Multnomah Falls, circa 1933

The Columbia River Highway and Multnomah Falls, circa 1933. The City of Portland owned the Multnomah Falls area, the Lodge, and Benson Park until WWII.


City of Portland (OR) Archives, A2004-002.2505.


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19 thoughts on “Multnomah Falls, circa 1933

  1. There were small ads for Simmons-by-the-Sea in the Oregonian from 1926 until 1939. In 1932, dinner was 85 cents. The establishment was owned by Rolla L. Simmons, who also owned Simmons’ Hillvilla on Terwilliger Drive, and Simmons Indian Village, according to his obituary, published on page 15 of the Sunday Oregonian, February 2, 1936. There’s a nice photo of him there. The newspaper reported that he “died at a Portland hospital yesterday after a comparatively short illness. Mr. Simmons was stricken about three months ago but, after being ordered to remain quiet, appeared on his way to recovery. He suffered a relapse three days ago, however, and succumbed early yesterday.”

    “Born in Greenfield, O[hio], January 2, 1863, Mr. Simmons came to the northwest with his family about 40 years ago. He was in the printing business in Tacoma for a number of years and on moving to Portland became a salesman for the Hazelwood Ice Cream company. … An aviation enthusiast, he learned to fly and was the first salesman in this section to cover his territory by plane. He was associated with the ice cream company for about 13 years, after which he went into business with a brother.”

  2. From offbeat Oregon history ” The City of Portland owned the park until 1939, when it was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service (Benson Park was transferred to the state of Oregon). And so it has been ever since.”

  3. DJ — Thank you for pointing out my error. I should have typed “Simmons-by-the-Falls,” of course! I grew up near the Pacific Ocean, and I guess my brain went ’round the bend for a moment.

  4. When I was growing up in Portland in the 1950s we used to stop at Multnomah Falls whenever we went up to the Gorge. I recall the distinctive building at the base of the falls as a small gift shop and cafe. Was it also a hotel/lodge?

  5. Such a beautiful waterfall! The stone lodge is a very nice piece of architecture also. I wish the two attractions were separated from each other by more landscaping. The lodge competes with falls and is a bit of a distraction. They should have involved the Olmsted firm.

  6. I also notice the “Sawyer Scenic Photos” imprint in the lower right corner of the photo. I think this is the same company that later introduced the View-Master at the NY World’s Fair in 1939.

  7. In this picture, the sun is shining on the falls. That only happens around the summer solstice, usually in late June. The rest of the year the falls are hidden from the sun.

  8. It hasn’t been a straight drop as pictured since a huge boulder broke off from the top and landed in the middle of the falls.

  9. I don’t see the Benson Bridge in this photo. The original timber bridge was built in 1885 and lasted until 1891. I think the current bridge was built in 1915.

    Here is a link that tells the story behind the native american legend about the falls. A tragic, senseless, story of “self-sacrifice” that tribal men cooked up as the way to end “a plague” ravaging the tribe.

  10. The Oregonian on September 20, 1925 (page 20) has a story about the Multnomah Falls Lodge dedication that would take place on October 1st, 1925.
    The Lodge was built by the City of Portland on land donated by the company became Union Pacific Railroad. The lodge was designed by A. E. Doyle and built by Walle Shattuck construction at a cost of $40,000. R.L. Simmons obtained the concession for two years at the lodge and paid the City of Portland $6,000 a year.

    “The lodge belongs to to the city and you don’t have to spend money in the concession. There are large dining rooms, however, a fountain service, a lounge room with large fireplace, a balcony overlooking the highway and on the ground floor there are sandwich stands and a photograph studio.”

    Robin Thompson– The story makes no mention of guest rooms, but the Travel Oregon website indicates that they had dormitories (for staff ?) and 4 guest rooms for overnight stays.

  11. wploulorenziprince–The Benson Bridge is visible in this photo, but perhaps since this appears to be a aerial photo you are looking higher up on the falls, just look lower and closer to the lodge.

  12. Robin Thompson–You are correct the Sawyer Scenic Photos is related to View Master.
    From the history section of the View Master website ” The original View Master viewer came about through the partnership of two men, William Gruber, an inventor, and Harold Graves, the president of Sawyer’s postcard company”

    There is more info on Wikipedia under “Sawyer’s

  13. dedemontgomery, I am glad you posted the link to your blog. The video you posted therein of the stories of Multnomah Falls is worth pointing out to VP readers, too. Nice work!

  14. Thanks so much, Liz! I sometimes forget about the making of that video and it is extra relevant at this moment around Willamette Falls. I later realized I erred a bit – my great great great grandma was 21 not 23 when she came out to Oregon Country. Also, tidbit in the filming of the section where I am kayaking nearing the falls – they put a GoPro on my boat and later saw a 12ish foot sturgeon jump directly behind me as I neared the bridge:)

  15. I try to collect photos of the falls with the bridge that was in place before the “Benson” bridge. Haven’t ever found any info on how long it was there or who built it.

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