19 thoughts on “Madison Street Bridge, 1892

  1. Terrific photo. I tend to forget there ever was a Madison Street Bridge Obviously it was a big deal to be made “Free”. And obviously looking east to west, with the West Hills backdrop. I presume the church steeple in the distance is long gone. I am curious the purpose tall wooden frame structure with long ladder staircase.

  2. Interesting history in that the bridge opened as a toll bridge but didn’t stay a toll bridge for long. From wiki ” Construction of the first bridge, a wooden swing-span bridge,[5] began in February 1890.[6] It was built by the Pacific Bridge Company and owned by the Madison Street Bridge Company. It opened as a toll bridge on January 11, 1891.[5] At that time, the bridge’s east end was in the city of East Portland, Oregon. Subsequently, in July of the same year, East Portland merged with its larger neighbor, becoming part of the city of Portland.[7] Later in 1891, the Oregon state legislature organized eight Portland residents into a committee that purchased the bridge on November 18, 1891, for $145,000 (equivalent to $3,825,315 in 2015) and eliminated the tolls.”

  3. And from the same article Mike cited above, we learn that in 1893, a westbound streetcar drove off the bridge when it was open, resulting in 7 deaths. It is the worst bridge disaster in our city’s history. The bridge was declared unsafe in 1899, and was replaced by a second bridge with the same name.

    On November 5, 1893 (p. 4) , The Oregonian ran a series of reports from other newspapers commenting on the accident: “FREE BRIDGE CATASTROPHE — Portland has city ordinances which, if they had been observed, would have prevented the Madison-street catastrophe. It is pretty well shown at the coroner’s inquest that the car was going at the rate of about 12 miles an hour, which is double the speed allowed by the ordinance relating thereto. The street-car company should have known of the importance of sand boxes, which are a trifling expense, and should not have broken the law regulating the limit of speed….” The Dalles Chronicle

    “The conductor and motorman cannot be excused for running blindly into the drawgate in such a fog and on such a slippery track. The shadow of murder is upon their souls, as well as those of the president and board of directors of the company. Is this thing never to cease?,,,” Astoria Budget.

    “The frightful accident at Portland is attributable to gross neglect on the part of the street-car corporation to make proper regulations for the safety of passengers. The electric cars were not required to come to a full stop before reaching the draw of the bridge. Of course the officials of the company express “deep regret over the unfortunate occurrence.”… San Francisco Bulletin

  4. It’s unfortunate that so many interesting things (signs, structures, people?) are too out of focus to really get a good look at. I’m not sure but, if that object at the bottom with the turrets on it some sort of river going vessel, I’ve never seen one like it.

    The churches in Portland really had a thing going with their ecclesiastical one-upmanship in regard to steeple heights – pretty nutty; doing their part to “keep Portland weird” I guess.

  5. I would love to be able to read the poster on that odd little structure. The one side looks like ice skaters, but the rest is impossible to read.

  6. I love this photo, it raises so many questions and the comments and the historical investigations are excellent. Susan, is it possible the figures on the Billboard are Dancers?Ice Skating would most likely be a seasonal thing in Portland at this date.

  7. wploulorenziprince, I know nothing about ships but I’m wondering if that may be a “ferry” based on the turrets at both the bow and stern. Is it possible that before the bridge was built this “ferry”served the public at this location?

  8. More ideas, Is it possible the figures on the billboard are “roller-skaters”? And is it possible that the Towers were “cable stanchions” for the ferry to be tethered too.

  9. I have a GUESS: I think the sign on the right MIGHT say (big words only) “Flowers” and “Forest.” ???

  10. Regarding the posters in this photo. Yes, it looks like a couple skating…but it seems stylized – like a Dutch boy and girl and to the right I can read “flowers”? Maybe a tulip festival?? And I know…just a guess. Fun none the less.

  11. The church on the west side of the Willamette is I believe the First Congregational Church that was built in 1871 at 2nd & Jefferson to replace a smaller church on the same site. The website for First Congregational Church at SW Park & Madison shows a construction timeline for the current church as 1891 – 1895. The Great Portland fire of 1873 started at 4:20 am on August 2 1873 and destroyed 20 blocks front Front Ave. to 2nd Ave. & Morrison to Columbia, but the church survived. Wikipedia has more info on the fire, as does the Oregon Historical Society with photos showing the church and how close the fire was.

  12. Joseph Gaston’s, Portland Oregon: Its History and Builders (1911) notes that “Winfield S. Chapman of Portland, is one of the oldest among the native residents here, his birth having occurred in the then village of Portland on the 3d of July, 1850. … Following his graduation, he entered the office of the city surveyor as assistant [and served in this position in various years, depending upon the political party in power]. … During the ’70s he devoted several thousand dollars to assisting his father in the projected railroad from Salt Lake to Portland … During the following decade he was the controlling spirit in the installation and operation of the Jefferson street steam ferry. … He was also the organizer and the main promoter in the construction of the waterworks on the east side of the river, the first system established there, and obtained a franchise for, located and planned the Madison street bridge, but sold the ferry and franchise before the work on the bridge had progressed far.“

    There is an interesting photo of a large group of the men who built the second bridge:
    1910 Construction crew on Hawthorne (Madison St.) Bridge
    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/archives/article/23887

  13. I believe that the tall derrick-like structure with the ladder going up it at the left is the cable-landing that the Jefferson Street ferry (the turreted vessel at center photo) would follow going from one side of the river to the other; there is probably a matching cable-anchor on the opposite side of the river at the foot of Jefferson Street where said ferry lands.

  14. Front the book “Portland’s Lost Water Front” By Barney Blalock Chapter 5 In 1880 W.S. Chapman won a court battle with the Knott brothers allowing for the Jefferson Street Ferry. This Ferry opened using the powerful steam ferry Veto on a route from Jefferson street on the west to U street (now Hawthorne) in East Portland. The Jefferson Street Ferry ran until the Morrison Bridge was completed seven years later.

  15. Additional info on Jefferson Street Ferry Veto.
    Oregon ad December 13, 1880 Page 3
    New Steam Ferry Boat Veto — Now making regular trips on Wire Cable between Jefferson and U street — New and improved landings.

    Oregonian July 26, 1880 page 3
    Snag Discovered—While the little ferryboat Veto was making her regular trips last Saturday a snag was discovered about 100 feet west of the foot of U street and directly in front of the landing. The top of the snag, which proved to be a submerged trunk of an old tree, was only about two feet below the surface. A hawser was attached to the snag, and after several strong pulls the Veto succeeded in dislodging the snag.

    The Ferry Veto must have been guided by a underwater cable.

  16. I just found five photos of the first Madison Street Bridge, including one titled “Streetcar Inez pulled from Willamette River at Madison street bridge disaster” showing the ruined streetcar pulled up onto the riverbank. You can see all five at: https://bridgehunter.com/or/multnomah/bh80042/

    I am going to try inserting the most colorful of them here — an 1890 birdseye view. It’s very attractive!

  17. I have a mint condition unused ticket for the Stark street ferry connecting to the Woodlawn car. It’s about 2 inches wide by 10 inches long.

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