Friday, November 30, 2012

Bunker Hill Bridge

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A few photos of Boston's Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, more commonly known as either the "Zakim Bridge" or the "Bunker Hill Bridge". The name was apparently a source of bitter disagreement and despite the title of the post I really don't have a strong opinion either way on that argument. I just needed to pick one or the other to use as a title, so I did.

Bunker Hill Bridge

As I was walking around Boston, I wasn't primarily interested in bridges, but this one's rather prominent and kept popping up in photos, so I figured I had enough material for a post about it. It's a new-ish bridge, opened in 2003 as part of the Big Dig project, and carries Interstate 93 over the Charles River. No pedestrian access, though, which obviously limits the chances for photos from the bridge. Legally, I mean. I was in town for a conference back in July, and another attendee apparently drove into downtown Boston at night and came back with photos taken somewhere on the bridge. He wouldn't explain precisely where he'd been or how he'd gotten there, but they were really great photos. Certainly compared to these mostly chance shots. On the other hand I can post these here without any chance of being hunted down by the city's grumpiest Irish cops. Plus there was basically zero danger involved in taking these, which is always a plus.

Bunker Hill Bridge

Cable-stayed bridges are generally attractive, in an ultramodern but somewhat generic sort of way, and this is a fairly nice example of the genre. It's just strange to see a 21st century bridge adopted as a symbol of such an old city, which I've seen a few times. I suppose it's good to be reminded that Boston is a living, breathing city and not just a huge open-air historical museum where nothing ever changes.

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Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Photos of Seattle's Pike Place Market from the last time I was there, several years ago (same as the previous two posts). It's surprising how rarely I go to Seattle; it's not only the closest big city outside Portland, but I was actually born there and most of my relatives still live there. Come to think of it, that may be why I go there so rarely. I average about one trip every five years or so, usually for someone's birthday or a wedding or something.

Pike Place Market

When I lived there as a kid, I don't recall going to Pike Place Market at all. It could be that I just don't remember it, since we moved away when I was 6. But I suspect my parents felt the place was old and disreputable, nothing like the nice new suburban malls we usually shopped at. As an adult, it's one of the very few things I actually envy Seattle for having, even though it's full of tourists and trinket stands.

Pike Place Market

Portland tried its hand at a public market back in 1933, and although it had a very cool Art Deco building, it was a financial debacle and closed in less than a decade. The now-defunct Oregon Journal newspaper owned it for a while after WWII, and the building was finally demolished in 1969, and the site is now part of Waterfront Park. You'd never know there was once an eleven story building there.

Pike Place Market

So for a long time I thought Seattle had a unique thing here that you couldn't find anywhere else in the country. And it's true that many cities either lost or never had an equivalent. But there are a few here and there, like the West Side Market in Cleveland. which I was rather dazzled by when I visited in March of this year.

Pike Place Market

There's a proposal floating around Portland that would build a shiny new public market at the west end of the Morrison Bridge, near the site of our fair city's previous debacle. This has been going around in circles for close to a decade now, and they haven't started construction yet, and to be honest I'm not entirely convinced the new one would fare better than the original. It's not as if we have a lack of options for upscale meat and produce here. I'd be much more impressed if they were working to bring affordable fresh produce to Lents or Rockwood instead of building another fancy creative class amenity for downtown. But hey, that's just me being a voice in the wilderness again. Still, if they build it, I'll probably show up and take some photos of it at some point. Pike Place Market Pike Place Market Pike Place Market Pike Place Market Pike Place Market Pike Place Market

Seattle Central Library

Seattle Public Library

A few old photos of Seattle's Central Library. I usually roll my eyes when cities bring in Big Name Architects to design civic institutions for them, especially when said architects spend a great deal of time theorizing and conceptualizing and talking about their unbuilt projects. I do like the building, though, so all's well that ends well. And Wikipedia insists Mr. Koolhaas once wrote a screenplay for Russ Meyer. Which, speaking in my capacity as a fan of bad movies, wins him a few points.

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Space Needle

Space Needle

A few nighttime photos of the Space Needle in Seattle from a few years back. I don't have any daytime photos of it, nor do I have any from the top. The last time I was at the top, I had lunch at the revolving restaurant and caught a bug from a plate of potato skins. Oh, the indignity. This was back in the late 1980s when people thought potato skins were fancy for some reason; it was a dark and primitive time. I'm told everything's under new management and so forth now.

