Union Avenue Viaduct, circa 1916

City employees engaged in construction of Union Ave viaduct gathered outside for a portrait, circa 1916. Pictured are chainman Calvin E Harding, design and construction chief George S Edmondstone, structural assistant Carlton B Harding, chairman James C Russell, contractor’s foreman Joe M Heckard, Office of Chief Clerk cost clerk George Garrett, designer and draftsman J Verne Gongwer, instrument man J C Hunter, and inspector Adolph M Plebuch.


City of Portland (OR) Archives, A2001-008.181.


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

17 thoughts on “Union Avenue Viaduct, circa 1916

  1. Cool photo. Love those survey instruments. Does anyone know what that thing is that the coffee can is on is? At first I thought it was some sort of portable heater but now I’m thinking it’s a part of some survey instrument.

  2. On September 8, 1916 (p. 18) The Oregonian had a “help wanted” ad — WANTED — two men, $2.25, 8 hours, Union-ave. viaduct, V: C. car. Rhyner-Dicks Co.

    On September 10, 1916 (p.11), the same paper ran a story with the headline: CITY MAY TAKE FORFEIT “Giebisch and Joplin May Lose $2000 on Union Avenue Viaduct: Giebisch & Joplin, contractors, may be forced to forfeit to the city between $1500 and $2000 as a result of delays in completion of the Union-avenue viaduct. George S. Edmondstone, City Engineer in charge of the project, has recommended that the concern be forced to pay the penalty of $2 a day from July 18 until the work is finished, which will be in about two weeks. The contract time expired July 18.

    The contractors took the contract January 27, with the understanding that they should finish by May 26….”

    The e-files description of the photo says: “Pictured are chainman Calvin E Harding, design and construction chief George S Edmondstone, structural assistant Carlton B Harding, chainman James C Russell, contractor’s foreman Joe M Heckard, Office of Chief Clerk cost clerk George Garrett, designer and draftsman J Verne Gongwer, instrumentman J C Hunter, and inspector Adolph M Plebuch.”

    So, I’m assuming Edmondstone is the bearded man seated on the left.

    There are a few more things about Edmondstone, who apparently was quite a character, which I’ll provide later.

  3. Pictured:
    1) chainman Calvin E Harding,
    2) design and construction chief George S Edmondstone,
    3) structural assistant Carlton B Harding,
    4) chairman James C Russell,
    5) contractor’s foreman Joe M Heckard,
    6) Office of Chief Clerk cost clerk George Garrett,
    7) designer and draftsman J Verne Gongwer,
    8) instrument man J C Hunter,
    9) inspector Adolph M Plebuch.
    10) surveyor who didn’t rate a mention but got in the photo.

    Mr. Garrett as chief clerk probably made a lot of coffee in the office.
    “Schillings Best, Ground Coffee” must have been everyone’s favorite brew;
    nice tin as well.

    Mr. Gongwer as designer and draftsman is the only job function I’ve had any direct
    experience with having once studied drafting.

    These men were a well-dressed group, nicely tailored suits, bow ties, ties, cuff links, nicely groomed hair, mustaches, goatees; right down to their polished high topped work boots.

    This was one heck of a project that took many years to complete (1937). Nice work gentlemen.

  4. What a shame to identify the chainman and not the surveyor. The surveyor is the one with the brains; the chainman just tags along to hold the chain that measures distances between the points the surveyor identifies.

  5. Different things certainly made the news in the 19-teens — On March 29, 1918 (p.12) The Oregonian reported: “Two large telephone poles have been set up on the Union-avenue viaduct without any trouble.” (That was the entire article!)

    And intriguingly, on January 9, 2020 (p. 21), this ad ran: IMPORTANT. Will the lady who crossed Union ave. viaduct Monday, bet. 5 and 6 P.M. with the little girl wearing green cap with white tassel and brown coat call at 14 Union ave., N. before 9 A.M. Friday morning, please?”

    And now for my earlier promised tidbits about the construction chief, George Edmondstone:
    The Oregonian reported on September 7, 1922 (p.6) DIRECTORS AGREE TO PATCH UP ROW… School Board Narrowly Averts Verbal Clashes in Talking of Edmondstone Affair. “When George S. Edmondstone, ex-superintendent of properties of school district No. 1, wrote to the school board last night and admitted that he was a fool, George B. Thomas, for one time in his directorial career, refused to argue the question.”

