St. Johns Bridge, 1953 Posted on June 25, 2021 by Vintage Portland 17 St. Johns bridge from the water looking northwest, 1953. City of Portland (OR) Archives, View of St Johns bridge from water looking northwest, A2012-005, 1953. View this image in Efiles by clicking here. Rate this:Share this:FacebookPinterestTwitterEmailRedditLike this:Like Loading... Related
The St Johns Bridge is known as the Grand Lady of Portland.
With 40-story tall Gothic Cathedral Spires and graceful arches, the 7,360-ton steel St. Johns Bridge, which spans the Willamette River, was almost lost. Opened in 1931, it is the largest and most significant suspension bridge in Oregon. After years of neglect and deferred maintenance, engineers discovered that chunks of the concrete roadway and walkway were breaking off and falling 205 feet to the river below.
David Steinman began designing the bridge in 1928 and work began the next year. Steinman engineered 20 bridges in 1928, and throughout his career, he engineered nearly 400 spans before his death in 1960. He is quoted as saying “If you were to ask me which bridge I love best, I would have to say, St. Johns. I put more of myself into it than any other bridge.”
The St. Johns Bridge is 3,834 long, not including the approaches, the main span is 1,207 feet long and the side spans are 430 feet long. The Gothic towers stand 409 feet above the water. Construction began on Sept. 3, 1929, and it opened on June 13, 1931, with a total construction bond of $4.2 million. When it was completed, it was the longest suspension bridge west of Detroit. Before tackling the St. Johns Bridge, Steinman was finishing the largest suspension bridge in New England, the Mount Hope in Rhode Island.
My dad worked at Portland Lumber (right side) for about twenty years. We would visit him there once in a while and loved the smell of all the big stacks of lumber. What scared us were the bathrooms that projected out over the river – you could see the water flowing by through the toilet seat! We were little kids and thought we’d fall right into the river. Hard to believe they were still doing this c. 1960!
The St Johns Bridge is beautiful. This photograph doesn’t really do it justice. The portion of the bridge by the West Hills is not that clear in this photo.
Jon Wood, you are so right. very bad photo of an elegant bridge. I have often thought how nice it would have been if a similar bridge design could have replaced the Burnside bridge. Then Portlanders could appreciate a design like this every day.
Think about the structure of that bridge. All that steel, yet less than two tons per linear foot. Impressive.
The site was an industrial area for most of the 20th Century, with activities ranging from barrel building to ship repair. In 80 years of industrial use, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and other toxic material leached into the soil. Metro bought the property in 1996, and has been managing it since that time while waiting for the state to issue its recommendations for site cleanup.
What if…an MLB team arrives, builds a state-of-the-art yet “olden days” appearing stadium, up against the river past the bridge, but without left field bleachers. An equally state-of-the-art “olden times” steamboat sternwheeler brings folks from Portland to the game under the St. John’s, and docks up against the stadium to become the missing left field bleachers. People watch from the boat, and float home.
It’d also be nice if we clean up the superfund industrial area, save as much of it’s immense history as we can, return much to nature, and see our fair city grow in a more healthy way toward Linnton and St. John…
Someday the St. John’s Bridge, set so poetically alone, will be have it’s day as a crown jewel of Oregon bridges. (Until then, let’s keep telling them it rains all the time, and leave the St. John’s a secret gem.)
U of P already has soccer fields down there.
I’d like to see some old time trolley lines to the St. John’s Bridge too, both sides of river, that wind through old rail and industrial areas, wrapping around pubs and mixed use buildings built like old Portland, all cast iron. 🙂 And I’m not being serious, just waxing futuristic. I don’t even like baseball.
The University of Portland soccer fields are about a mile up stream from where this photograph was taken. The industrial site on the right is the former Portland Lumber Mill.
THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDGE IN ALL OF PORTLAND OREGON WE DON’T BUILD STUFF WITH SUCH OLD WORLD DETAIL ANY MORE AND IT SUCKS !
Patrick, I think the newer Tillicum Bridge is quite nice, of course it lacks any gothic or Renaissance decoration.
Vlad Most all architecture styles of past 40 years severely lack any beauty or build quality especially the materials used the classical very old historic architecture days truly over !! and will be for all time
Don’t you wish it were winter right now?
Patrick, that is because the architecture of the past 120 years is built with completely different technology. Building with steel reinforced concrete, steel beams and columns and glass completely eliminates the need to build arches or domes of stone or brick. You can still build these forms at a price but they are just expensive decoration. Some people still do this but it inevitably looks like it is unauthentic. Think Disneyland or Las Vegas.
Patrick, what is really wonderful about 100 year old architecture is that it is made from materials that come from the earth such as brick and local stone which makes them fit in with the environment. Steel and concrete can’t do that as easily. No law prohibits you from building with those older materials, I think you should do us a favor and do just that with your next building project.
i will some day Vlad thank you god bless you also older materials are more sustainable