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Busy Street Scene Image in Downtown Portland, Oregon

Today’s street scene image was taken at the intersection of SW Morrison Street and SW 4th Avenue on a rainy day in Portland, Oregon. The clock on the Drug Store on the left-hand corner indicates that it was noontime. A quick view of the vehicles on Morrison apparently shows the newest one in the scene is a 1940 Ford pickup truck that would date the picture to the Fall of 1939 or later.

A modern street view shows that most of the buildings have been replaced, but the streetcar tracks remain on SW 4th Avenue. Let us know what you find of interest in the photograph courtesy of Vintage Portland.

27 responses to “Busy Street Scene Image in Downtown Portland, Oregon

  1. In the lead photograph, taking a right hand turn in the intersection [going to the left in picture], is a four-door 1939 DeSOTO.

  2. Movies….
    Outpost of the Mounties – Released September 13, 1939.
    March of Time – Newsreel series which ran from 1935 to 1951.

    Didn’t we have photos of this street before back up the street?
    I remember the overhead signs Capitol and Multnomah.

  3. The license plates are very blurry, but it looks like the registration is at the bottom of the plate, with the state and date at the top, which would mean they’re 1940 plates (1939 plates have the state and date at the bottom and the registration at the top).

  4. If indeed the movie playing at the theatre is “Outpost of the Mounties”, which starred Charles Starrett, Iris Meredith and Stanley Brown, then this picture would have been taken in late 1939 as the movie was released on September 13th of that year.

    • It was also C. C. Coleman’s last feature as a director, though he’d continue working as an assistant director on well-received films like Blue Dahlia, Stalag 17, and Vertigo.

  5. Maybe it’s the rain, or B&W pic, but looks like just boring old cars, nothing fancy, ( except to have them today) although, I do like the 39-40 Ford pickup. The “Lacy Bros.” truck looks a late 30’s GMC.

  6. That’s a nice looking 1928 Chevrolet 2-door sedan in the foreground. Unusual to see one in this good condition by 1939.

  7. There is a 1940 Ford Pickup in the center and to the left of it in the photo is a 1940 Ford V8 (standard) coupe. I’d say the photo was taken in 1940.

  8. Very interesting photo. Maybe a blue collar area? I can’t recall ever seeing so many cars nearly ten years old in a photo from that era. The ’28 Chevrolet may be the oldest (and in very nice condition at that point), but I see about a dozen other late ’20s to ’32 cars. Most I cannot identify because there just isn’t enough detail shown. Most are largely hidden by other cars. some are just too far away. One, however, I think is a ’29 to ’31 Buick.

    I think part of my issue with the older cars, is that when I was very young, my dad’s personal car was a ’41 Chevrolet four door sedan. I can remember it quite fondly, and I know that it was twelve to eighteen years old when he had it, and we rode in it everywhere. It seems natural to me that even then, there should be many cars on the roads approaching twenty years of age (my Ford Expedition is now 17 years old). However, in most photos of the late ’30s (in spite of the depression) through the ’60s, very few older cars are seen in regular traffic.
    It is kind of refreshing to see an almost 1940 photo with a dozen nearly ten year old cars mixed in among all the rest.

    Thank you David G, as always.

  9. A lot of those cars will still be on the road in 1946 as there were no new cars during the war.
    When car production resumed in 46 it took a while for cars to get to Oregon. People went to Detroit to get cars and drove them back to Oregon or had them driven. I grew up in Eugene but my dad had business in Portland so we made a lot of trips there just before the war. I would love to be able to go into some of those stores today and just roam around looking at the prewar stuff, especially the hardware store. Thanks for the great pic of wet Portland.

  10. A very good cross section of Joe Public’s transportation & commercial vehicles , a scene just before WW-2’s gas rationing stickers, tire rationing, 35 MPH speed limit and: Is this trip really necessary? Blink Twice, and you might think that the De Soto was a ’39 Ford! 1940 was the last year for the V8-60 optional engine. The same car would also have a: Tubular front Axle, (very popular for later “Hot Rod” use!)

  11. It is always interesting in these old photos to see how styling had changed from the “square-rigged” cars of the late 20’s to the “Art Deco” streamlined styling of the late 1930’s.

  12. The large Capitol neon sign hanging up over the road is amazing. I wonder how they got approval for that. Has anyone seen this sort of thing elsewhere back then ?

  13. Under the Hardware sign: Lucy Bros Transfer box truck looks like a 38 Chevrolet, followed by a smaller box truck with cab hidden, and then looks like a 39 Chevrolet panel truck.

  14. And another ’40 Ford going away from us in center lane. Like to get in my ‘way back’ machine and visit that era.

  15. The cars are very undistinguished in this scene, but times were still not very good in the post ’38 economic slump from what I have read. Lots of inexpensive models at low prices were being introduced in ’38-’40 and clunkers were still on the road out of necessity.

  16. I just notice the very slim and tall radio station transmitter tower and the enormous above ground natural gas storage tank in the background (visually just above and to the right of the two big billboards and ugly “MULTNOMAN” sign). It looks like both the tower and gas tank are right near the downtown commercial area. A strange sight, perhaps due to some foreshortening effect of the camera lens at this distant viewpoint. I wonder how close this downtown area was to what might be an adjacent industrial area?

    • Hi again,
      I’m beginning to think that I might be mistaken about calling that tall skinny but noticeable vertical line at the back of the photo just to the left of the enormous natural gas storage tank is nothing more than a big scratch on the photo print or negative! I wonder if Dave can tell us. Tower or scratched photo?

  17. Fred Meyers Drug Store the company was founded in 1922 in Portland, Oregon, by Fred G. Meyer. It merged with Kroger in 1999.

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