    “Despite the fact that Mr. Thomas and Mr. Edmondstone can no longer be classed as friends, the director heartily agreed with his ex-protege in school affairs, even going to the trouble of adding that, in addition to being a fool, Edmondstone was also a joke.”
    On May 10, 1923 (p. 5) there is a long article about the death of a wood duck, which led to a case before a U.S. jury. Apparently, Captain George Edmondstone (described as “formerly superintendent of properties of Portland schools” shouted “Not I” to the question, “Who killed the wood duck — who shot down Aix Sponsa while he wheeled in flight with his mates over the swamps and marshes of Scappoose Creek?” The writer goes on to say, “…for triviality the case of the United States versus Captain Edmonstone takes the palm.” Rather than pay a $5 fine for violating the migratory bird act, he fought the case, hiring attorneys, subpoenaed witnesses and went to trial. As the newspaper went to press, the jury of 12 were still deliberating.

  6. Liz after 7 hours of deliberation the jury acquitted George S Edmondstone of killing Aix Sponsa the wood duck. Oregonian May 11, 1923 page 1

    The Obit for George S Edmondstone was in the Oregonian on March 24, 1926 page 22 with his photo that matches the man labeled # 2.

  7. Thanks, Dennis — I had looked for his obituary without success. You’re great at sleuthing!

    By pure and rather astounding coincidence, I discovered that Edmondstone lived about a 5 minute walk from where I live now. I was looking for him in Ancestry Library Edition and found a 1916 City Directory listing him at 264 Stout Street, which Past Portland translates to 1212 SW 20th. My husband and I just now walked over to that area; although 1212 doesn’t show up in internet searches or the city’s property tax pages, it’s there as a number on a duplex. My next fun thing to do is to track down the history of that building!

  8. Liz George Edmondstone’s 1914 Multnomah County voter reg. list his address also as 264 Stout st, and the location is shown being between Jefferson & Madison, so the address of 1212 SW 20th should be correct, but I believe that the building has been torn down. The building next door at 1210 SW 20th still has their old address of 262 (looks like stained glass numbers) displayed below the current address.

    Here are some Oregonian ads associated with 264 Stout street
    September 15, 1915 Page 15
    WANTED— Immediately responsible woman, general housework, six room flat, children, 264 Stout st end of Jefferson car line.

    Birth announcement September 30, 1915 page 17
    EDMONDSTONE–To Mr. and Mrs George S Edmondstone 264 Stout street September 18 a daughter.

    October 1916– 6 room furnished flat 264 Stout st. $20

  9. Viking58 you have a good eye. George Garrett was born in Ada Ohio June 6 1886 and when he filled out his WW 1 draft registration card on June 5, 1917 at the age of 30 yrs. under prior military service it is rather sloppily written but it looks like it says Guard ( Ohio ?) Co. G 2nd Inf. 2 years.

  10. Dennis — Thanks for your additional research on George Edmondstone’s house. The house we visited, with both numbers 1210 and 1212 on SW 20th, was buiilt in 1892, according to the Realtors’ sites — and has 6 bedrooms, so I’m of the opinion that it still stands. It certainly looks old enough to have been built in the late 19th century.

  11. By consulting the Sanford Fire Insurance map of Portland, 1908-1909, Volume 2, sheet 104, it would appear that 262 and 264, Stout Street were two sides to the same flat. A duplex perhaps?

  12. Thanks for providing that background, Daniel Veith. The building my husband and I visited the other nght has, indeed, duplex qualities. There are two front doors — one labeled 1210 and the other 1212 (previously 262 and 264).

  13. Liz I agree with you that 1212 SW 20th (264 Stout st.) does still exist. My previous comment was based on the most current Google street view that did not show the additional entrance that was blocked by tree limbs, but I was able to see the second entrance from a 2016 streetview.
    The last residence Mr Edmondstone lived at also still exist at 6324 N Atlantic ave. and a 1926 plumbing permit shows that he is the home owner.

  14. Thanks, Dennis. I’ve read some other VP entries about the historic views, but never tried to figure out how it works until your post today prompted me to do so. I then succeeded in finding the property with its various years’ views — and must tell you I admire your patience in finding the view you mention. It was hard to see with all those trees. Thanks again — I’m pleased to have learned a new research skill.

  15. When George Stovall Edmondston was born in January 1864 in Augusta, Georgia, his father, Henry, was 29 and his mother, Louisa, was 25. He married Clara Emilie Cary Von Bergen on November 7, 1899, in Iowa City, Iowa. They had four children in 10 years. He died on March 23, 1926, in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 62. (Ancestry, Library Ed)

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