17 thoughts on “The Sellwood Bridge, 1925

  1. Fantastic Photo this morning. Having grown up in Sellwood and Westmoreland, it’s always cool to see how little the actual bridge changed, but how much the shoreline changed over time. Amazing to see the buildings on the shoreline where there is riverbank now

  2. I remember reading that this bridge was obsolete the day it was completed. Something about a corrupt contractor, siphoning off money and forcing a greatly reduced width of the span.

    Hopefully a well-read VP’er can provide some facts

  3. If the photo caption is correct, this photo would have been taken Tuesday, December 1, 1925.
    “Designed by Gustav Lindenthal, the first bridge opened on December 15, 1925, at a final cost of $541,000[3] (equivalent to $6.9 million in 2011). It was 1,971 feet (601 m) long with 75 feet (23 m) of vertical waterway clearance. It had four continuous spans, all of Warren type. The two center spans were 300 feet (91 m) long, and the two outside spans were 246 feet (75 m) each. Girders from the old Burnside Bridge (built-in 1894) were reused at each end. The two-lane roadway was 24 feet (7.3 m) wide, and there was a sidewalk along one side.”
    “The original bridge was Portland’s first fixed-span bridge and, being the only river crossing for miles in each direction, the busiest two-lane bridge in Oregon”

    I would have liked taking the old ferry across the river before the bridge was built but by 1928, the automobile had completely taken things over in Portland.

    Below is a photo of the ferry alongside the completed bridge.

  4. Debby Oaks Park was built by Oregon Water Power & Railway and opened on Tuesday May 30, 1905. You bought your streetcar ticket at SW 1st & Alder then crossed the river on the Hawthorne bridge and traveled south near the east bank of the Willamette to “The Oaks” as it was called in 1905. This route also became part of the interurban line that went to Oregon City.

  5. Gustav Lindenthal was a very accomplished bridge engineer. He designed the 59th St. Bridge and the Hell Gate Bridge in New York and was commissioner of Bridges for New York City. I’m thinking that his draftsmen designed the Sellwood bridge with his supervision. The Sellwood Bridge was a fabulous investment by the City, pieced together with pieces of the old Burnside bridge it was incredibly inexpensive even for 1927 and it lasted for over 75 years. It is surprising to find Lindenthal’s name connected to such a humble bridge design.

  6. DJ– In the photo that Robert G posted you can see the building that became The Rafters restaurant of the 70’s with the Sellwood bridge built over the top of it. East Side Lumber Mill occupied 20 acres on the east bank of the Willamette river in the early 20th century and the restaurant was in one of the old buildings on SE Spokane street.

  7. Oregon Journal December 15, 1925 Page 1

    Driving his team of reindeer, Santa Claus lead the procession which crossed the new Sellwood bridge this afternoon at the formal opening of the first of three bridges to be completed in the $5,450,000 program authorized by referendum vote two years ago.
    This is only a small portion of the article.

  8. I’ll agree that the Sellwood Bridge was very narrow. My older sister took me for a driving lesson over it after I just got my learner’s permit in 1965. Only the second time behind the wheel. The next lesson was going over the Hawthorne on the grating. Yikes!

  9. When I first moved here in 1989, I would sometimes take the bus from UofP to downtown, then across the Sellwood bridge to visit friends at Reed College. Riding a big bus across that rickety, narrow bridge was sure a thrill!

  10. The Sellwood Bridge was a victim of he corruption and scandals surrounding the building of the Burnside and Ross Island bridges. Originally a bigger bridge had been planned, but the new county commissioners elected to replace the ones voted out due the scandals severely limited the bridges budget. Thus you got a narrow bridge with reused girders for the old Burnside Bridge. I would assume the original proposal would have been along the lines of the Ross Island Bridge.

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