The first streets were laid
out in 1845, parallel with the river, which
here flows a few degrees east of north, and
were thereby deflected to the same extent
from the points of the compass. Front street
was then a part of the levee, and extended
to the Willamette, making a broad landing
place for the equal use of all residents.
But four streets were at first laid out.
They were numbered First, Second, etc., and
were but 60 feet in width. The side streets
of the same width, were named Washington,
Alder, Morrison and Taylor, being christened
by Pettygrove, as is thought. It was natural
to name the first for the great president;
"Alder" probably was derived from a tree of
that species at its foot; "Morrison," was in
honor of a resident of that name, living on
the street; "Salmon," named later, was for
the senior partner of the firm of Salmon &
Elliot, of San Francisco; and "Taylor" was
without doubt to signify the Whig politics
of the city. As the city was extended in
1849, surveyed by Short, and mapped by
Brady, it became natural to use the ordinals
to designate the north and south streets,
and to the cross streets the names of
presidents were applied with no thought of
mnemonic value for the school children,
giving us "Jefferson," Harrison," etc.
"Clay" was probably named by some one who
thought that the great Kentuckian ought to
have been president. "Stark" was from
Benjamin Stark, who owned the site from that
street north to "A." The names "Oak," "Pine"
and "Ash" were naturally suggested by
"Alder." Upon the addition of Couch's
donation claim all effort td think up names
significant or pretty was discarded, and
with the barrenness of nomenclature for
which Americans are remarkable, the letters
of the alphabet were used for the cross
streets, making in. truth a convenient
method for finding blocks, and when the
Roman letters are exhausted we hope to see
the Greek and Hebrew applied.
On the environs of the city, as the streets were multiplied, the names of early pioneers have been bestowed, such as "Chapman," "Lownsdale," "Carruthers," "Corbett," etc. North Portland is laid out by the point of compass and South Portland is also square with the north star. The east and west streets are all 60 feet broad, excepting A, which is but 30-Stark not meeting Couch half way, when the latter laid out his claim. From Third street the width of the streets north and south is 80 feet, except East and West Park, which are but half of this. Such narrowness would be fatal, but for this one thing-that between East and West Park are the park blocks, 120 feet in width, and, except for a small distance in the center of the city, are entirely free. These are of little value as parks, but will make, together with the streets on each side, a splendid avenue 200 feet broad, from one end of the city to the other-barring the encumbrances from Yamhill to B, which may be removed. An avenue 125 feet broad leads down to the water front in North Portland, and this and the park boulevard will become the common center for motor lines and driveways. Properly ornamented, provided with fountains, statues, arches, seats for the strollers, and shade trees, it will become the pride and joy of Portland. This prediction-made by another-will be fulfilled.
The bend of the river, determining the course of the streets, gives Portland, particularly upon the map, the irregularity of appearance that Europeans contend is picturesque--or at least like their capitals. By reason of the undulating face of the hills to the west the uniformity of straight lines and parallels is still further prevented. The blocks on all the Heights are so laid off as to best suit the knolls and hollows, and to make the grades of the streets as easy as the incline will allow. In this manner the curves of the hills are preserved in the streets, and the "line of beauty" cannot be banished, even by force. In time this will cause the residence portion of the city to assume a striking grandeur of appearance, and stimulate the erection of buildings, and the beautifying of grounds, on a style and scale to consort with the requirements of the topography. There is something in having a site which forbids the geometrical homeliness into which the crudely civilized so insensibly slip.
Some sort of improvement of streets early began to be imperative Digging stumps was the first, and the millionaire now lives who worked out road taxes by removing the roots of a fir tree from the highway in front of his store. The surface was also very irregular, from gulches, knolls, hummocks formed by the roots of fallen trees, and by the hollows or pits left by the lifting of the soil beneath. All these inequalities were to be remedied, and the work was early undertaken. The grading of the streets was heavy and expensive.
Immediately following was the paving. During the, soft months the mellow brown soil was quickly cut into mire, and trodden into mortar. Planks were first used. In about 1858 a macadam road was built out to the Red House, some three miles south, the first of its kind in the State.
