These pages are © Copyright 2001-2007, by Julie Kidd, all rights reserved.
Please report any broken links, or other concerns, to the webmaster.
Please respect copyright on and off the Internet.
WILLAMETTE RIVER BRIDGE AT PORTLAND.
MORE than sixteen years ago, Stephen Maybell, then a young and untutored bard of some native genius, who resided in East Portland, ventured the prediction, that, among the early achievements of the progressive spirit of enterprise, a bridge would be constructed across the Willamette river, at Portland. This theme he duly celebrated in verse, and it has passed into the permanent literature of the vaporous land of Webfoot. Once upon a time, when suddenly seized with the glow and fervor of poetic inspiration, Mr. Maybell dashed off a poem, many lines in length, in which the prediction was breathed (in fact, it was repeated at the close of each stanza) that the romantic Willamette would be spanned by a bridge, and that we should all "see it yet." The opening verse ran in soft, mellifluous numbers, as follows
What once only existed in the dreams of the young bard’s imagination, and took the shape and form of impassioned song, has now become, after the lapse of years, a palpable reality. In all truth, the doggerel, which, by common courtesy, may be dignified by the appellation of "poetry," was indited in a serio-comic style, and reads much more like a satire than a sincere prediction; nevertheless, the poet has, thoughtlessly or otherwise, written himself down a genuine prophet. After encountering almost numberless impediments, and waging a long, expensive legal warfare, the enterprise and determination of a few men of means have overcome every obstacle, and the project of constructing a bridge is now, virtually, an accomplished fact.
As these lines are being penned, the bridge, while not completed and ready for actual public service, is rapidly approaching the finishing strokes. Four of the spans are already in position, the roadway and walks on each side of the structure have been laid, and the other parts are being pushed toward an early completion. What principally remains to be accomplished, is the putting together and placing in position of the huge draw. It is thought that ten days will be required to complete this work, after all the necessary materials have arrived. The greater part of the draw is being manufactured in the East, and when the sections reach this city it will be a comparatively small task to put the work together. The material is expected to arrive about the twentieth of February. By the first of March, or during the early part of the month, at the very latest, the Morrison street bridge will be completed and ready for travel. This is the present expectation of the company, should no unforeseen obstacle arise. It is confidently believed that the application for an injunction, now pending before the United States court, will not result in any serious interference with the operations.
Column upon column has been written on the subject of the bridge which is so soon to span the Willamette river, since the inception of the important enterprise. It is not with the purpose of giving a history of the original organization of the bridge company, or to enter into a discussion of the merits of the long, expensive and vexatious course of litigation which has followed the inauguration of the project, that this article has been written, but principally to furnish a plain and intelligible description of the bridge itself. The incorporated name of the company is "The Willamette Iron Bridge Company." The capital stock has been fixed at $200,000.00. The officers of the company are William Beck, president and treasurer; C. F. Swigert, secretary; William Beck, Rufus Mallory, Charles Wiberg, C. F. Swigert and John W. Brazee, board of directors.
In connection with the work of building the bridge it is not out of place to state that operations have been, and still are, under the immediate charge of Mr. H. C. Campbell, who represents the contractors. Mr. Campbell has had long experience in the construction of various important bridges in the East, and is in every respect competent to handle an undertaking of such magnitude. Active operations were commenced about the first of September, 1886.
For several months a force of men was employed in quarrying stone, in the vicinity of Oswego, and another force engaged at Fisher’s landing, on the Columbia, getting out dimension stone, of which the piers have been constructed. In building the spans, work was commenced, for convenience, at the eastern end. For each span, rows of piles were driven, temporarily, on which cross timbers were laid. These constituted the false work, and were merely to support the permanent spans until they could be securely braced and " keyed up." The false work was then torn away.
The best materials obtainable—wood, stone, iron and steel—have been used in building the bridge, and the most experienced workmen employed in putting them together. The iron cylinders for the tubular piers were manufactured in Pittsburg, and the plates put together by Messrs. Trenkmann & Wolff, of this city. All the heavy castings were made by the Willamette Iron Works. Iron for the long spans was made in San Francisco. The entire structure was designed by the Pacific Bridge Company, of Portland, and is a splendid specimen of bridge architecture. The structure is what is known as the "Pratt Truss Bridge." It rests on seven piers, three of which are built of stone, the others being immense iron tubes, filled with stone and cement. Pier No. 1 stands one hundred and sixty feet east of the Morrison street wharf. The foundation consists of piles, strong timbers, stones and cribbage. Ninety-four large, sound, red fir piles were driven firmly into the bed of the river, and capped with square timbers twelve by fourteen inches, and cross-capped with timbers ten by twelve inches. Around these piles a strong cribwork of timber was built, the lower sides resting on the bed of the river, the space between the crib and piling being filled with stone. The tops of these piles have been sawed off at a point two and one-half feet below the lowest water mark, so that none of the timbers used in the foundation will ever be above the water line, or exposed to atmospheric influence. Repeated experiments have demonstrated that timber thus submerged will remain sound for an indefinite period. The dimensions of the wood work of this pier are, length, forty-four feet and four inches; width, thirteen feet. The masonry resting on this is thirty-two feet in length by nine feet in width, at the base, and rises to the floor of the bridge, thirty-five feet two and one-half inches above the lowest stage of water in the river, at the foot of Stark street. This altitude brings the bridge seven feet above the highest point reached by the river of which there is any record. This pier is the rest for the west arm of the draw.
