Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Portland is home to some unique and historic water towers throughout the downtown area. Each water tower has an individual story.

From Skid Road to Old Town

The water tower above is located at the west end of the Burnside Bridge.  It's probably the most well known water tower in Portland. Of course, it helps being located next to the sign.

The water tower designates the Old Town Historic District, which was formed in 1975, when developer Bill Naito changed the name of the area north of Burnside from Skid Road to Old Town by painting the words "Old Town" on a rooftop water tower above one of his buildings next to the Burnside bridge.  His idea caught on and it changed the area from downtown backwater to a major commercial district.  In 1979, Old Town officially became a historic district.

The Pearl District Water Towers

Four water towers remain in the Pearl District.

These 2 rooftop water tanks sit above the Chown Building in the Pearl District on NW 13th Avenue.  The water tanks were installed as part of the Chown Pella Building in 1910.  They are made of wood and are held together with steel bands. The primary function of the water tanks was fire protection in the early 20th century.  Today, they are strictly aesthetic. 
As of the writing of this blog, Sept 2016, funds are being raising to restore and save the 2 water towers shown above.

The 3rd water tower in the Pearl District is located on top of the Marshall Wells Building on NW 14th and Lovejoy.  This building is a former warehouse for local hardware stores and was purchased by Coast to Coast in 1978.  In 2001, construction began to convert the building into 164 lofts. The wooden water tank sits above on a steel platform.

This logo uses the Marshall Wells water tower as the centerpiece in the design.  

The Pearl District

Formerly known as the NW Industrial Triangle, the Pearl District was once a rail yard surrounded by multi-story warehouses, commercial buildings and breweries.  It has evolved into nice, urban neighborhood.  

In 1930, before the upscale Pearl District, NW Portland was rough and tumble.  Prior to Latte's and Lofts,  the gritty district was home to freight cars, warehouse storage and plenty of heavy lifting.  Train tracks and rutted roads were the norm, paved streets and sidewalks would have to wait. Here we're looking south on NW 13th and Lovejoy.

Note water tower on the left side above building rooftop and the First Presbyterian Church in background.

Looking down NW 13th some 60 years later in early 1990's.

 Today, if you stand here and look, the view of the church is obstructed by a huge 20 story glass building built in 2009.

The 4th water tower is on borrowed time.  Since the Great Depression, this steel industrial water tower shown above has been a part of the Portland skyline.  Located above the Centennial Flouring Mills on the edge of the Pearl District, it sits on the waterfront just south of the Fremont Bridge.  It can be seen in many pictures and paintings of the city. The water tower's silhouette is the basis for the Pearl District's logo, used in both the business association and on the toppers of street signs within the bounds of one of Portland's most desirable neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the Centennial Mills and water tower are currently being demolished at the time of this blog (September 2016) and this water tower won't be around much longer.  

A remnant of the NW Industrial District early days, the Centennial Mills water tower has been integrated into the different Pearl District logos.

Some old buildings in the Pearl District still have empty stands where a water tank used to sit.  There used to be an abundance of water towers in the Pearl on the rooftops.

John's Landing Water Tower

This water tower is located in John's Landing at 5331 SW Macadam Ave, Portland OR 97239

Schoolhouse Electric Water Tank

The 4 water towers of Vanport didn't last long, but they were impressive.