Sunday, July 02, 2017

West Multnomah Viaduct

The previous bridge post went on about the historic circa-1914 viaduct on the Columbia River Highway east of Multnomah Falls. I mentioned then that there was another similar viaduct just west of the falls, and a reasonably alert reader might have guessed that a post about it was coming, because when I'm doing stuff for the sake of completeness, I can't just do one of the two and leave it at that. It just wouldn't be right, you know?

In any case, the west viaduct is basically the same as the east one, but at 400' it's only half as long, and it's harder to get decent photos of the west one due to trees. On the semi-positive side, the photoset does have a couple of pics taken from on the viaduct, which I was able to do thanks to being stuck in Multnomah Falls traffic. Anyway, here are a few links about the west viaduct from across the interwebs:

East Multnomah Viaduct

The next stop on the Columbia Gorge bridge project is not exactly a bridge; the old Columbia River Highway travels on raised viaducts for a few hundred feet on either side of Multnomah Falls, for the simple reason that there was nowhere else to put a road back then, as the only bit of flat ground was already taken up by the railroad line. (The area where I-84 runs now was filled in much later, and was just river or wetland a century ago). Like most bridges on this stretch of highway, the viaducts were designed by K.P. Billner, who wrote about them in a 1915 article:

Two long concrete viaducts, which stand against the hillside like steps, solved the problems existing near Multnomah Falls. Here the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Co.’s road occupied all of the available space along the river. The cost of excavating a 24-ft. roadway along this railroad, and of carrying the excavated material across the track to the river, was practically prohibitive. Figure is a view of the 860-ft. viaduct located east of Multnomah Falls. The West Multnomah Viaduct is similar to that shown in Fig. 6. In the West Multnomah Viaduct, however, the the railing extends along the masonry retaining wall.

The roadways of these viaducts are carried on two parallel lines of columns spaced 17 ft. 6 ins. on centers. The longitudinal spacing of these columns is 20 ft. As protection agains possible settlement of the upper columns, inclined struts, following the slope of the hill, are placed between the upper and lower columns, these struts being capable of carrying the weight of the structure. A railing, consisting of cement mortar on metal lath reinforcement, is placed along the railroad side only (see Fig 6.).

A page about the east viaduct at Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway includes a few vintage photos, and notes that the east viaduct cost $22,520.83 in 1915 dollars, making it the second most expensive structure on the highway, second only to the Latourell Creek bridge. The east viaduct also has a BridgeHunter page, and the Library of Congress has a Historic American Engineering Record entry for it with a few old photos, which are mostly interesting because they're taken from angles you physically can't get to anymore, unless you feel like standing in the middle of eastbound I-84. Legal says I have to remind people not to do that, btw. The photos you see here were taken from the far eastern tip of the I-84 Multnomah Falls parking lot/rest area, which I think is probably the only way you can see underneath the structure now without being in a moving vehicle.

Given all that went into creating the Multnomah viaducts, it's a shame they're contenders for everyone's least favorite part of the old highway. They were engineering marvels of the Model T era, but they weren't designed with wider vehicles in mind, and it seems like there's always a giant RV with extra-wide side mirrors heading the other direction whenever you drive across one of the viaducts. In the last 10 years or so, it's also become rather likely you'll be stuck in a huge traffic jam all the way through the Multnomah Falls area, which doesn't really enhance the viaduct experience either. Widening the road is probably out; the viaducts are protected historic structures, and even if they weren't the rail line is still right next door & there's nowhere to put a wider road. I suspect that at some point they'll have to ban private vehicles along this part of the road, at least during high tourist season, and only allow shuttle buses along the road, sort of like what the National Park Service ended up doing in Yosemite National Park. This won't happen anytime soon, but in the longer term it seems inevitable to me. Then the shuttle drivers can tell their passengers the scary narrow part is coming up, and people can wave at the shuttle going the other direction, just inches away, and it'll just be another fun part of the show.

Multnomah Creek Bridge

Next up, here are a few photos of the historic 1914 highway bridge at Multnomah Falls. (Did I mention there's an ongoing Columbia Gorge bridge project? Because there is.) The comprehensive Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon (1989) describes the bridge thusly (via

The Multnomah Creek Bridge, near the 620-foot drop of Multnomah Falls, is a noteworthy short-span arch and is a significant component of the old Columbia River Highway. This reinforced concrete deck arch is 67 feet in length .The barrel arch has solid spandrel walls and is 40 feet in length. The bridge was designed by K.P. Billner under the supervision of C.H. Purcell, State Bridge Engineer, and S.C. Lancaster, Assistant State Highway Engineer. It was constructed [in 1914] by the Pacific Bridge Company of Portland.
Smith, Dwight A., James B. Norman, and Pieter T. Dykman. Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon. Portland, Or: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1989, page 143.

It's not the biggest or most innovative of the old highway's bridges; a 1915 Engineering and Contracting article by Billner describes various bridges along the highway and the engineering challenges they addressed, and the Multnomah Creek bridge only merited a brief mention: "Figure 7 shows two bridges of the arch type at Multnomah Falls. This view also shows the falls, which is one of the scenic attractions along the highway.". The other of the two arch bridges is the famous Benson Bridge between the upper and lower falls, so I gather the key design feature here is that the two bridges were meant to form a harmonious pair. Most of Billner's article is devoted to his bridge at Latourell Creek, and my post about that bridge has a bit more background on Billner (who still doesn't have his own Wikipedia bio, somehow).