In 1865 the Nicholson pavement was laid on Front and First streets, and for a number of years was in great favor. It soon began to fail, however, due either to improper construction, or to the extremes of moisture and dryness of our seasons, and, quickly fell into condemnation. In the June floods, moreover, which occasionally overflowed the levee part of the city, it had to be weighted down. with rock to be kept in place. As this pavement gave away, the Belgian block was substituted, and now prevails on Front, First and Second streets, from G street on the north, to Jefferson street (with some exception on Second street) on the south. It is a block clipped or split out from the basalt along the river, the principal quarry being near St. Helens. It is obtained in brick-shaped pieces, some 4x10x15 inches. The stone is hard and when evenly laid makes a firm, but noisy, road. By constant use, however, the corners of the blocks are worn down, making a sort of cobble stone surface, which is slippery and difficult of hold to horses drawing heavy loads. Owing to the non-uniformity of the ground beneath, as to firmness, the old sections are becoming Warped, hollows and bunches. The constant lifting of the blocks to repair sewer and water pipes, or for street railway purposes, has also worked toward an uneven surface.
A short piece of bituminous rock pavement has been laid on Washington street, and as affording a very easy, neat and quiet surface is far in advance of all else, but it has not proved substantial.
The rest of the streets are macadamized. The material, made from the andesite rock of the hills near by, is rather soft, and a little hard wear reduces it, under exposure of the weather, to fine dust, which is washed into the sewers or carted off with the street sweepings. Much: of the macadamizing has been cheaply and improperly done, and the recommendation of Street Commissioner Chapman that heavier rollers be used in compacting the work should be heeded. It is hardly excusable to use improper material, since the hardest of basalt, limestone, and even granite, may be obtained-although not without added expense. Much consideration has been given to the use of gravel, which exists in immense deposits near East Portland, and is extensively laid on her streets. A proper assortment of boulders, coarse and fine gravel, with sand intermixed, is believed to afford the best of road beds, and will perhaps be tried.
Cross-walks of the streets are of plank or slabs of stone, the latter a foot or more in breadth by some four or five in length, laid treble. Many of them are of granite, brought from England or China in ships as ballast, being most cheaply obtained in that manner.
The sidewalks in the business portion of the city are of stone squares, quarried from the hills, or, now almost universally, of the artificial stone, manufactured from sand. This is handsome and durable. Brick, with concrete dressing of fine gravel, was used a little in old times, and now remains on a few walks on Front street. The manufactured stone is used extensively around the blocks occupied by fine residences, but for the most part the walks are of plank. Quite frequently they are made too broad for beauty, especially on the upper streets, but the most are not thus cumbrous, and a space for turf is left between the foot-walk and the pavement, giving relief from the glare and hardness of aspect which is painful to the eye and offensive to the East.
In 1885 there were fifty-two and one-half miles of improved streets-thirty miles macadamized, three Belgian blocks, three and one-fourth planks, sixteen and one-fourth graded only. There were one hundred miles of sidewalks, sixteen and one-half of wooden cross-walks, nearly two of stone and over two miles of trestles.
In 1886 about nine miles of new sidewalks were built, a mile of cross-walks, a mile of macadamized, three-fourths of a mile of pavement, six miles of plank roadway, quarter of a mile of bridging, and two miles of grading.
In 1887, sidewalks, ten and a quarter miles; cross-walks, two; inacadamaged, one and three-quarters; bridging, one-half; grading, four; sewers, three.
In 1888 were built, sidewalks, ten miles; cross-walks, one and a half; macadamized, two and three-quarters; ' bridging, one-half; grading, four and three-quarters; sewers, three; bituminous rock pavement, two hundred feet.
These figures represent a large expenditure, and show an attempt to fulfill the requirements of the city. In the main, the streets look well and are kept , tolerably clean. The greatest need is a proper crematory, or incinerary, to consume the refuse and garbage.
