14 thoughts on “NW Leif Erikson Drive, 1933

  1. There is a very nicely done history of Leif Erikson Drive written by Archaeologist Chris Knutson and posted on the Forest Park Conservancy’s website:


    Here are excerpts:

    “At the turn of the 20th century an influential group of civic leaders, park officials, and city planners worked to save the eastern slope of Tualatin Mountain (the area we now know as Forest Park) from development. So it’s ironic that the thing that probably had the biggest effect in preserving the area wasn’t that group’s valiant efforts, but rather the construction of a road that was intended to—of all things—promote development. We know that road as Leif Erikson Drive.”

    “The road was named Hillside Drive, and true to its name, it was built along the hillside from Thurman Street to Germantown Road—a distance of over 11 miles. It was the first of what were supposed to be dozens of streets in the new subdivisions. It would also be the last.”

    “In the 1930s the city tried to improve Hillside Drive as a public works project, but frequent landslides continued to discourage regular traffic. It was then that the Sons of Norway convinced the city to rename the road after the Viking explorer Leif Erikson.”

  2. I was all set to post the same blurb that Liz C posted. It’s a great article.
    The original plan would have been really nice (for some) in both the short and long term. However, greed and immediate short-term thinking looking for making the “quick buck” (cutting down trees), prevailed.

  3. Other types of development have also been attempted. From Portland Monthly ” Fueled by rumors of oil reserves in the West Hills, G. R. Couper, a representative of Texaco, filed an application with the city for an oil lease in lower Macleay Park in 1945. Portland decided to ignore the wills of pioneer donors, who deeded the property to the city on the condition that it remain “sacred as a public park,” and approved some 5,000 acres of forested land for drilling. Three wells were sunk, but after one drill reached 7,885 feet without finding oil, Couper’s dream died”

  4. The burly young man with a shovel, walking away from the cluster of men standing on the road is headed toward the older man in the dark coat on the right side of the photo, who is taking a momentary breather while waiting to hear what the young man found out about some question or other.

    This would be most tiring work, soggy, smokey, muddy, working on a slope…slivers in the hand from the shovels or tree parts. I guess they were glad to have some $$ coming in though.

  5. A rough road was initially opened in 1915 after being promoted by developers from Linnton. They bit off more than they chew and couldn’t afford to pave it. Once Linnton was annexed into Portland, the project lost its momentum. A lot of inaccessible lots without utilities were sold. Much of the property reverted to the government ownership when people defaulted on property taxes.

  6. It seems this was back when they were still trying to use Leif as a roadway … doesn’t look like much fun to try to drive up in those days.

  7. Caption is misleading. They aren’t cleaning a path. That’s obviously been done years before based on the condition of the tree stumps. They’re doing ditch work and removing material from the hill that was likely at risk to fall, especially in heavy rains.

  8. If you Google Map “Leif Erickson Drive” and follow the route (now mostly a pedestrian/bike path) you’ll see some of the ghost images of the subdivisions that were once envisioned for Forest Park. Apparently all those lots and roadways are still platted.

  9. I love the misty, ethereal qualityof the West Hills forest on a winter’s day so evident in this photo, contrasted against the men hard at work trying to clear a path through this primeval northwest forest “jungle.” I can almost smell the earthy forest floor, covered with a thick mat of ferns, other undergrowth, and Doug fir cones and needles. All this mysterious beauty just blocks above the bustling downtown of Oregon’s major city! How lucky we were, and are! I’m enjoying memories of boyhood picnics in Macleay Park, hot dogs and smores, watching water skippers darting across Macleay’s ponds, followed by a mushy, wet hike up the steep forested slopes to Leif Erickson Drive, covered with fallen branches and wet leaves. Beautiful!

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