Pier No. 2 is the one on which will rest the entire weight of the draw. It has a foundation similar to the one described above, though larger, as greater strength is required. It is octagonal in shape, the outer portions being built of cut stone and the interior filled with concrete. The latter material is as hard as the stone itself and will last as long. This pier is twenty-four feet in diameter, and rises twenty-five feet from the foundation. Pier No. 3 has been constructed, in every essential respect, similar to No. 1, and the dimensions are the same. The foundation of pier No. 4 is similar to that of the first. From it rise two large iron tubular piers, each six feet in diameter, and filled with concrete. Both tubes are securely anchored to the foundation by a cluster of piles, which extend upward into the concrete some five or six feet. Heavy framework fills the space between the tubes. Piers Nos. 5 and 6 are duplicates of No. 4. Measuring from the extreme low stage of the river, the piers stand in the following depths of water: No. 1, sixty feet; No. 2, fifty-five feet; No. 3, forty feet; No. 4, thirteen feet; No. 5, between five and six feet; No. 6, five feet.
On the west end, the approach of the bridge is one hundred and sixty feet in length, reaching from the east ‘line of Front street to the pier situated at the wharf line. The first span is one hundred and sixty feet in length, and consists of eight panels and the supporting timbers, which are twenty-six feet high. The full length of the draw span is three hundred and eight feet. This span is twenty-six feet high at each end and forty feet in the center. The huge structure consists of twenty-six panels, and is of the style known as the "Warren Girder." At the lowest stage of water, the exact distance between the masonry on each side of the center pier is one hundred and thirty-eight feet; at the highest recorded stage the distance is one hundred and thirty-five feet. On he large octagonal pier will he placed the turn-table, and on this the draw will be accurately balanced. The turn-table consists of thirty-two east iron wheels, each fifteen inches in diameter. These wheels are cone-shaped and travel between two tracks above and below. The draw can make a complete revolution, either to the right or left, and has been so geared that it can be operated by either steam or hand. The three spans east of the draw are each two hundred and sixty feet in length, and each consists of twelve panels. The ends are thirty-six feet high, and the centers forty-three feet. The roadway, is twenty feet in the clear, flanked on each side by a walk five feet wide for pedestrians. There will be ample room for laying two tracks for a street railway, without interfering with the travel of other vehicles. The floor beams, joists and flooring of the bridge are of wood, fastened securely together by a complicated system of iron bolts, rods and supports. On the east side the approach is two hundred and thirty-five feet long, extending from the last span to a junction with Water street, East Portland. The total length of the bridge, including approaches, is one thousand, six hundred and fifty feet. Without a doubt, it is the longest and most imposing structure of the kind west of the Rocky mountains. All the piers are well protected from the current and masses of driftwood. The pivotal pier is well shielded by the draw rest, and on the up-stream sides of the tubular piers clusters of "dolphin" piles are driven. The draw rest consists of a wooden structure, built of piles, extending at right angles with the swing when it is closed. It is as long as the swing and as wide as the bridge. At the north and south ends it narrows to a sharp point. The piles are driven firmly into the bed of the river, but fastened somewhat loosely at the tops to allow them to give when a vessel comes in contact with them. Along each side of the rest heavy timbers will be fastened horizontally which will serve as fenders. While perfectly safe and permanent, the entire draw rest will be sufficiently yielding to break the force of any boats accidentally steered against it. With the protection afforded by the draw rest and the lines of swinging piles there is no more danger in passing through the draw than in steaming alongside a wharf.
Of the many and great public advantages which will, undoubtedly, accrue from the completion of this bridge, it seems scarcely necessary to write. It will afford the residents of East Portland and the extensive farming, gardening and dairying region beyond, an easy and convenient means of reaching this city. However commodious may be the boats, and however complete may be the appointments, a bridge is always vastly superior to any reasonable system or number of ferries. The inadequacy of ferry boats has been clearly demonstrated in the past. A bridge avoids all serious obstacles which interfere with the continuous operation of a ferry, and furnishes an almost uninterrupted passage to vehicles and pedestrians.
Portland will reap a rich, and constantly augmenting, harvest, in the increase of travel and trade, which will flow hitherward, following the natural gravitation of business. East Portland will be brought into closer relationship with the metropolis, and consequently, real estate and improvements in that city will become greatly enhanced in value. Many persons engaged in business in Portland, will, no doubt, now become residents of our sister city. From any point of view—apart from the consideration that the structure must, necessarily, be more or less an obstruction to navigation—it must be seen that the construction of the bridge is highly beneficial to the natural growth and welfare of Multnomah county. It is the purpose of the company to lay a double street car track across the bridge, if satisfactory arrangements can be effected. Such an improvement would no doubt add a decided impetus to the material development of East Portland and the county. In this way a system of street railways could be introduced into that city, and operated in direct connection with the several lines in Portland, furnishing a rapid and convenient method of reaching localities too remote to be gained by walking, and would lead to the building of many suburban residences. It would also, probably, cause the purchase, laying out and beautifying of public grounds and parks, which would become popular places of resort on holidays.
From time to time during the past fifteen years, the question of consolidating the two municipalities has been agitated. By merging the municipal government of East Portland into that of this city, it is thought, by many tax payers, that greater public economy would be secured, and the proposition has met with considerable favor among property owners. The completion of the bridge will most certainly bring the two cities nearer together by strong ties of mutual interest, and who can tell but that it will act as a very important factor in solving the question of consolidation? Surely, if the project were a feasible one before the completion of the structure, it is much more so now.
J. M. Baltimore