Walking Portland’s Historic Broadway
Thursday 5 May 2016 — Category: Outings
Less than two weeks after finishing a two-day, 12½-mile hike on Burnside Street between Portland’s city limits, I was on the road again to explore another iconic Portland thoroughfare. This time it was historic Broadway.
Even though this street is quite different from Burnside in some ways, in other ways is has a lot in common with its transversal sister: they act as a borders between different sections of Portland, they host their fair share of historic buildings, they both have a namesake bridge across the Willamette River, they unite the eastern and western sides of the city, they pass through numerous Portland neighborhoods, and last (and maybe least), they both have their own Wikipedia article.
For this shorter one-day outing, I decided to start at the very beginning of Broadway, at its intersection with SW Vista Avenue, in the Portland Heights section of the Southwest Hills neighborhood. From there I walked 5.7 miles along Broadway to NE Sandy Boulevard. From that intersection, NE Broadway continues for another 2.75 miles further east up to the I-205, but it is almost completely residential and not particularly interesting or historic, so I skipped that section.
On my outings I try to incorporate public transportation. I like to get an early start and to eat breakfast out. So I left home in Albany about 5:00, had my favorite breakfast at McDonald’s, and parked at the Gateway Transit Center in east Portland.
From there I took a MAX train west through downtown to the Kings Hill / Southwest Salmon Street MAX Station. While waiting for a bus I took a few pictures of the public art around me, which you can see here.
Soon a bus on Route 51 whisked me away to the start of my walk at the intersection of SW Broadway Drive and SW Vista Avenue, where there is, conveniently, a bus stop. I arrived at 7:30, just as the sun was rising over the horizon — perfect timing!
There are three distinct sections of Broadway along this 5.7-mile route, and each has a look and feel quite different from the others. The first section, from SW Vista Avenue to the I-405 is quite hilly and has a somewhat rural feel. It was hard to believe that I was only a mile (as the crow flies) or less from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
After crossing the I-405, I traversed, from south to north, the handful of districts which make up downtown Portland. First was the Portland State University campus (south of Columbia Street), then central downtown (between Columbia and Burnside Streets). North of Burnside, Broadway forms the border between the Pearl District to the west and Old Town Chinatown to the east. This downtown section is the heart of historic Broadway.
Once I crossed the Willamette River on the historic (built 1913) Broadway Bridge to the eastern part of the city, Broadway ran east-west instead of north-south. It is actually this part of Broadway which gave its name to both the bridge and the street through downtown, which used to be called 7th Avenue. This eastern section feels more like the suburbs, and even though it was settle not too long after downtown, it doesn’t have the historic essence which you experience in the actual city center.
These three sections even have slightly different street names. The southern-most section south of the I-405 is called SW Broadway Drive. The eastern portion is called NE Broadway Street. The middle downtown section is SW and NW Broadway, without any Drive or Street designation. There is a smooth transition between two of these sections at the Broadway Bridge, but the other transition at the southern end of the I-405 is pretty strange. You can click on the map image to the right to see a larger version and read about all of the bizarre details.
Like many times before, I was the country bumpkin in the Big City, gawking at all the amazing sights with gaping jaw and shutter snapping. I took a moderate 247 photos that day, but because there were so many wonderful sights to capture, a whopping 133 ended up in the new Portland On Broadway 2015 album — including 23 black and white images.
Once I had finally reached the end of my Broadway ramble at the historic Hollywood Theater on NE Sandy Boulevard, I walked an additional 0.6 mile northeast along Sandy until I reached one of my favorite places to eat in Portland, the original Gustav’s / Der Rheinländer restaurant.
At Gustav’s I enjoyed a well earned lunch of my favorite dish there, Jäger Kalbschnitzel with spätzle (knöpfli), topped with cremini mushrooms and Hungarian paprika sauce, washed down with a stein of Paulaner Oktoberfest beer.
I really don’t have a lot more to say regarding the details of what I saw and experienced on my 5.7-mile walk along Broadway because it’s the 133 photos which tell the story.
As usual, I have spent many days writing extensive captions which explain the details of each shot. Furthermore, as usual, I have plotted the identity of each building I photographed in a Google Earth file which you can download here. Hint: be sure to enable the 3D Buildings option. For more details about this Google Earth file, see my article A Portland Google Earth Companion.
Even after photographically exploring Portland’s Burnside and Broadway, as well as the many other parts of the city I discovered in 2015, there is still SO MUCH to see in Oregon’s largest city. Two thousand sixteen promises to be another great year for photography in Portland!