St Johns Bridge during construction – 1930
When considering the 1930s, people often wince at the looming shadow of the Great Depression, but this was also the decade we fought our way back to prosperity. More important than the financial downfall that plagued our nation (and the world beyond) were our accomplishments. Despite the collapse (perhaps to spite it), we were building. The St. Johns Bridge was opened on June 13th, 1931 and at the time of completion, boasted the highest clearance in the nation. Hailed humbly by its engineer as “the most beautiful bridge in the world,” and there are many Portlander commuters today who would argue the same.
In 1933, the passing of the Beer Act allowed our legendary brewers to restart their production facilities, rekindling employment in that sector and blazing the trail for Prohibition’s impending repeal. By the spring of 1937, our industrial production surpassed that of 1929, and after one last hiccup prompted by the Roosevelt administration’s attempt to balance the federal budget, the country as a whole was back on track by the summer of 1938. Watch as a Portlander styles himself a stunt driver in his new 1938 Buick, to the applause of gathering crowds and the disapproval of local law enforcement.
Portland Public Market City Central – 1933
While the Craftsman of the 1920s was by no means out of style, the leaner times shifted new constructions of the decade toward the more modest ranch home, built with its signature low profile, away from the city center. Freshly turning out of a housing drought in present day, there are exciting similarities in our current revitalization as it emanates outward from the core of Portland, just as it did at the end of the thirties. Weathering the nearly ten year storm of the Depression, Portlanders emerged on the other side as prosperous as ever and ready to build, with a breath-taking bridge and the nation’s best craft-brewed beer to show for it.