Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grand & MLK Viaducts, Sullivan's Gulch

Grand & MLK Viaducts
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A recent post here covered Portland's 12th Avenue Viaduct, a very obscure sorta-bridge designed by a famous engineering firm. While I was taking those photos, I also took a few of the Grand Avenue & MLK viaducts over Sullivan's Gulch, on the off-chance they were designed by the same firm. I'm still not sure whether that's true or not; signs on both indicate they were built by Seattle's International Contract Company circa 1907, but nothing indicates who designed them. The city archives has a pamphlet by the construction firm about the Grand Ave. Viaduct and other recent projects of theirs, but it unfortunately isn't online. I suppose I could put in a city records request for it, but I'm not sure I'm quite curious enough to make that worthwhile. The city appropriated money for the two bridges in June 1904, to the tune of $55,000 for the Union Avenue (now MLK) one, and $45,000 for the Grand Avenue one. During the same session, the city council also voted to limit automobiles to eight miles per hour within city limits. One councilman reasoned: "You can't drive horses over six miles an hour, why should those machines go any faster? Nobody but millionaires and sports use them, anyway."

Regardless of who designed the two viaducts, they're still kind of interesting. As with the 12th Avenue viaduct, people tend to think of them as ordinary freeway overpasses, but they were built long before Interstate 84 went in. (See, for example, this 1938 photo at Vintage Portland.) Old, somewhat historic, and very obscure structures, hiding in plain sight, with people constantly driving on and beneath them, and having no idea what they're looking at. My being fascinated by this sort of thing is probably how I ended up running this weird little humble blog almost nobody reads.

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