Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Shelters are Gone

center of bridge showing three of the four shelters

In high school my main means of transportation was either my feet, a green Robin Hood 3 speed bicycle, or Rose City Transit, if I was feeling wealthy enough for the fare. Countless times I have crossed the Hawthorne Bridge, and in my days as a pedestrian, many is the time I was sheltered from a downpour by the quaint little shelters that were placed nearer to the west side of the river.

In those days these shelters puzzled me, but not enough to seek out an answer. There were more pressing mysteries to an adolescent than the reason why some bridge builder thought that four bus shelters were a good idea when there wasn't any reason for a bus stop—although, if I remember correctly, the bus did stop at the one closest to town where there was a nearby stairs leading down to Harbor Drive and the walk by the sea wall.

Toll houses

It wasn't until after these shelters were removed, sometime during the 1989-90 remodel, that I discovered that they were once toll booths. Every pedestrian, horse and rider, wagon, carriage, automobile, and streetcar was assessed a fee at this point. There were other bridges that were free, but this one needed to pay its way for awhile.
The toll gate house on the previous bridge from a Sanborn Map  of 1901

Free bridges were a big issue in Portland for many years. The ferry operators and those involved in river traffic had no use for the slowly lumbering old swing spans of that day. Mayor Harry Lane was a big proponent of tunnels. But eventually all the bridges were free. This, like many other subjects pertaining to Portland's history, would be good material for a book, because it would take an entire book to do it justice.

I promised myself that this would be a short post, since the last one was rather large. So I am going to display an old Portland Railroad Company street car ticket to show readers the way bridge tolls were included in those days, and how the tickets dealt with areas of town. Most of the ticket is self explanatory, except for "Ford Street." When the streets were renamed in 1931, Ford Street became Vista Avenue, running uphill from 23rd Avenue.
ticket c. 1900

There are few memories that make me nostalgic for Portland of my high school days, but the shelters on the Hawthorne Bridge are one—as is the memory of Buttermilk Corner, Dave's Delicatessen, Cal's Books and Wares (where my record collection was purchased one 25 cent LP at a time), and, of course, eating hom bows with Oolong tea at Tuck Lung CafĂ©. I will stop now, except to say that Portland once felt like a city with its own character and culture. What is it today? A sort of fantasy emanating from Pearl District penthouse entrepreneurs; the name "Pearl District" itself being the fantasy of Portland art dealers in the late 1980s. Before 1987 it was known as the Northwest Warehouse District, a place I loved to wander around singing Bob Dylan's song, "Desolation Row" softly to myself.

What if these folks hadn't  come here from San Francisco, Bolder, Colorado, and New York City to work their magic flummery? We may never have had the T.V. show, "Portlandia," but the city would feel a whole lot more like home.

Anyone doubting my statement on the origins of the name, "Pearl District," or wanting to read more on the subject, please see: "A Recipe for Change," Jonathan Nichols Oregonian, Tuesday, September 1, 1987