Space Needle Space Needle

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Willamette Falls

A slideshow of Willamette Falls photos, from the viewpoint off 99E on the Oregon City side of the river. This is about the best view you can get of the falls without owning a boat or getting a job at one of the paper mills next to the falls. It's the only industrialized, urban waterfall we have in the area and doesn't fit our usual idea of waterfalls, which are tall, skinny, and mostly untouched by the modern world. So tourist guidebooks to the area often ignore these falls. The closest US analogies I can think of might be the Falls of St. Anthony in Minneapolis; Spokane Falls in Spokane, Wa; and High Falls in Rochester NY.

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Willamette Falls is a significant place in Oregon history, so at the risk of sounding like a third-rate Wikipedia clone (and one that relies heavily on Wikipedia, at that), it feels like I should at least try to relate a few interesting tidbits about the place rather than just going, hey, here's yet another slide show, enjoy.

The waterfall

People who care about these things claim Willamette Falls is somewhat of a big deal: 17th widest waterfall in the world, and 37th largest by volume of water. It would be in the top 20, in fact, except that much of the river is diverted away for hydropower, which we'll get to in a minute.


Several of the photos in this set show people fishing below the falls. The falls have been a prime fishing spot for migratory fish since time immemorial, primarily salmon and lamprey. Because of this, Willamette Falls and other major waterfalls around the Northwest were major cultural centers for native tribes of the region, and figured prominently in stories and legends. (One appeared here recently in a post about Coalca Landing State Park, explaining the origin of the park's once-famous balancing rock). The tribes retained their traditional fishing rights here after the 1855 treaty in which they lost virtually all of their land. The word "retained" is important here: Despite what the nation's racist uncles may have said over Thanksgiving dinner, this is not a matter of the federal government granting special rights to a minority. They were here first, the falls and the fish were theirs to begin with, and they never gave up their pre-existing rights.

I should note, however, that fishing rights don't guarantee an actual supply of fish. Lamprey populations continue to decline, and salmon runs are no healthier here than they are anywhere else.


The falls also explain why Oregon City is where it is. The town was founded in 1829 as a Hudson's Bay Company outpost (the main fort being across the Columbia River at Ft. Vancouver), as the falls were a convenient way to power a lumber mill. It would be several decades before the founding of Portland, so Oregon City was the major settlement in the region and served as the territorial capital. That, in turn, meant that the Oregon Trail ended here, as newly arrived pioneers had to stop by the courthouse to file their land claim papers.

The falls also meant that Oregon City was initially the head of navigation on the Willamette. A number of East Coast cities were founded along the Fall Line, and it would have been reasonable to think the pattern would repeat here as well. Ships couldn't go any further upstream, and moving products by land in the pre-rail, pre-paved road era was difficult and something you wanted to minimize if possible, so it seemed logical that a seaport would develop here. Portland soon took this role away from Oregon City, however; the credit's often given to (relatively) easier land routes, particularly the old Plank Road west to the farmland of the Tualatin Valley. This later evolved into Canyon Road, and then today's Sunset Highway (US 26).


The falls didn't remain a barrier for long; in 1873 the Willamette Falls Locks opened, giving river traffic a route around the falls. They were initially a private venture but later became an Army Corps of Engineers project.

Over time river traffic lost out to the railroads, and both dwindled further once paved roads and motor vehicles arrived in the Northwest. The falls saw very little traffic in recent years and maintenance costs continued to escalate, so the Corps finally placed the locks in "non-operating status" in 2011. This seems to be bureaucratic lingo for "permanently closed" without actually saying "permanent".


People in the Northwest usually think of hydroelectric power as something that involves a massive Bonneville-style dam, but Willamette Falls is home to PGE's historic Thomas W. Sullivan Plant, which has just a low dam above the falls to divert water into its turbines. Constructed in 1895, it's one of the nation's oldest hydropower plants still in operation, and was recently certified as "green power", which seems to mean that it's considered relatively benign to fish. An earlier hydro project at the falls enabled the nation's first long distance transmission of electricity, in June 1889, sending power from the falls to downtown Portland, 14 miles away. A historical marker in downtown's Lownsdale Square marks the event.

A page at the Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation provides a look inside the Sullivan Plant, which has a set of rather steampunk-looking vintage turbines.