Street Car Lines
Portland is well supplied with this necessity of rapid transit from one point to the other. The first track was laid in 1872, on First street, from the Clarendon Hotel-then new-and the railroad station at the foot of F street to the vicinity of Jefferson street on the south. This has been subsequently extended to South Portland. Some years later the Third street double track was laid, now extending from the Marquam gulch on the south to G street on the north, and up that street to Twenty-first on the west, with a branch to North Portland. The Washington street line-double track-then followed, with branches to south and north respectively on Eleventh and Fifteenth streets. This leads into B street and out to the Exposition building and the City Park. A line beginning on Morrison street leads into Ninth street and on to B, with a return on Yamhill to Front. A cable road extends from Front by Alder to Fifth, reaching Jefferson, and proceeds thence to the Heights. An electric road makes a continuous line from G street to Fulton Park, three miles, on Second street. Entering by the Morrison street bridge there is the East Portland system, extending to all of East Portland and to Mt. Tabor by motor line. By way of the Stark street ferry, the motor line to Vancouver enters the city. By way of the Jefferson street ferry the Hawthorne avenue motor line is accessible. By the Steel bridge the electric motor cars have exit to McMillan's and Holladay's addition to East Portland, to Albina and St. John's.
The following from the report of the street commissioner for 1888 gives more exact details:
"Street car tracks have been extended over quite a number of streets during the last year, increasing the total length of all street car tracks in the city from 12.7 miles in December, 1887, to 17.45 miles at the date of this report, an increase of 4.75 miles. The increase is divided between the Transcontinental Street Railway Company, which have laid three miles in extending their tracks down Yamhill and Morrison streets to Front, and there connecting them; in doubling their track on G street from North Thirteenth street to North Twenty-first street, on North Thirteenth between G and S streets and on S street between North Thirteenth and North Sixteenth streets, and laying a double track on S street from North Sixteenth street to North Twenty-third street, where said company has erected large brick stables; the Multnomah Street Railway Company, which has laid 1.2 miles in making the Washington and B streets line a double track road from Second street to the old city boundary, near the City Park, in the western part of the city, and the Willamette Bridge Railway Company, which has laid 0.55 miles of track, from Front street across the bridge to the city boundary, in the center of the Willamette river.
"The Traction Street Car Company has a franchise for laying tracks from the northwestern part of the city through E, Second, Sheridan, Front, Porter and Corbett streets, a distance of nearly four miles. The Transcontinental Company has also been granted the right to extend their Yamhill and Taylor street tracks to Fourteenth street and thence along North Eighteenth street to their double track on G street, and this extension will undoubtedly be completed and in operation before the approaching summer shall have passed. Appearances indicate that more street car tracks will be laid in Portland during the coming season than in any previous year."
The surface of the city is
very favorable to good drainage, sloping
well toward the river. It gains thereby a
strong wash, and throws the refuse far into
the stream. There are, however, two great
difficulties to contend with; one is
natural, and the other results from the
carelessness of the first who laid the
sewers; or, perhaps, more strictly to the
inertia of those who are allowing a system
that worked very well for a village to still
serve for the city. The natural difficulty
is the backing up of the river by the
Columbia in the summer and the other the
mistake of laying the sewers down the
streets east and west, to discharge in the
river in front of the city, instead of
northward, to cast their outflow below the
As to the pollution of the river front by sewage, F. E. Vaughn, then superintendent of streets, said in 1885: "These mains all extend to the Willamette river, and discharge their contents into that stream immediately in front of the city, a disagreeable fact, which will eventually demand more serious consideration than is now accorded it. * * * I would respectfully ask that you consider the practicability of adopting a system whereby all river mains that are hereafter laid in the northwestern portion of the city shall extend north and south. By this means their outlet will be below the city front as now defined."
In 1886 he called attention again to the same fact, and in 1887 recommended that to correct the evil a sewer be built in Front street, " from Sheridan street to a point entirely beyond the occupied portions of our city, large enough to take up the sewers entering therein, as all the present sewers extend into the Willamette river and discharge their contents into said stream along the city front," state of affairs detrimental to the healthy condition of the city. The bad condition thus recognized and described must very soon be rectified.
As early as 1883, Major A. F. Sears thus strongly described the situation:
In the month of June, when the floods of the Columbia river back up the Willamette, the mouth of every sewer is closed by the high water.
In the winter, during the rainy season, all this filth is carried safely away from the town, because in those months there is a strong outward current ; the river water then is of excellent quality. Already the drainage of more than twenty streets, with the wastes of three hundred blocks, or five hundred acres, finds its way to our river. So near as I can estimate this sewage contains the wastes of about twelve thousand lives.
The movement of this water in passing up stream under the summer sun is so sluggish, that if no extraneous filth entered the river, the organic matter contained in suspension is subject to purifying influence that cannot but have a disastrous effect on the public health.
