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Four Willamette bridges in line for historic honor

State committee may nominate the Hawthorne, Broadway, Burnside and Morrison bridges to a national history list
by: L.E. Baskow The Hawthorne Bridge, constructed in 1910, is the granddaddy of Portland’s Willamette River bridges. It could be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places along with the Burnside, Broadway and Morrison bridges.

They're old, they're majestic and they were groundbreaking when they were built nearly a century ago. Now four of Multnomah County's oldest Willamette River bridges could get a big place in national history.

The Hawthorne, Broadway, Burnside and Morrison bridges will be considered Friday afternoon for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. It's an honor that could recognize the bridge's impact on Portland's development as the city grew and expanded eastward.

'Many of the 10 roadway bridges that currently span the Willamette in Portland are eligible for the national register, including these four county-owned structures,' says Robert W. Hadlow, an Oregon Department of Transportation historian. 'Formal listing in the national register recognizes at a national level the importance of these bridges and the others.'

Members of the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation will discuss nominating the bridges to the national history list during an afternoon meeting at ODOT headquarters in Portland. The bridges are part of a multiple property listing that recommends them for historic status because of the way they were built, their design and their impact on the region's development.

Hadlow says that in 1999, the National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record documented the historic significance of the 10 Willamette River bridges. The proposed nomination of the four downtown bridges continues that work.

The Hawthorne Bridge, built in 1910, is the granddaddy of the Willamette River bridges. It was the first built across the river in the modern era of construction that stretched for 63 years, from 1910 to 1973, when the Fremont Bridge was erected.

'Free bridges'

According to extensive and detailed nomination reports written by Eugene historian George Kramer of Heritage Research Associates, the four bridges were built as 'free bridges,' meaning the city eschewed tolls to pay for their construction and maintenance. Each of the four bridges was designed and built by nationally prominent engineers and construction firms.

Portland's first Willamette River bridge was a privately built wooden bridge constructed in 1887 to link the west side with the separate cities of East Portland and Albina. In 1891, the areas agreed to consolidate into one city of Portland.

Today, the Hawthorne Bridge is one of the oldest vertical-lift span bridges in the world still operating. Waddell and Harrington of Kansas City, Mo., designed and built the bridge.

The Broadway Bridge was completed in April 1913 and is one of the few remaining examples of a railroad-type bascule bridge in the nation. Ralph Modjeski of Chicago designed the bridge.

The Burnside Bridge was completed in May 1926, thanks in part to a city bond measure adopted just a couple years earlier. It was designed by Ira G. Hedrick and Robert E. Kremers, a former Multnomah County bridge engineer.

The Morrison Bridge was completed in May 1958 as one of the last movable bridges to be constructed across the river in Portland. The bridge was designed by Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis and Moffat, Nichol and Taylor of Portland.

The process to place the bridges on the National Register of Historic Places begins with the proposed nomination and could take several months before they receive the honor. The National Park Service maintains the history register.

Hundreds of Oregon properties, buildings, sites and bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In some cases, owners of historic property are eligible for tax breaks and a limited amount of grants.

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