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Street Scene Series: West Burnside Street Portland Oregon

Today’s Portland, Oregon, street scene photo was taken for the Public Works Department in the City on West Burnside Street at SW 5th Avenue before construction began to modernize the thoroughfare.

This intersection is located five blocks west of Waterside Park on the Willamette River were West Burnside meets the Burnside Bridge that continues on to the east side of the City. None of the buildings in this scene has survived.

With the exception of the 1923 or earlier Model “T” Ford in the left-hand lane, most of the vehicles appear to be mid-to-late-1920s vintage. Note the extra width delivery trailer in the right-hand lane.

Let us know what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of Vintage Portland.

21 responses to “Street Scene Series: West Burnside Street Portland Oregon

  1. My ancestors came to Portland in the 1880s and began designing and building bridges, some of which are still there, but they sold their business in the mid 1920s, just about the time the (new) Burnside Bridge was built. There was a bribery scandal connected with that project, but no one in the family ever talked about whether it had anything to do with their abrupt exit from the bridge-building business. One can speculate, however!

  2. I dont think that the thing in the right lane is a trailer… Looking under it, there are only 5 wheels visible . The 4 dual wheels, and one single one in the front. The “pumpkin” on the rear end is there…

    I do not remember the name of the machine… But I think its one of those low bed delivery trucks…


    Its there is a step that we can not see and the item on the back is hanging off the back and is tied up… Like an old moving truck…

  3. Behind the four door Model A is a suicide door Essex and next to the traffic light is a 1925/27 Buick. Parked on the other side of the street are two Oldsmobiles, a roadster and a sedan.

  4. Nice photo. The 1929 Ford Fordor with the cowl band and cowl lights has a Murray body, the cowls don’t interchange with Briggs bodies. Bob

  5. Looking at all those cars parked at the curb, it’s interesting to see the ’20 s vintage Model T coming down the road. It’s amazing how all those cars are downright modern in comparison.

  6. Take note of the model “T” ‘s position on the road!!! The driver learned — (somewhere along the way!) to stay away (!) from the Streetcar tracks ! Note the multiple numbers of Tracks merging —- directly in front of the “T” This requires strict attention to steering (!) to not allow the front wheels to drop into the “flanged tracks”, otherwise the “T” would: “attempt to make a right turn” , almost , just in time — to plow into the Model “A” ‘s, at the curb! (The “T” drive knows this” , as the “T” Has simpler “planetary” steering that can yank the wheel away — if the driver’s grip is not firm !!!
    Also: notice the “Red Flag” at the back of the 1900 vintage street car’s rear entry , (in the foreground of the photo) This is required by law — to let vehicle traffic “know” that: The back of the Streetcar hasn’t cleared the Intersection!!! (A “left-over” of “horse – drawn drayage collision days” that continued in the Los Angeles P.E.RY ” Red Cars” until 1957, when all Streetcars were discontinued! It was even more “dramatic” as the Conductor’s Job was to “Wave the Red Flag ” from the rear landing, to warn cars & drayage trucks at critical intersections! Edwin W.

  7. Not to sure that’s West Burnside street. Burnside runs straight from the bridge to the West hills at 23rd and Burnside.
    Could that be NW Glisan just west of the Steel Bridge?

  8. Note the painted sign on the upper side of the building with the N>B> and MARK under it has the word PACKARD in script. to the right of it. The small amount that shows is the same end as the letter “P” of the script used by Packard on the 1928 4-43 radiators.

  9. As usual, one has to wonder what was the occasion to take this photo? Judging by the general rundown condition of the poorly maintained street paving and ratty commercial buildings, it might have been a photo used in a proposal to tear it all down and renew the area by City Council edict and planning commission (if they had one). Those old brick buildings probably had very limited amounts of steel in them for strength particularly considering the seismic risk of the entire Pacific Northwest.

    The camdlelabra street lamps are pretty classic. One on left corner seems to have lost both globes though. The traffic signals are a bit unusual. Red/Green (stop/go) lamps are large with a smaller (addon?) perhaps amber caution lamp below them! The little topknot finial on each is archaic. Never saw this type before. Probably all gone by the time I started noticing these gadgets as a kid in late 1940s around Los Angeles.

    I only see one very small street name sign at the intersection on the right under a white globe lamp. I don’t see any “safety zones” painted on the streets for the street car patrons. Likewise, no crossing walk markings for pedestrians. Car parking is permitted clear up to the intersection corners. So pedestrians have to be very cautious entering the street! Pretty thoughtless use of the streets for safety sake.

    The vehicle hauling the white appliance down the street almost looks as though it might have dual rear wheels on it for very heavy load support. Perhaps a trailer or truck re-purposed in its new role of transfer or delivery. Maybe it’s headed to the tall Security Moving and Storage building on the left down the street. The ominous water tower on top of their building indicates the city may have required this if there was insufficient fire hydrant pressure to reach the upper floors of that building in the event of a fire. It is really ugly. No attempt was made to disguise or enclose it; strictly functional with yet another place to slap some signage on it.

    I notice the nearly complete lack of grand high quality cars on this street. Probably a pretty unfashionable neighborhood just for us “working class” folks. I do like the pretty good looking roadster on the right side of the street with the large disc wheels and huge headlights (previously ID’d as an Oldsmobile?).

    I guess Portland is now considered a very “progressive” city (or “not” with current local street political clashes). All cities seem to have good and bad attibutes depending on their economic conditions, civic pride and local political leanings. This series of photos sure brings these characteristics out.

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