The most prominent, and smelliest, part of the development around the falls is the paper industry. The falls were home to the Blue Heron paper mill on the Oregon City side, and the West Linn Paper Company on the West Linn side of the river, but the Blue Heron mill closed abruptly in 2011. The mill specialized in paper recycling, and apparently it's now more profitable to ship waste paper to China than it is to recycle it here. Which is yet another reminder that international trade is often bizarre and nonsensical. There are a few photos of the now-demolished powerhouse for the Blue Heron mill here


In 2011, both the locks and one of the two paper mills at the falls closed, and both closures seem to be fairly permanent. The other mill seems to be prospering, as far as I know, and the hydro plant is licensed to operate thru the year 2034, but the closures still raise a question of what (if anything) to do with the falls going forward.

Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation and the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition are interested in the historic preservation aspects of the falls, the latter group wanting to involve the National Park Service in the effort. The city government is apparently interested in shifting gears and becoming a creative class hub, and Metro's expressed interest in buying the old Blue Heron site, which would likely mean at least part of the site becoming a park at some point in the distant future, and probably repurposing at least some of the historic mill buildings, similar to what's under discussion for the remote Bull Run Powerhouse. Speaking strictly as someone who likes taking photos of waterfalls, that sounds like a great idea. With one important caveat, namely that I'm not interested in throwing anyone out of work just so I can get better waterfall photos.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

november leaves

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november sunset (ii)

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november dusk

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Some photos of "Alive", the new arts-themed mural on the back of the Keller Auditorium building, on 2nd Avenue between Clay & Market. This is part of my daily commute, and I'm pleased to have something colorful to look at instead of the old blank grey wall.

Before the austerity-and-budget-cuts crowd starts in with the usual whining about the city spending money on nice things in this economy (or any other economy), I should point out it only cost us around $3,200. I imagine much of that was for the paint, and painting the wall a flat ugly grey again would've likely cost about the same.

A neat thing about the mural (and probably one reason it was so cheap) is that it was created by a a PSU professor, assisted by students from her Art 399 class. One student blogged some nice photos of his section of the mural, inspired by the work of the French painter Raoul Dufy. I seem to recall having a Dufy calendar a few years ago, for whatever that's worth. All in all, this one gets the big seal of approval.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Soldiers Monument, Lownsdale Square

A photoset of the 1906 Soldiers Monument in Lownsdale Square, one of the city's surprising number of Spanish-American War memorials. A post over at Dave Knows PDX gives a little history of the monument.

The memorial was designed by the famous San Francisco sculptor Douglas Tilden (1860-1935). Tilden was deaf since the age of 4 and had a very successful career in what's thought of today as a not very accommodating era. Tilden was also rumored to have been gay, which (true or not) is bound to infuriate the sort of person who usually loves war and war memorials, even in this enlightened post-DADT era. These would likely be the same people who freaked out when someone used a little temporary chalk on and around the monument's base during the Occupy Portland protests last year, which you'll see in a few photos in this set. They shrieked on and on about how the memorial had been permanently defiled or destroyed or something, when in reality no damage, either permanent or temporary, was actually done to it. I imagine their heads would explode if they heard the rumors about the sculptor. Maybe they'd sue, or invite Fred Phelps to come protest the statue, or something.

More about Tilden and his Bay Area works at Found SF and SF City Guides.

A 1951 Oregonian article "Portland's Outdoor Statues" (July 8th, 1951) lists it among the city's "important" public art pieces. The others included the Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt statues on the Park Blocks, and the Thompson Elk between Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, as well as the Thomas Jefferson statue at Jefferson High School, and a religious statue out at the Grotto. While I'm linking to old blog posts, I should point out that two previous subjects are right at the Soldiers Monument: The Ft. Sumter Cannons, and Benchmark Zero. So if you go to Lownsdale Square to look at the statue, you might as well look down and see those as well.

St. Francis Park expedition

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Some photos from St. Francis Park, in inner SE Portland, on Stark between 11th & 12th. It's an unusual spot in that, although it looks a lot like a city park, it's actually owned and operated by the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic church next door. The church also operates the St. Francis Dining Hall, which serves meals to the city's homeless population, so there tend to be a few homeless people hanging around the park at any given time, and big crowds around mealtime. As a result the park's gained a long-term reputation for drug and alcohol problems. This has repeatedly put the church at odds with the surrounding neighborhood, at one point leading to a city-mediated six month closure of the park.

