WHAT: The St. Johns Bridge — Portland’s only suspension bridge and, objectively, one of the most magnificent in the country.
FUN FACTS: The bridge was named after James John, a ferry operator and founder of the St. Johns community in north Portland, who also was one of the first people to trek the California Trail. The bridge landed in the national news in 2015 when Greenpeace activists dangled from itfor two days to prevent a Shell barge carrying drilling equipment from heading for the Arctic.
WHY IT’S SO SPECIAL: When it was built nearly 90 years ago, the St. Johns’ Gothic spires and distinctive design were about more than functionality. As historian Dell Upton put it: “The great suspension bridges of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fed a national sense of self” — and St. Johns architect David Barnard Steinman seemed to have that in mind. “Every bridge should be designed with the guiding and impelling thought to achieve beauty,” Steinman wrote. “Strength, utility and beauty must be combined. To these may be added a modern requirement—efficiency.”
QUOTABLE: “Yes, the St. Johns Bridge is my best poem — a prayer in steel.” —David Barnard Steinman
Flashback Friday is a weekly-ish series featuring people and events that shaped our city, and we’re binging on bridges right now. Read more about all our city’s bridges here.