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Burnside Bridge

Burnside Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 22, 2014 and September 3, 2018

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Burnside Street Over Willamette River and Various Streets and Railroad
Portland: Multnomah County, Oregon: United States
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Pratt Deck Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Strauss Trunnion) and Approach Spans: Metal Rivet-Connected Double-Intersection Warren Deck Truss, Fixed
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
213.0 Feet (64.9 Meters)
Structure Length
2,807.0 Feet (855.6 Meters)
Roadway Width
68 Feet (20.73 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 236 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge's future is at risk!

Bridge Status: This historic bridge is at risk for demolition and replacement!

2020 Update: This news article is presenting the demolition and replacement of this highly significant historic bridge in the heart of downtown Portland as a preferred option.


The demolition of this bridge, a Joseph Strauss and Gustav Lindenthal masterpiece, would be a horrific scar on Oregon's preservation track record. As one of the core iconic downtown Portland bascule bridges, this would be akin to Pittsburgh demolishing and replacing one of the Three Sisters Bridges. Its ironic when we must consider Pennsylvania showing a greater commitment to preservation than Oregon. Indeed if you read the article the admission is made that rehabilitation (including retrofit for earthquakes) is possible, but apparently being dismissed. This also raises serious concerns for the future of Portland's other surviving historic bridges. What's next for the scrapyard? The Ross Island Bridge? The nationally significant Broadway Bridge?

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View Historic Resource Inventory Sheet For This Bridge

View Historical Article About This Bridge

View National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form For This Bridge

HAER Documentation, Willamette River Bridges - Data Pages - Drawings -Timeline

View Historical Articles About Gustav Lindenthal: Article 1 and Article 2

One of the beautiful and diverse collection of historic bridges in downtown Portland is this impressive bascule bridge. It is an example of a bascule bridge designed by Joseph Strauss, using his under-deck counterweight variety of bridge. As with most other bridges he designed of this type, it features graceful, arch-shaped deck truss bascule leaves. The bridge as a whole was initially designed by Ira G. Hedrick (who in the early 20th Century worked with famous engineer J.A.L. Waddell for a few years) and Robert Kremers, but they were fired and famous engineer Gustav Lindenthal was hired, who then modified the design to his liking and under his direction the bridge as seen today was completed. The double-intersection Warren deck truss approach spans that flank each end of the bascule span are also significant for their uncommon truss configuration. The double-intersection Warren trusses are also subdivided.

An unusual feature of this bridge that is also shared with some other Portland bridges is that the main span (the bascule span) is not the longest span. The double-intersection Warren trusses at 266 feet each are the longest spans, with the bascule span being 213 feet.

Currently, HistoricBridges.org only has a few overview photos of this bridge.

Information and Findings From Oregon's Historic Bridge Inventory


252-ft double-leaf Strauss bascule main span with two 266-ft riveted steel double-intersection Warren deck truss secondary spans and thirty-four steel deck girder approach spans


I.G. Hedrick and Robert Kremers (Original Design), Gustav Lindenthal (Lead Engineer), Joseph Strauss (Bascule Design)


Pacific Bridge Company


One of the lesser known features of the Burnside Bridge is the corruption involved in building it. The county brought in Lindenthal to complete the design and supervise construction after the arrest of Kremers for bribery and collusion, resulting in the replacement of the county commissioners. The bridge replaced a pin-connected steampowered swing span from 1894 that could no longer keep up with the demands of the 1920s motoring public. Due to its location in the middle of downtown, a number of decorative treatments are featured, including a balustrade railing and octagonal Italianate operator's houses designed by Architects Houghtaling and Dougan.

Character Defining Features

Defining Features: Decorative features, Operator houses, Railings, Structure type, Location

Architectural Property Description

The Burnside Bridge opened to traffic in May 1926 and spans the Willamette River in downtown Portland, Oregon, at River Mile 12.7, just upstream from the Steel Bridge, within the core of the central commercial district of the city. A steel deck truss with a central, double leaf Strauss bascule, the bridge measures 788 feet long between the abutment walls (i.e., not including the approach spans). The first bascule bridge to rely upon a concrete deck for its movable span, at 5000 tons (according to Wortman, 2000), the Burnside is one of the heaviest bascule bridges constructed in the United States. The Burnside Bridge design was initially the work of Ira G. Hedrick and Robert E. Kremers, with some modification and construction supervision by Gustav Lindenthal. The bridge is owned and maintained by Multnomah County.


The Burnside Bridge, a major element in Portland's multi-bridge bond-funded bridge expansion in the mid-1920s, was completed in May 1926 and is intrinsically linked to the city's long history of transportation and development. Built following a political controversy over its original contract, the span was designed by Ira G. Hedrick and Robert E. Kremers and then, after their removal from the project, modified and constructed under the direction of Gustav Lindenthal. The Burnside Bridge, located at the center point of Portland's character-defining geographic street quadrants, remains a key element in the city and continues to function as originally intended, with high integrity with respect to its original design. One of the busiest bridges, in terms of vehicular traffic, in Oregon, the Burnside Bridge was declared a "Regional Emergency Transportation Route" in the mid-1990s. Nominated under the framework of the Willamette River Highway Bridges MPD and built within the middle period of bridge development as defined by that document, the Burnside Bridge is of statewide significance under National Register eligibility Criterion A, Community Planning and Development and Transportation, for its association with the development of Portland and its transportation network between its construction in 1926 and the close of the period of significance for the MPD document in 1973. The Burnside Bridge is also of statewide significance under Criterion C, Engineering, as one of the heaviest bascule bridges in the United States and as the first such bridge to rely upon a concrete deck surface for its movable span. The Burnside Bridge meets all the general and the necessary specific registration requirements for listing under the MPD.


ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers). Joseph Baermann Strauss (http://www.asce.org/PPLContent.aspx?id=2147487405), visited 25-August-2010.
DeLony, Eric. Landmark American Bridges. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Lansing, Jewell. Portland: People, Politics and Power 1851-2001. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2003-2005.
MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915-1950. Portland, OR: The Georgian Press, 1979.
Oregonian. Misc. issues as cited by date/page in text.
Oregon Journal. Misc. issues as cited by date/page in text.
Plowden, David. Bridges: The Spans of North America. New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1974.
Ritz, Richard Ellison. Architects of Oregon. Portland, OR: Lair Hill Publishing, 2002.
Smith, Dwight, James B. Norman and Pieter T. Dykman. Historic Highway Bridges of Oregon (2nd, Revised Ed.). Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1986.
Willamette Light Brigade. http://beta.lightthebridges.org/legacy-burnside.htm (visited 22-November-2010).
Wood Wortman, Sharon. Burnside Bridge, Historic American Engineering Record [HAER No. OR-101]. Prepared as part of the Willamette River Bridges Recording Project, HAER/Oregon Department of Transportation, in cooperation with Multnomah County, July 2000.
Wood Wortman, Sharon, with Ed Wortman. The Portland Bridge Book (3rd Edition). Portland, OR: Urban Adventure Press, 2006.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


Photo Galleries and Videos: Burnside Bridge


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Maps and Links: Burnside Bridge

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Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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