SW Front Avenue, 1944

SW Front Avenue (Naito Parkway) between W Burnside Street and SW Washington Street looking south, 1944.


City of Portland (OR) Archives, A2009-009.4106.


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

17 thoughts on “SW Front Avenue, 1944

  1. When planners thought that the river was just an area of industrial blight so building a road through it was its best use.

  2. The building on the right, Smith’s Block (1872) is on the corner of Front and Ash. Washington Street is another four blocks south and not visible in this photo.

  3. ssssteven: At this time, the city was growing and needed more roads. And it needed the river for industry and commerce. The eastside I-5 was still 20 years away. What would you have suggested, a park?

  4. I concur with Ken, the building right of the bridges is home to Lechon restaurant today. The vacant “blocks” on the right are now Portland Fire & Rescue–I think they removed the road between Ash and Ankeny. So, I’d guess this photo was taken from the 43 SW Naito building where Mercy Corps is today, or maybe the Burnside Bridge. So the Saturday Market and Skidmore Fountain are basically below the photographer.

    Would this construction be the waterfront rebuild that would eventually leave a lonely pole-less hole in the middle of the road between the Morrison and Hawthorne that would, in 1948, inspire Dick Fagan of Mill Ends fame?

  5. I would estimate that this photo was taken an hour or so before noon this Tuesday morning. It was a mild sunny day, with a high of 66F. The record high for Portland in 1944 was 102F on September 5th.

    Some news events from 3/28/1944:
    German forces begin to withdraw from Ukraine.
    The Red Army captured Nikolaev.
    The British submarine Syrtis was lost in the Norwegian Sea, probably sunk by a naval mine.
    British MPs voted to give women teachers the same pay as men.

  6. Having a park next to open sewer isn’t desirable, but neither is having a river that’s an open sewer.

    The difference between Johnny Mnemonic and ssssteven is strictly a matter of perspective: do you see this for what it is, or for what it could be? The pioneers who founded Portland saw (no pun intended) the latter in our old growth forests. The reason we are here is simultaneously a tragedy. There is no right answer.

  7. Thanks, Johnny, for reminding us of what this area looked like before all the cast iron buildings were demolished by linking to the Minor White 1939 photo! Does anyone know if the building of Harbor Drive was part of Robert Moses’ plans for downtown Portland in the early 1940s?

  8. Robin Portland has the second largest number of Cast Iron Buildings remaining outside of the SOHO District of New York. There is a 1 hour YouTube video about Portland’s Cast Iron Buildings titled ” The history of Portland’s cast iron buildings “

  9. JimW– I had the same question why would they be expending money, and using manpower during the war to extend these roads, and I believe that I have found the answer. The VP photo from February 20, 2015 has a photo of city and state officials at the opening of Front & Harbor Drive on November 20, 1942. With this date I next went to the Oregon Journal from the next day November 21st and found this story on page 3, and here are some excerpts from the story.

    Horses took over for a brief hour Friday afternoon on the paved spaces of widened and improved Front ave. and Harbor Drive, while federal, state, county and city officials paused to dedicate the thoroughfare. A parade of horse drawn vehicles and saddle horses traveled the length from SW Ankeny street to Battleship Oregon park ( located at the foot of SW Jefferson) while police diverted the heavy motor traffic which has been using the avenue for several days.

    Chief Engineer Baldock of the highway commission explained that the war emergency has stopped further work on the project, but pointed out that about $2,500,000 more will be spent after the war.

    The work in this VP photo was likely started before the war..

  10. In 1940, before America’s entry into WWII, Portland voters approved a $1.25 million bond issue (65,000 to 35,000 votes) to partially fund the building of Harbor Drive. which included the city’s acquisition of all property between Front Avenue and the river along the stretch from Glisan to Columbia streets. By Dec. 7, 1941, construction had already begun and the project was rapidly moving forward. As the Oregon Journal article from Dennis pointed out, although the new “thruway” opened in Nov. 1942, some of the ongoing work on the project was postponed until after the war.. The project was considered a priority for Portland’s war effort, given the rapidly-growing shipyard industry and increased traffic through downtown.

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