Samuel Welch left Virginia at the age of 19 and traveled to Oregon via the old Oregon Trail in 1842 ... Read More
Mount Hood History is a blog where I share the historical photos and ephemera that I have collected over the last several decades. My main collection consists of many old Real Photo Postcards but I seek out obscure photographs of landmarks that have come and gone on both the Mt Hood Loop Highway and the Historic Columbia River Highway.
I try my best to be accurate in my writing here but I am always glad to listen to the stories of others in hopes of receiving more information or another view of the history that I share here. Please use my Contact Page to get ahold of me for any inquiries.
A Day on Historic Columbia River Highway when it was new.
It was 1915 and a lot was going on just east of Troutdale Oregon in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Planning was taking place for the construction of the now Historic Columbia River Highway.
The Columbia River Gorge back then had only limited ways of accessing it. Traditionally excursions from Portland on steam powered sternwheeler paddle boats were the way that most transportation took place. In time the railroads were built, primarily for trade but in time passenger trains started taking people there on day trips. Tourist excursions to the waterfalls on the south side of the river were common. Locations such as Multnomah Falls were the main attractions.
Of course many people rode horses or travelled in horse drawn wagons back then but with the advent of automobiles the old primitive roads were improved and new roads were made but they were still dirt wagon roads. Not long after the idea to create one of the first paved scenic automobile roads in America was imagined by several prominent Portland businessmen. Thus was created the Scenic Columbia River Highway.
Although a cultural treasure today, not all who lived in the area back then supported this idea. Many people still used horses and automobiles were owned by the wealthy. Many people back then never thought that they would ever own a car let alone use one to tour the Columbia River Gorge. Public support for financing the highway was tenuous at best.
As we all know, the highway was built and within a couple of decades was being used heavily for transporting cars from central Oregon to the Willamette Valley. Heavy trucks had been developed to carry commodities and products and most everyone had a car in their garage. It didn’t take long to see how those who imagined the highway were visionaries. The highway was quickly becoming overused and plans for a riverside highway, which would become Highway 84, was in the works.
And so back in 1915 the Historic Columbia River Highway was in construction. It would be dedicated a couple years later in 1917, but that didn’t keep people from going out to explore the modern engineering marvel. Of course traffic was minimal back then. Today we can only imagine a peaceful horseback ride along it’s path to familiar waterfalls along the way, but that’s just what this couple did.
Harry and Alvida Calvert decided to take a trip out to survey the progress on the new highway via horseback. Harry Calvert was a photographer from Oregon City, Oregon.
These photos are some of his personal photos. Snapshots into his and his wife Alvida’s life. In these photos you can see familiar places along the Historic Columbia River Highway such as Crown Point, Latourell including the falls and the old arched footbridge that was removed due to obstruction of trucks that needed to pass as well as the recently constructed highway bridge. Other locations include Bishops Cap and the Sheppards Dell Bridge, as well as Multnomah Falls. Alvida and Harry take turns posing in the photos with their horse Pat, including one where one of them made their way to the Simon Benson bridge between the upper and lower tier of Multnomah Falls.
Needless to say a horse ride on the old Historic Columbia River Highway is totally impractical today, but there once was a time. I’m certainly glad that Harry and Alvida took the time to document their day in the Scenic Columbia River Gorge.
“Dear Flo – Just a postal of us on a Trip Up The Columbia River Highway, Portland, Ore. Love to all.”
Addressed to: Miss Flo. McGuiness. 38 Gardner Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey.
This is a unique set of postal cards that were made by the family using the photos that they made that day. It was quite common back in the early part of the 20th Century to have your photos printed on postcard stock. You could then send the cards off to friends and relatives across the country. In the group photo a camera is clearly seen in the left hand of the gentleman on the right. Most likely an early Kodak.
Although we don’t know how the folks in the photos area, I’m sure that their “Trip up The Columbia Highway” was very similar to a day on the Historic Columbia River Highway in today’s Columbia River Gorge.
Cross and Dimmit Postcards of The Columbia River Gorge and Historic Columbia River Highway.
Cross and Dimit were two of the most successful photographers in Portland back in the first part of the 20th Century.