At some point, I'm guessing during the 1970s, a great deal of money was spent on the park. A big fountain and wading pools were installed, as well as a brightly painted wagon wheel drinking fountain, and a lot of landscaping work was done. But the church seems to have an even lower maintenance budget than the city parks bureau does, and everything's fallen into serious disrepair over the years. I'm sure they prioritize feeding people ahead of repairing fountains, and fundamentally I can't really disagree with that. I can't imagine the creepy, decrepit state of the park helps mend fences with the neighbors, though. The Catholic Church probably isn't interested in unsolicited advice from a nonbeliever such as myself, but it seems like they could send word around the local archdiocese and guilt-trip people into donating or volunteering or something. It's been done at least once before; an article in the May 23rd, 1977 Oregonian is titled "St. Francis Park - once eyesore, now pride of Buckman neighborhood", detailing the then-current efforts to revitalize the place. Since it was 1977, we're told that one of the park's trees is named Beverly, and the article includes part of a fifth grader's poem about the tree.

A post over at Portland Public Art had a similar take on the place several years ago. That post points at a Picasa gallery of the park, with more photos along the same lines as the ones here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

South Falls, Silver Falls

One last (for now) photoset from Silver Falls State Park, this time from South Falls. Like North Falls at the other end of the park, a short trail winds down to the base of the falls and then continues along behind the falls.

South Falls is next to the park's main parking lot and visitor facilities, so the trail tends to be pretty busy, and you may have to be patient if you prefer photos without people in them. I realize I'm probably in the minority on that point, but there you have it. In retrospect it was nice having to slow down a bit. I was in the middle of yet another week-long photo staycation, and when I do those I tend to go charging around with an overloaded TODO list, trying to grab a comprehensive batch of photos in the least amount of time and then hightailing it off to the next destination on the list. The theory being that I don't have a lot of free time to go take photos beyond central Portland otherwise, so I need to rush around and fill up the tank then so I'll have stuff to blog about on gloomy mid-November days like today. That actually works out rather well, I think, and I'd probably just burn my whole vacation messing around on the interwebs without anything to show for it if I wasn't out taking photos. Still, it's not particularly relaxing at the time, so it was nice to have to stop and wait for people and actually enjoy the scenery a bit. I may have burned an extra ten, even fifteen minutes that way. It was nice.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Majestic Falls

Today's adventure takes us to another waterfall in McDowell Creek County Park, near Lebanon, Oregon. Majestic Falls is the main event in the park; it turns out to be only 39 feet high, but it's quite attractive, and it's my clear favorite of the four in the park (the others being Royal Terrace Falls, Crystal Pool Falls, and Lower McDowell Creek Falls). Royal Terrace Falls is substantially taller, but had nearly run dry when I was there, so it's possible I might think more highly of it if I ever go back on a rainy day in mid-March, say.

My opinion is also colored by the fact that these photos came out better than the ones at the other falls. That's partly due to not having a lot of direct sun messing up exposure, and partly due to the nice, stable observation deck that made it easy to take longer-exposure photos. I would have posted these right away, but after I got home I noticed there were a couple of very conspicuous specks of sensor dust right on several of the photos, such that I would have to retouch them before posting. That's an annoying bit of drudgery, and I ended up dropping the photos in a To Retouch folder, and a post in Drafts, and a new item on my humble blog TODO list, and dropped the matter, um, temporarily. That was back in October, 2010. I wouldn't last long in the internet breaking news business, I guess that's what I'm trying to say here.

I've mentioned this over on Twitter before but I'm not sure I've done so here: A lot of people I know set aside the month of November to try to write a novel in 30 days. Others are growing moustaches for prostate awareness. My goal is simply to end the month with an empty blog Drafts folder. The last time I had that was many moons ago, so it does feel like sort of an ambitious goal. Maybe not as ambitious as writing a novel, but I like to think it's a somewhat more intellectual goal than growing facial hair would be. Although some readers (or former readers) might dispute that assessment. In any case, there are 10 days left in the month and I'm down to single digits in Drafts, so I just might hit the goal yet. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Terminal Tower

Photos of the Terminal Tower building in downtown Cleveland. Opened in 1930, it was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City until 1953, and it remained the tallest in Cleveland until 1991. The "Terminal" part comes from the underground rail station, which served as Cleveland's inter-city rail depot until Amtrak moved in the 1970s. The station still serves as the hub for the local Rapid rail system. The lower floors of the tower are a large shopping center, and the complex also includes a Renaissance hotel and the shiny new Horseshoe Casino (which was still under construction when I was there).

