Like many folks, when I moved to this city I got lost a lot. It’s not that the city is confusing—in fact, it’s very easy to find your way around—it’s just that it takes a while in any new place to identify landmarks to guide you along your path. One day, I was lost downtown. I had no clue where to even start. I stumbled upon Big Ass Sandwiches, one of the billions of food carts that line the city, and sought comfort and clarity in a double ham, double Cheddar sandwich and a Fanta. I shared my plight with the workers of that fine eatery. The words they said to me changed my life, forever.
“Take the Burnside Bridge,” they said.
“But you don’t know where I’m going,” I retorted.
“It doesn’t matter. Take the Burnside Bridge.”
“But I live by the zoo,” I protested.
“It doesn’t matter, take the Burnside Bridge,” they said, rolling their eyes.
I took the Burnside Bridge and I got where I was going – every time. When I went to Mt. Tabor, I took the Burnside Bridge. When I was heading home from the zoo, I took the Burnside Bridge. Heading to Powell’s Books, I took the Burnside Bridge. It worked – every time.
The Burnside Bridge, it turns out, is the perfect beacon to anyone in the city, rookies and veterans alike. It lies north and south in the central part of the city, dividing the East from the West. As one heads West past the bridge, the streets are listed alphabetically. Ah. Burnside. Couch. Davis. Everett. Flanders. Etc, etc. The bridge can take you to Jeld-Wen Field, the Pittock Mansion, the fine dining of Northwest 23rd, and to the numerous breweries in the area. Underneath the bridge you’ll find a skate park and a dry place to wait for the MAX. Just don’t look for houses. Except for store top apartments and condos, you won’t find a lot of houses on Burnside.
Once I experienced the convenience of Burnside Bridge, I wanted to delve further into how it came into being. I discovered that in 1891, B Street was changed to Burnside Bridge, honoring a local business man, Dan Burnside, who was a proponent of dredging the Willamette.
Spanning the mighty Willamette River, the bridge, a bascule bridge, was completed on May 28th 1926. It’s the only bridge in the city designed with the input of an architect, which explains the Renaissance Towers and decorative metal railings. The bridge is the epitome of form and function.
It’s also one of the safest bridges around, undergoing a $2.1 million dollar seismic retrofit in 2002, making it the first bridge operated by Multnomah County to receive earthquake protection.
Safe. Convenient. Beautiful.