns Bridge spanning the Willamette River, 16 July 1937”

    And the the preceding paragraph:

    “In July 1937, ASTORIA was one of 18 U.S. Navy ships that participated in the Pacific Fleet Fiesta as part of the annual Portland Rose Festival. This large naval presence sailed up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers into Portland, Oregon beginning 16 July.”

  3. Also, in the first link I posted above, if you scroll down there are several other photos fleet week in Portland in 1937. Most are of the Astoria but you can also see the USS Northampton and the USS Indianapolis — all three of which would be lost in WWII (most famously, of course, the Indianapolis, sister ship of the USS Portland in today’s post).

  4. Looks like conditions on the East Bank are different though? Not just the moored ships, but the building on pilings at the foot of the street just south of the bridge abutment looks like it is only framing in the Astoria pic, but finished in the Portland pic? And despite the fact that these pictures were clearly taken from the same place, there is a dead branch entering into the right side of in the Portland pic, which is missing in the Astoria pic.

    When you click on the Astoria pic to embiggenate it, is the dark spot on the southern cable of the St John’s bridge a bridgeworker?

  5. @Lefty: Yes, I think you’re right. I’m at work and didn’t have time to look too closely earlier, but now I see a couple differences that would seem to indicate a different date.

  6. Great photo.

    Note that the ship was named after the city in Maine. This kind of large, all gun warship was already obsolete, but it took a war with Japan where naval action was dominated by carriers to make that clear.

  7. Obsolete in that they did not have primarily antiaircraft guns.
    Iowa Class ships built during WWII were intended to protect the aircraft carriers by their dozens of antiaircraft guns.
    Of course their 9 BIG guns helped destroy the enemy beaches to allow the Marines landing.

  8. A little more sleuthing around in the Oregonian archive reveals the USS Portland was invited to Portland OR for Navy Day Oct 27th 1933. Page 8 of the Oct 27 Oregonian shows a picture looking down onto the front of the ship taken “by a staff photographer looking down from the St. John’s Bridge”.

    Improbably, it is possible to see that the groups of seamen standing on the bow deck are in the exact same positions visible in the C&D photo, which was probably taken 20-30 seconds later … including a guy standing on the cross beam of the rigging above the ship’s bridge that I had not even seen in the C&D photo until I specifically looked for him.

    So, I’m gonna say that the date of that photo is Oct 26, 1933.

    I think this is an open link?:

  9. @Lefty: Nice find. Here’s a USS Portland postal cancellationM from Oct. 26 1933 in Portland. Looks like it was taking part in the Battleship Oregon 40th anniversary.

    Also, given the photo looking down on the ship, that adds to my wondering if the guy on the cable you asked about in the USS Astoria photo was perhaps a photographer looking to get a unique shot of the ship passing underneath (maybe he remembered the 1933 Oregonian photo and thought I can do better! 🙂 )

  10. I had thought that the old black shoe navy versus brown shoe navy debate was settled a long time ago. In any case, my apologies for restarting it here.

    Is it a trick of perspective, or are they going to have to lower that mast to get under the bridge?

  11. This Cross & Dimmitt photocard was taken on October 29, 1933, after the ship’s, arrival in Portland,OR, on October 27, 1933, for Navy Day (anniversery of birthday of Theodore Roosevelt) and the heavy cruiser was departing downriver to the Pacific Ocean.

  12. According to the Morning Oregonian reporting of arriving and departing vessels the U.S.S. Portland was scheduled to arrive during the afternoon of October 26 (moored at Stark Street) and departed at 7:00 am on October 28th headed to Bremerton.
    The Morning Oregonian, October 26, 1933, page 1. (scheduled to arrive)
    The Morning Oregonian, October 28, 1933, page 9. (scheduled to depart)
    The Morning Oregonian, October 29, 1933, page 14. (reported departure 10/28)

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