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In many ways it's Cleveland's answer to the Empire State Building. It was the tallest building in town for decades after it was built, and remains a symbol of the city. It has an observation deck near the top, although it's only open intermittently, and was closed the weekend I was in town. And like the Empire State Building, the observation deck here was originally supposed to be a dock for airships, though it doesn't appear to have ever been used for that purpose. My eyes lit up when I read about this, since I tend to go "squee" about anything involving zeppelins, blimps, dirigibles, airships, or what have you. Had it been a practical idea, you would have been able to hop on a zeppelin at the Empire State Building, cruise in swanky 1930s style over to Cleveland, and get off at the Terminal Tower. Then you could take the elevator down to the basement, hop on a train and continue on to your final destination. It makes more sense that something like this would be proposed for Cleveland once you realize that Akron (home to Goodyear and its blimps) is a short distance south of here. Cleveland Memory has a photo of the famous Graf Zeppelin at the airdock in Akron, so there's that, at least.

Anyway, over many years I've slowly come to understand that not everyone cares about zeppelins, so I probably shouldn't end with that. Everybody likes cute animals, right? How about baby peregrine falcons? If so, you may be in luck (depending on when you're actually looking at this post), as the tower has a nesting pair, and a Falcon Cam to monitor them. D'awwww.... (just don't look too closely at what they're eating)

Rocket Garden

A slideshow from the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center visitor center, an outdoor exhibit of eight rockets mostly from the pre-Apollo era. It's an interesting historical display; I just wish it didn't cut off before I was born. It would be interesting to see a modern Falcon 9 or Atlas V (like the MSL one) next to these old rockets for comparison, particularly in a few years when these contemporary rockets begin carrying people. I realize this would be rather expensive as a tourist attraction, but it seems like it would be to the benefit of future historians as well. Imagine, a century from now, trying to reconstruct the history of early rocket technology, and realizing there are no surviving copies of anything post-1970 or so except the Space Shuttle. That doesn't seem quite right. It also might help reorient the visitor experience away from 1960s nostalgia and toward more of a "Hey, here's the next cool thing we're doing". Which I imagine would broaden the appeal to people like myself who weren't around in the 60s.

Saturn V

A slideshow of the enormous Saturn V rocket on exhibit at Kennedy Space Center. The rocket has its own building, off by itself away from the main KSC Visitor Center. You arrive by shuttle bus, and sit through a multimedia extravaganza about Apollo 8 before you're ushered in to see the rocket itself. The rocket lies on its side, suspended in midair above you; you enter at the base of the rocket, beneath its five F-1 engines, and can gaze up at it as you walk along over to the top. Historical displays detail all the Apollo and Skylab missions, and a side gallery includes some space suits and assorted hardware, plus the Apollo 14 capsule, almost as an afterthought. Naturally there's a gift shop and a snack bar, and I spent money at both while I was there. The Mars Science Laboratory launch was definitely the high point of the trip, but I did bring an ultra-wide angle lens along specifically to take photos of the Saturn V. You might notice that in several of the photos, the entire rocket fits in the frame. I just wanted to make sure everyone was aware of that, mostly because it makes me feel slightly less guilty about blowing all that money on a new lens.

This is one of three complete Saturn Vs on display; the others are at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the US Space & Rocket Center in Hunstsville, Alabama. Additionally, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has a S-IC first stage by itself. That Wikipedia page mentions the astonishing fact that not one but two ground-test copies of the first stage -- 138 feet long and 5 million pounds -- seem to have been misplaced somehow. One was last seen in Huntsville, but the current whereabouts or fate of both are unknown. Most likely they were quietly scrapped, as they weren't actual flight hardware. But it's fun to imagine them gathering dust in a huge forgotten warehouse somewhere, like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, just waiting to be rediscovered.

Kennedy's Apollo Saturn V Center is an amazing sight, but a disconcerting one too; they seem to have been aiming for a "holy cathedral of engineering" effect, and they certainly pull that off, but the giant, nearly half-century-old rocket suspended in midair also reminds me of dinosaur bones on display at a natural history museum. Which is probably not something they were aiming for. I should note that I was there just a few months after the last Shuttle flight, and both KSC itself and the surrounding region reminded me of an Oregon timber town whose sawmill had just closed. Hopefully things will turn around in a few years as the SLS/Orion program starts to ramp up, although that's far from guaranteed given the ongoing federal budget shenanigans. Interestingly, one proposal for the second generation SLS booster would resurrect and update the old F-1 engine as a side booster engine. I'm kind of rooting for that proposal out of purely sentimental reasons.


Talbot-Lago, Portland Art Museum

Photos of a 1939 Talbot-Lago at the Allure of the Automobile show last year at the Portland Art Museum.

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