Elsewhere around the interwebs, the bridge also has the usual Structurae and Bridgehunter pages, and the Library of Congress has a couple of vintage photos of it. And of course there are lots of other photos of it around the interwebs. The waterfall is obviously the main event here, but seeing as it gets multiple millions of visitors per year, a few of them are bound to take an interest in the old arched bridge they pass on their way to the gift shop. The bridge also gets a mention in a recent ODOT presentation about mathematical buckling analysis of arch bridges. It has a section on "Common Arch Bridge Types", and cites a few Oregon bridges for each type, since ODOT has lots of arch bridges and I gather they're rather proud of them. I dunno, I think stuff like this is interesting even if I don't completely understand it.

Questions for Humans: Dreams Wall

Next mural on the ongoing tour is Questions for Humans: Dreams Wall, on an industrial building at SE 10th & Salmon. This was created in 2015 by artist Gary Hirsch, and is one of a series of four Questions for Humans murals scattered around inner SE Portland; we visited Curiosity Wall a while back, so I still have to find Joy Wall and Relationship Wall to complete the set. As with the last wall, I sort of disobeyed the instructions by just taking photos to blog about later (almost a year later, as it turns out), rather than posting a selfie of myself with the mural. Technically speaking the last photo in the photoset includes a reflective RACC sign about the mural, and you can kind of see a silhouette of my hand holding my phone. That's about as much selfie as you're ever likely to see here; it's just not my thing, I guess.

While poking around the RACC site, I realized the artist behind these murals also created Upstream Downtown, the goofy salmon panels on one of downtown Portland's ugly parking garages, which were painted wayyy back in 1992.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Guardian

Next up, we're taking a look at The Guardian, the big tiger mural on Water Ave. between Yamhill & Belmont, at the east end of the Morrison Bridge. This was created in 2016 by artist Ernesto Maranje, as part of the same project as Under the Same Sky in downtown Portland. The RACC page for the mural describes what it's about, beyond just being a cool tiger:

This mural was created through the AptArt (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) “Paint Outside the Lines” campaign, a multi-wall mural project where trans-global artists are engaging with marginalized groups in the Portland community. Youth from p:ear worked with Ernesto Maranje on this mural with the goal of addressing the reality of growing economic gaps and the impact that divide has on all of society. As the wealth divide in the United States grows, so does the number of people made homeless. The youth painted their identity and things of importance into the shapes of flowers. A larger than life tiger stands guard above the flowers, protecting them as they develop and grow in a dreamy world. Next to the tiger a bird takes flight representing the potential all humans have when nurtured and protected. Elements of coral and sea life adorn the tiger, bird and flowers, highlighting the connection we all share regardless of where we come from or where we are going.

Under the Same Sky

Next up, we're looking at Under the Same Sky, a huge mural at SW 2nd & Stark, created in 2016 by artist Kevin Ledo with help from a local refugee & immigrant youth organization. The RACC page for it includes a short description:

This mural was created through the AptArt (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) “Paint Outside the Lines” campaign, a multi-wall mural project where trans-global artists are engaging with marginalized groups in the Portland community. Students from David Douglas High School and R.I.S.E. (Refugee & Immigrant Student Empowerment) worked with artist Kevin Ledo to create stencils and words in Arabic, Swahili, English and Somali about belonging and diversity that were applied to the mural.

Since its founding six years ago, AptArt has facilitated workshops and collaborative murals with communities living in conflict-affected areas, including Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Jordan. Portland is the first U.S. city to be a part of this effort. Artists Kevin Ledo, Ernesto Maranje, and Ruben Sanchez are painting murals at four sites in Downtown Portland and the Central Eastside Industrial District as part of the program, which takes place in 2016 and 2017.

Lucky Lab mural

A little mural inside the Lucky Lab brewpub on NW Quimby, with an arrow pointing toward the restrooms. I don't usually do indoor murals, but this one contained dogs and hops, plus I was headed to the restroom anyway, so I figured I might as well take a couple of photos. The hashtag above the signature in a few of the photos points to the creator's IG profile & website, minus the hash symbol obviously.

Arts Base murals

Here's are a few photos of the Arts Base murals on a former upholstery store at N. Williams Ave. & Wygant, as seen back in December 2014 when I took these photos and promptly forgot about them in the Drafts folder. A 2011 Portland Street Art piece explains that a group of artists & local residents rented the abandoned store, covered the outside in murals, and converted the inside to studio space. City Hall, on its usual quest to seek and destroy all unpermitted fun, declared the murals to be graffiti and ordered them painted over. Eventually the city relented somewhat and agreed the murals could stay, but the artists & their studios in the building had to go, because zoning. So the end result was a brightly painted and now re-abandoned building, at least as of December 2014 when I stopped by. Through the magic of Google Street View, I see that the same murals were still there in November 2015, but by June 2016 they'd been replaced by a much more sedate -- even tasteful -- yellow and grey geometric pattern. I can't help but think the swanky new townhouses across the street had something to do with the murals being toned down.