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City Street Scene: Downtown Portland, Oregon 1949

Today’s image takes us to Portland, Oregon for an overhead view of the intersection of SW 5th Avenue and Washington Street. The location is about ten blocks northeast of Downtown and five blocks northwest of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the Willamette River that flows between the City and East Portland.

The great majority of the cars on the streets are post-war models which indicates that the population in and around the Portland area were able to afford and find new cars in the sellers market after World War II.

On the far-left is the front end of a streetcar, that is still a viable means of transport in the City and to this day services SW 5th Avenue; in contrast is a diesel-powered bus in the center. The intricate patterns of the streetcar tracks and paving blocks or bricks really stand out in this picture.

Tell us what you find of interest in this photograph via Vintage Portland, courtesy of the City of Portland Archives.

14 responses to “City Street Scene: Downtown Portland, Oregon 1949

    • Dave,

      Good eye !!

      Looks like either a Roadmaster or Super. It is not a Special as they did not produce convertibles 1946 through ’48; also Specials didn’t have the front fenders flowing into the rear fenders.

      Parked at the curb, next to this BUICK convertible is 1947 to ’49 STUDEBAKER Starlight Coupé, might be a Champion.


      • The Buick looks almost french, foreign from that angle a little more “restrianed”, perhaps… behind the Sutudebaker, a ’40 DeSoto, maybe?

        • Graham,

          To me it is a toss up, either a ’40 PLYMOUTH or a ’40 DeSOTO. It doesn’t have “silver streaks” that started a little above the rear lights and went down to the bumper that I’ve as seen on ’40 DeSOTO [this may have been a Custom only option which the DeLuxe may not have had].


  1. In Japan they have two lane crosswalks in some areas, but they are for bicycles and peds. They also have actual ‘cross’ walks made famous in ‘Lost in Translation’ in very crowded areas like Ginza and Shibuya, called Scramble intersections. where all ped crossing is done at one time, including diagonal ones. The only place they have directed lanes is in some stations with heavy traffic, where right hand drive rules prevail, i.e. people walk on the left. But it looks like Portland was pretty progressive with this use.

  2. You can really see the difference between a panel vehicle car based and a panel truck( straddling the cross walk). Wonder what prompted the commercial enterprise owner to buy one or t’other. Urban or rural, soft or hard goods, long /short range, upscale or not…like Hudson’s open bed, same questions. Hard decision… had to be.

    Speaking of Hudsons, is that a prewar ’40s one behind the bus followed by a postwar harmonica grilled Chrysler parked at the curb?

  3. The photo sure makes the case for use of walk lights. Cars stuck in the intersection blocking traffic, not good.

  4. The car in front of the studebaker parked on the right I think is a 49 Chevrolet fleet line
    The street looks wet ;typical eternal Portland drizzle

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