The Vista Avenue Viaduct crosses over a historic ravine, Tanner Creek, through which the MAX Light Rail now runs. The bridge was built in 1926 to connect the King's Hill and Vista Ridge areas of Portland, and is today a wonderful position to get views of Portland Heights - or if you have a taste for heights, to do some bungee jumping. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April 1984.
Fred Fowler graduated from the University of Oregon in 1912,
after which he became a draftsman for the City of Portland. In 1921 we became
Bridge Engineer of the city, and five years later he submitted plans for this
bridge. It was built to replace the Ford Street Bridge that had previously
existed at the same location, before being relocated to the interstate freeway
(look out for the Tervilliger Overpass). Fowler hired a local construction
firm, Parker and Banfield, to build the viaduct for one hundred and seventy
thousand dollars – though the final cost was closer to two hundred thousand.
Half of this large sum was fundraised by the local community, who were eager to
establish a link between the city centre and Portland Heights. The bridge is
made of concrete, four hundred and eighty nine feet long, with massive arches
supported by Classical-style columnns. It has ornamental stone railings with
recessed bench areas, and seven lampposts of bronze and stone on either side.
The Vista Avenue Viaduct was so-called because it initially
facilitated the crossing of the Council Crest street car across Tanner Creek
Canyon. Street cars ran on rails that had been installed by the renowned
Carnegie Steel Company, and brought people from all over the city to one of the
most beloved local recreational areas: Council Crest. This was the highest
location in the city, at over one thousand feet. The Big Tree Observatory was
located there, but most people came to attend the dance hall and amusement park
that operated there in the early twentieth century. The bridge was also on the
route to Washington Park, where families could enjoy picnics, walks, sports, or
visit the Metro Zoo, or Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
The Carnegie street rails were removed after the form of public
transport fell out of use. However, the bridge is in an excellent state of
preservation, thanks largely to the local Vista Bridge Light Brigade, a
heritage and conservation association founded in 1983. It provides excellent
views towards downtown Portland, with Mt. Hood looming over the eastern
horizon. The MAX Light Rail Line runs under the bridge, as does Tanner Creek
though it is now hidden by hydraulic management. The Vista Avenue Viaduct is a
favourite location for bungee jumping – it has even been featured such a scene
in the 2004 documentary-animation “What the Bleep Do We Know!?”