Arthur B. Cross opened his photography studio in Portland Oregon in 1909. Five years later Edward L. Dimmit began working at Cross’s at his studio and two years later became partners with Cross, naming it “Cross and Dimmit”.
The Historic Columbia River Highway was dedicated in 1917 and quickly became a huge tourist draw. All along the new road built through the pristine and deeply beautiful Columbia River Gorge, roadhouses, restaurants and gift shops sprung up to supply the needs of the tourist traffic.
And around that very same time postcards became extremely popular due to the fact that one could buy a package of cards and forego lugging their own camera long, or to allow those without ne to have photos of the views, streams and waterfalls along the road. All of these factors came together to provide the new Cross and Dimmit venture with a steady stream of potential customers via the souvenirs shops as well as from the running boards of their Model T Ford. In time they had their own gift shop located at Crown Point near Vista House.
Cross and Dimmit created real photo postcards in large quantities and sold them individually as well as packs of a variety of scenes. Most everyone who toured the gorge back then bought some. Cross and Dimmit sold scenes from other areas, but the photos of the gorge are their most iconic photos. Today they’re some of the best photos of the Columbia River Gorge and the historic Columbia River Highway from that era, and because of the quantities that they made, are still easy to find.
This is a series of their most common cards of the Columbia Gorge. They start from Chanticleer Point, today referred to as The Women’s Forum near the town of Corbett. They then go along the highway from Crown Point and Vista House to the Rowena Loops near The Dalles Oregon.
Arthur Cross died in 1940 and Dimmit lived until 1963.
Views of Portland Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge – Antique Postcard Set
20 Assorted Views of Portland Oregon.
Here’s a great assortment of views of Portland Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge circa 1950. They’re printed using an offset printing process on canvas textured paper. Printed by the Angelus Commercial Studio in Portland, Oregon. The cards are the same as the postcards that the company printed but are half the size.
The set, labeled 20 Views of Portland Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge, takes one on a tour from Portland Oregon east through the Columbia River Gorge on the Historic Columbia River Highway to the Hood River Valley and then south on what is now Highway 35 to the south side of Mount Hood and the iconic historic Timberline Lodge.
This very same tour can be taken today via modern cars and improved highways in a day; A very full and satisfying day. The only things that have changed since the era that these cards were made are that the Columbia River Highway, Historic Highway 30 has been replaced with the more modern Highway 84 through the gorge. Also the old Mitchell Point Tunnel was demolished in 1966 during construction of Hwy 84, but there are efforts through the restoration of the old highway to consider restoring the tunnel by boring a new tunnel through Mitchell Point.
All of these Views of Portland Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge are available for your enjoyment today, but these old photos bring back a more bucolic era in the Portland and the Mount Hood countryside. One where tourism was more slow and laid back. One where the trip was about the ride and not the destination. One that allowed us to stop along the way and send a postcard or two.
Here’s a happy group of hikers exploring Columbia River Gorge Gorge around 1910 becoming a part of the Oneonta Gorge History . This slot canyon within the Columbia River Gorge and on the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway has been a popular location to explore for a very long time. Today on a hot Summer day it can be elbow to elbow with people.
Today there’s a log pile to negotiate and a stretch of water that can be chest to chin deep to make your way into the little canyon, but there’s an amazing waterfall at the end as a reward for the trek.
Oneonta Bluff prior to The Construction of the Historic Columbia River Highway
Here’s a rare view of Oneonta Bluff and the old railway bed prior to the construction of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Once construction of the road took place the construction of the tunnel allowed automobile passage through the basalt promontory. In time increased traffic and larger cars and trucks necessitated the relocation of the railroad and the highway to allow the cars to bypass the tunnel altogether. The tunnel was filled in 1948.
Covered up and virtually forgotten, many people would stand on the old bridge that seemed to direct traffic directly into a solid rock wall.
In 2009, as a part of the restoration of the remaining segments of the old road, the tunnel was excavated and restored, including the wooden cribbing and rock facades.
Today the old tunnel is a pedestrian passage and witness to the old Columbia River’s history.