14 August 2005

[Address_Nerd] Isaac Laquedem explains SW Ford Street Drive

A few iterations ago, in this post, a lively chat ensued in the comments about street names and the presence of such streets as SW Market Street Drive and SW Ford Street Drive got touched on.

These are very interesting names, fun to say, interesting looking on a street blade. SW Market Street Drive springs, somewhat indrectly, from the upper reaches of SW Market Street, hence the name. But what about SW Ford Street Drive? Examination of the map of Portland shows no such SW Ford Street.

Isaac Laquedem solves the conundrum for us.

Lay on, Professor:

The story behind SW Ford Street and why it isn't there any more goes back to 1925, when the Ford Street Bridge was replaced by the Vista Bridge. In 1892 when the subdivision of Ardmore was platted (it lies just to the west of Vista Avenue, between Vista and Douglas), Vista Avenue was shown on the plat as Ford Street and Ardmore Avenue was named Macleay Street.

When the current Vista Bridge was built, the old span was moved to Burlingame where it was pressed into service as the Terwilliger Bridge and spanned the gulch for another 60 years, until the current span was built.
Brillant follow, first class detective work. Props, all y'all, to Isaac.


Jim said...

before there was a bridge, was there an actual ford across some stream

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Reasonable guess. Not quite so in this case though.

The bridge in question does bridge a chasm, however, the route never forded it. This is actually quite a spectacularly deep gully, the current Vista Bridge is a few hundred feet up, and connects points on the lip of this canyon.

In the book Portland Names, and Neighborhhoods, Eugene E Snyder guesses that it was possibly inspired by Henry Ford and his new horselss carriage, which was famously popular at the time.

stan said...

It was named in honor of all of the Fords that tipped over the railing and plummeted into the gully below :)

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Not to mention a variety of alternate original names for the road at the bottom of the gully: "Watch Your Head", "Heads Up", and "Oh-My-Friggin-Gawd-OUCH".

This is today known as SW Canyon Road/SW Jefferson Street.

We lose so much history, I swear.

Jim said...

Tonto giving directions: south west Ford street drive

Isaac Laquedem said...

I'm pretty sure that Ford Street wasn't named after Henry Ford, because it appeared on the plat of Ardmore the year before the Duryea brothers built their first automobile, long before Henry Ford got into the car biz. But no prominent Ford from early Portland comes to mind. Macleay, the other street shown on the plat of Ardmore, is after an early Portlander whose son, Roderick Macleay, was president of (I think) the U.S. National Bank during the Depression. NW Macleay, off of Burnside, is named after the same family.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...


Tonto giving directions: south west Ford street drive

And the question is: What did Tonto say in response to the remark, "How?"

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Isaac, I wish the esteemed Mr Snyder had you about when he wrote his book.

One of his primary tools were the City Directories. If he couldn't find anything that answered the question (and there was more than one thing) he made educated or, at least, entertaining ones.

We may never know why Ford Street was named that. My guess would be either a pioneer family (there's also a Ford Street in McMinnville, named after local settlers) or maybe someone just liked the name Ford.

Jim said...

The street that I lived on in Texas was "Tom Green" -- a good idea to include the first name so future generations know who is being honored -- Austin also has Ben White Blvd., Dallas has Harry Hines Blvd. -- the down side was that I had to keep explaining to people that "Tom Green" was not my roommate.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...


We Oregonians don't need such wimpy menimm...menonon...meamman...memory aids to remind us. We can work on last names:

Hawthorne-why everyone should know that Dr Hawthorne was head of the State's first asylum, which was on what was then called Asylum Avenue...

Glisan-a pioneer doctor whose name is correctly said wrong. Locals say "Glee-son", but the good doctor said "Gliss-un". So, to say it right, you have to say it wrong.

We use it to separate locals from visitors. As we do with Couch Street.

And those are just a couple of examples...

You wrote:
he down side was that I had to keep explaining to people that "Tom Green" was not my roommate.

Nobody needs Tom Green as a roommate.