Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lafayette & Brooklyn-Gideon Footbridges.

The Lafayette footbridge was built, I think, by Union Pacific or Southern Pacific Railroad (depending on how old it is), since there is a lack of records or clues, at least on the infobahn, to provide a date of construction. Admittedly, given its apparent vintage, I would like to believe that simply no one thought it worthwhile to note the construction, seeing as, after all, its only a footbridge over some train tracks.

My guess would be post-WWII. An old zine I have confirms its presence in the early 1990s. So that "pinpoints" construction from the 1940s to the 1980s. Regardless, its old, and the wooden planks that make up its floorboards squeak and shake and flex a bit.

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Lafayette bridge - looking west.

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Lafayette footbridge viewed from the south.

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Lafayette pedestrian bridge - looking east.

I feel it worth mentioning that this bridge doesn't actually have a name. "Lafayette footbridge" or "Lafayette ped[estrian] bridge" refer only to the fact that it abuts S.E. Lafayette street. I don't think the Marquis de Lafayette ever set foot in Portland, Oregon, much less the Brooklyn train yards.

The Brooklyn-Gideon Footbridge, by contrast, is clearly a more recent effort (although also officially unnamed). In fact, I swear some online maps still show an actual street RR crossing here, a supposition supported by the dead-ending and concrete blocking-off of Brooklyn Street.

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Brooklyn-Gideon footbridge, viewed from the east.

Since the Brooklyn-Gideon Bridge doesn't span the Brooklyn Yards proper the way the Lafayette bridge does, hanging out at Brokklyn-Gideon will bear witness to many more people using the tracks as a shortcut through or around the mess that is the confluence of Powell, the train tracks, 99E, Milwaukie, Division, and SE 11th & 12th Avenues. Train-hopping can also be observed from here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Portland Fire of 1873.

(August 2, 1873)

Burning for 24 hours, the Portland Fire of August 1873 reduced 22 blocks worth of downtown to ashes, including parts of then-Chinatown and many brick buildings housing a storefront business and apartments above or behind it. All 5 companies of Portland's volunteer firemen worked round the clock, and were aided by companies from Salem, who arrived by train, and Vancouver, who arrived by river.

Oregon Historical Society collection
Front Street looking west between Madison &
Jefferson at the First Congregational Church.

8 months earlier, in December 1872, a Chinese laundry was, most likely, set ablaze by anti-Chinese arsonists, and conflagrated, destroying a few blocks surrounding Morrison & Front. This yet to be rebuilt zone substituted as a containment device in the August 1873 Fire.

Although the elegant St. Charles Hotel was heroically spared from the flames, the volunteer firefighters proved generally disorganized, lacking the leadership of a professional fire chief. Attempts to improve Portland's fire-fighting capacities after the December 1872 fire had only resulted in a bigger, louder, 4,000 pound fire bell.

Oregon Historical Society colletion
The area affected by the fire. You can see that "old town" just south of Bursnide was spared.

Given the scale of the fire's destruction and that most of the businesses destroyed were either partially insured or not insured at all, losses amounted to a then-staggering $925,000. Portland recovered but the fire served to push the town's center away from the waterfront and further inland to the west.