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Sendoff party toasts bridge's history; moving day party follows

The day before the Sellwood Bridge closed for a week for its move north to its temporary home, some forty neighbors and friends gathered on the steps of the Oaks Pioneer Church.

“We’re here to toast the Sellwood Bridge today,” said organizer Gail Hoffnagle, “and give it good sendoff. We’ll walk across the bridge and back, on the last day it’s open to the public in its current location.”

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - At the end of S.E. Spokane Street, people gather to watch the Sellwood Bridge truss move north. The disconnection of the old east-end ramp to permit the truss to move north is clearly visible overhead.Hoffnagle said her mother was sorely disappointed she was too young to join the parade on the day the bridge opened, eight decades ago. “I thought she could be in the parade we are having the day the bridge is moving.”

There wasn’t a formal program – but Hoffnagle and her associates handed out Champagne flutes to all who wanted one. Motorists honked and waved as, halfway across the bridge, the glasses were filled with sparkling cider, and the group toasted the historic bridge.

That was on January 16. Saturday the 19th was the day the bridge moved – and that meant another party, lasting all day, again centering on the historic Oaks Pioneer Church on S.E. Spokane Street at Grand – just north of the east end approach to the Sellwood Bridge.

S.E. Tacoma Street, normally crowded with cars and trucks as neighbors head out to shop, and outsiders come into town, was quiet. When the fog burned off , adults, families, and kids streamed westward on foot along the side streets to watch the event unfold.

At the church, people gathered to have a sip of coffee and enjoy treats provided by the local merchants of the Sellwood-Westmoreland Business Alliance. They browsed informational posters set up there while marimba-playing musician serenaded them, and picked up lapel buttons provided by the SWBA reading “I was moved!”

Most folks drifted down toward the riverbank to watch the move take place. “I’m waiting to see if it falls into the river,” joshed Sellwood’s Buck Donovan as he watched with his friends.

“It’s an amazing engineering feat,” commented Jack Davis, who said he’d come from Gresham to watch the long steel bridge truss slowly move north.

On the west side of the river, all of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners – and several of their staff members – came for a tour.

“It’s really exciting,” commented District 1 Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, after touring the site. “This marks a major step forward in this rebuilding process.”

Helicopters buzzed the bridge, carrying photographers and officials overhead. In Sellwood Rivefront Park, many folks enjoyed lunch on what had become a clear, but chilly, Saturday afternoon. The move of the bridge spam was completed successfully late that evening, by which time most of the spectators had gone home. (See separate stories for what happened next.)