I hadn’t really any idea of what to expect from Portland, apart from the notion that it was “kind of like” Seattle and the depiction of Portlandia might not be entirely off-base. I certainly didn’t know that the Willamette River bisects the city which is traversed by a series of bridges, including the vertical-lift truss bridge joining Hawthorne Blvd and Madison St.
the Hawthorne Bridge is the oldest vertical-lift in the country (opening in 1910) and one of the busiest cycling ant transit bridges in the state of Oregon. it carries approximately in the fall of 2012, a cyclist counter was installed to track usage and some twenty percent of the traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge comes from cyclists. it was the first counter of its kind installed on a bridge in the United States. coming in from the airport, I was a bit surprised to see pedestrians on the Morrison Bridge (to the north of the Hawthorne Bridge) — we’d just exited an interstate highway which, where we live, would have pretty adamantly deterred cyclists or anyone on foot from venturing across — but in a city that has such a demonstrably friendly non-auto atmosphere it shouldn’t have. next time we’re staying downtown, I’m game for a run along the riverfront and over the bridges.
the bridge was designed by the firm of Waddell & Harrington in the late 1900s to replace the Madison Bridges Nos 1 & 2, which were destroyed by fire in 1902. Waddell studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic in the late 1800s and spent time as an engineering consultant for the Empire of Japan before returning to the U.S. to design a series of remarkable lifting and swinging bridges. though both designs were used in the country prior to the 1880s, Waddell’s design (first proposed to span a channel in Duluth) revolutionized and popularized the design. despite (or perhaps because of) its unconventional design, it took several years and, ultimately, a partnership with John Harrington for Waddell’s design to catch on and go up across the country (the first of his design went up in Chicago on South Halstead). counterweights of 880,000 pounds are used to raise and lower the bridge some 200 times a month. it’s named after the boulevard which, in turn, is named for James Hawthorne, an early proponent of the Morrison Bridge and co-founder of the state’s first mental hospital.