Thursday, November 1, 2012

Barbur Boulevard 1961

Barbur Blvd (99W) is a 4-lane highway that connects downtown Portland to Tigard.  Before the existence of Interstate 5, Barbur Blvd was the primary transportation link from Portland to the south of Oregon.  In it's day, it was a grand highway and many businesses flourished. From it's completion in the mid 1930's to the building of I-5 in 1961, it offered weary road travelers an assortment of motels, drive ins, gas stations and stores.  The high traffic volumes fed the proprietors of these roadside "auto traps", and sustained the boulevard for many years. It really was I-5, before I-5.  The building of the Interstate signaled a change and began the start of an evolution for the blvd.  The Interstate siphoned off the long distance road travelers and changed it to a secondary arterial and business district. This evolution continues today, as only a few remnants of Barbur Boulevard's past glory remain.

Barbur Blvd began as the Southern Pacific railway.  It ran down Portland's 4th Avenue to Bertha Blvd, where it split into runs to Salem and Forest Grove.  The railroad has a long history (see time line below). The highway was the brainchild of Asbury L. Barbur, a Portland City commissioner and auditor.  Barbur envisioned turning the railway in to a highway.  For this reason, he is know as "The Father of Barbur Blvd".  His concept began in 1925, and it took over 10 years to build.  This included time necessary to negotiate the purchase of the railroad right-of-way, thru completion of the project in 1936.  Construction included the 4-lane highway (a big deal in 1934), a massive fill at Duniway Park, and construction of 2 impressive wooden viaducts.  There was an official opening of the highway on Oct 28, 1934 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.  The highway cost a total of 4 million dollars.  Much of it was done by work gangs with shovel, wheel barrow, horse and dynamite.

The highway was designed to have a scenic feel to it as people drove into Portland.  For this reason,  the adjacent property along the highway was "zoned down" to thin out businesses and offer greenery as they entered Portland from the south.  Billboards were initially outlawed and there were strict rules for road side attractions.  A beautiful canopy of trees welcomed motorists as they descended into town.  In contrast, the second section of the highway from Tigard to Bertha Blvd was open to businesses who catered to the travelers on the new highway.  Motels, gas stations, food stands, stores, etc all sprang up to accommodate the many new road travelers along Barbur Blvd.

Completed in 1936, the highway was built in 2 phases.  The first section ran from downtown Portland to Bertha Blvd (where the Burlingame Fred Meyer is). This 3.2 mile stretch was completed in 1934.  The second segment (3.3 miles) ran from Bertha Blvd to downtown Tigard. It was completed in 1936.  The boulevard utilizes much of  the old Southern Pacific Railroad right of way.  The trains had their own evolution. First freight trains utilized the track, then the Oregon Electric Railway used them before the automobile decreased usage.  The trains stopped running in 1929.

 Interstate 5 parallels Barbur Blvd from Portland to Tigard before it splits off and turns south.

Barbur Blvd c1934 below

The Piggly Wiggly store opened on Barbur Blvd and Capitol Hwy on July 17, 1936.

The Barbur Blvd Drive-In opened on July 7 1950, and ran for 6 years until it closed.  It was located on SW Taylor's Ferry and Barbur Blvd.  It had capacity for 600 cars.

Henry Ford's opened in 1955.  It was called: Ford's Redmond's on the Hill.  They remodeled in 1963, renaming it with a new crown-shaped sign.  It never really changed after that.  The restaurant was originally an old doctor's house on an orchard.  It was known for it's good food and decor.  It closed on Feb 23, 2003.  Condominiums were built.

As you travel down the boulevard, there are still occasional reminders of the past.  1940's neon can be seen at night at the Capitol Hill Motel.  The Original Pancake House still remains. Other motels still offer weary travelers a place to rest.  The Safeway and Fred Meyer have been there since the 1950's.

Memories of Barbur Blvd:

From Jim:  I grew up in that area...(Capitol Hill School, St. Clare's Church, Burlingame, Parker's Market, Taylor's Ferry, Multnomah Blvd., Capitol Hwy., Spring Garden Road...Wilson High, Jackson High)...our house was on SW 12th & Hume St., to be exact, and I remember almost everything in your photo presentation...I'd even forgot about that first overpass that was built in 1959, over Barbur, that carried people down from the Bertha-Beaverton Hwy, thru Hillsdale and onto Barbur...that old "intersection" was, indeed, dangerous and constantly backed up with traffic!  It's been so long that one forgets that one wasn't always there!  In fact, as one was driving South on Barbur and was to make that old right turn onto Capitol, to the right, nestled in the side of the hill was a little stone grotto...people in the neighborhood would take turns cleaning and clipping the bushes and vines that used to grow there...but now, I doubt that anyone can even see it anymore because of all the "overgrowth", but, none-the-less, it was something I remember about that specific location!

I remember when they "divided" the neighborhood...The Baldock Freeway...(No one calls it that...or even called it that way back when!)  I remember the constant sound of after day...week after drove us all crazy!  And then, of course, after it was completed...the constant sound of and night...sirens, speeders, big freight trucks...(Because of the notorious curves in that area, we could always hear the big trucks, downloading...and we'd wait...for the next shift...and the next!) name the sound/ was there...and, as I said...24 hours a day...and we never really got used to it...oh well...such is progress!

Barbur Boulevard Time Line

1864 Survey completed for Oregon California Railroad
1869 Ground breaking for OC RR begins
1871 Oregon and California Railroad completed
1887 South Pacific assumes control of OC RR
1890 Southern Pacific RR built from Portland to Forest Grove
1914 Railway is electrified and used for Red Electric interurban trains
1925 City Commissioner Asbury Barbur begins highway planning
1927 SP officially purchases OC RR
1929 Red Electrics cease operation
1931 SP RR right of way acquired by State Highway Dept.
1934 1st segment of Barbur Blvd completed from downtown to Burlingame
1935 2nd segment from Burlingame to Tigard completed
1935 Portland Rose Motel built
1941 Capitol Hill Motel built
1949 Caro Amico opens
1950 Burlingame Fred Meyer built
1953 Original Pancake House opens
1959 Bvrtn Hlsdle to N bound Barbur Blvd flyover built
1961 Baldock freeway (I-5) opens
1991 Feasibility study for light rail on Barbur Blvd completed

The aerial photo below shows Barbur Blvd, Multnomah Blvd and Capitol Hill Rd.  This picture was taken in 1952 and shows the original sidewalk Safeway store.  This store was torn down and rebuilt in 1968.  Many of these building remain today along the roadside of Barbur.  Today, the Interstate 5 runs parallel to this area.

Pictured below is the traffic circle at SW Terwillerger and Barbur 1952