While the evil thus stated is an important-may I not say a horrible--one, it is not the only danger. When the water on the city front, during the summer, remains in this quiet condition, certain gross particles of filth, not dissolved, but held in suspension, as well as the tainted liquid itself, assists to poison the earth of the shore and create an infecting, stinking sludge, to be thrown open to the seething influence of the sun when the floods retire, producing a second source of disease.
But, during these months of flood, when, as previously stated, no rain is falling and the ends of the sewers are closed, there is only the intermitting, ordinary domestic water supply to keep them clean. I have lately had occasion to learn the insignificance of this amount for the ordinary purposes of cleansing. In the last month of November, after twenty-four hours of continuous, though light, rains, the greatest depth of flow in any sewer has been less than three inches, and this was regarded as extraordinary, the truth being that it was rare to find more than one inch, and generally only a film of liquid running along the pipes.
In the summer, therefore, when the sewers must rely solely on the domestic water supply, they become elongated cesspools and throw their poisonous gases on our atmosphere or into our houses.
The catch-basins, that are filled by the last rainy season with a rich deposit of rotting wood, street filth, dead cats and all unnameable things that reek, are dispensing the gases of putrefaction along the sewers for distribution in our houses or at the street corners.
This is a condition of things existing at the present time, while the district under consideration is, as compared with other cities, sparsely settled.
He spoke of the suggestion of Wm. E. Morris, in 1872, that an intercepting sewer be built along Front street to lead to a point below the city, and that the Warring system be adopted, by which the waste of water, etc., is carried off in separate pipes, which are kept clean and flushed by steady automatic injectments of water at the dead end from a flushing tank furnished with syphons. The expense of the work, $348,958, was deemed so great as to render the change impracticable. Nevertheless, at this day, when the population is five times that at the time the report was made by Major Sears, and the expense would not be above six dollars per capita, no better system could be devised.
The condition of the sewers in the summer time is thus spoken of by W. S. Chapman, present superintendent of streets: "Something like five miles of street sewers are submerged from one end to the other by from ten to eighteen feet of back (dead) water during the summer freshets." The sewers thus referred to are in the lower, or northern, portion of the city. But all the sewers are stopped tip at the mouth by the high water. How this great difficulty may be remedied it is hard to see, unless it be by concentrating all the mains upon one large sewer, and carrying that far below the city, and there, during high water, emptying it by means of powerful pumps.
In 1885 the total length of sewers aggregated fifteen and a half miles of terra cotta pipes, ranging from nine to eighteen inches in diameter. During 1886, 12,739 feet (two and one-fourth miles) were added, the principal work being on Jefferson street. Work was also begun on the Tanner Creek sewer. This is of brick, 500 feet in length of circular, and 3,836 feet egg-shaped, making upwards of three-fourths of a mile in all; to which has been added more than a quarter of a mile within the past year. It carries a large volume of water, draining a considerable portion of the range of hills; $36,067.74 were spent on this in 1887, and $16,181.25 for pipe sewers. In 1888 special attention was given to the southern portion of the city, laying a sewer to carry off the drainage of the Marquam creek. This is of brick, built at a cost of $7, 559.25, and, together with lateral pipes, aggregated some $25,000; $40,788.97 were spent on pipe sewers in 1888. The great work for 1889 has been the beginning of the Johnson creek sewer, in the northern part of the city, to be erected at a cost of $60, 000. Pipe sewers in the northwestern portion are also being provided with arrangements for a main. The expense of construction of sewers is borne by the property adjacent, and averages about. $20 per lot. This is undoubtedly a bad plan, as lot owners along the line use every method to reduce expense, and the sewers are not built except in the last extremity. The benefit, moreover, is to the whole city, since the cleanliness and healthfulness of each part has a full influence upon the whole.
The Marquam gulch on the south, the Tanner creek vale in the center, and the Johnson creek hollow on the north are the main depressions in the city, and the work in them is of a substantial and permanent character. Portland has not been niggardly in expenditure for sewers, yet her system is in a very unsatisfactory condition. The work to be done at once is introduction of an entirely new. plan, by which the pipes are thoroughly flushed and washed out every day in the year and the contents taken far below the city, even, if necessary, to the Columbia river. One million dollars raised by special tax, if by no other means, would be a small outlay in comparison with the health and benefit to be derived.