Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Portland Avenue Bridge

Portland Avenue Bridge

Portland Avenue Bridge


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A few photos of the long-abandoned Portland Avenue Bridge, which crosses the Clackamas River down in Gladstone. Built in 1893 or so, the bridge was once part of a rail line between Portland and Oregon City, which was abandoned in 1968 and subsequently removed. Seems the line was abandoned in part due to the deteriorating condition of the bridge, and since then the bridge has just sat there, unmaintained and fenced off, for over four decades now. So I can only imagine what sort of shape it's in these days. You might need a tetanus shot just from looking at it.

Updated: This bridge was severely damaged by a winter storm in March 2014, and was demolished shortly afterward. So there's no longer anything to see at this spot, and this post is now sort of a historical artifact. Feel free to still visit cosmopolitan downtown Gladstone if you like, though.

Portland Avenue Bridge

Portland Avenue Bridge

I realize that, as part of this ongoing bridge series, really I'm supposed to try to walk across these things if at all possible. But I wasn't tempted this time, not even a little, not even for a moment. There was, technically, a hole in the fence, and technically I suppose I could've ventured out onto it, and I suppose people actually do that from time to time. I think mostly to jump in the river, not to cross it. The Clackamas River looks cool and clean and refreshing on a hot day, and people just can't resist jumping in. That description is accurate, if by "cool" you mean "slightly above freezing", and by "refreshing" you mean "except when fatal". Follow the news any given summer, and take one look at the bridge, and the "not dying" angle for this bridge should be immediately obvious.

Portland Avenue Bridge

I've only found two current photo links to share, and they're actually both the same photo. I also ran across one historical photo from atop the bridge, looking north along Portland Avenue.

Portland Avenue Bridge

Portland Avenue, which dead-ends at the bridge, is apparently Gladstone's historic main street. The city of Gladstone recently (2008) put together a plan to revitalize the Portland Ave. corridor, and the plan envisions restoring the bridge for pedestrians and bikes, similar to the 82nd Drive bridge further upstream. The document notes that the bridge is still railroad-owned, even though there haven't been tracks on either side in decades, and the railroad's opposed to anyone doing anything with the bridge. Don't ask me why. You'd think they'd go, "Hey, that's a nice plan, we'll sell you the bridge for a dollar, as is", just to unload the potential liabilities on someone else. But apparently that's not how they see things. Beats me.

Portland Avenue Bridge

I'd never figured Gladstone as a very interesting place -- I guess I'd assumed that McLoughlin was its main street, and the whole town was basically just car lots and fast food outlets. The city and the local historical society would like us to know that, in fact, they have a long and somewhat unusual history, featuring a long-running Chautauqua Festival (which the streetcar was apparently built in part to serve), traveling evangelists, vaudeville, and similar thrills of a bygone era. Said bygone era seems to have ended around 1929, and if anything newsworthy has occurred since then, the city and the historical society fail to mention it. More photos from around Gladstone here and here.

Portland Avenue Bridge

The streetcar line, as it turns out, is the same one that once served Elk Rock Island and its somewhat earthier delights. So you could tell everyone you were catching the streetcar down to Gladstone for a nice uplifting day of educational lectures and Sousa marches, but hop off at Elk Rock Island instead for some drinkin' and dancin' and carryin' on. At least, that's probably what I would've done.

Portland Avenue Bridge

More streetcar stuff at Cafe Unknown and Tin Zeroes -- the Tin Zeroes page refers to a different defunct streetcar line, I think, but it's an interesting story anyway. If you're into this sort of thing, I mean, and I realize you probably aren't, even if you read this humble, geeky, all-too-pedantic blog regularly. In which case I'll probably have another batch of flower photos soon, if you prefer those. And maybe some pics of the cat too, if I can get him to hold still, the little bastard...

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