30 October 2007

[pdx, Address_Nerd] Quietly Quirky Portland Street Signs

1066 and all that. One of the things I love about Portland is the street signs (I've never made a secret of this, of course). Portland's street grid has certain quirks that have, as a map addict and all-round Address Nerd, endeared me for life.

One is a practice to name some streets without a "Street Type". Herewith, an example:

The street blade isn't incomplete or incorrect. Historically, this street was never called "Reedway Street", despite it being an east-west traffic way (by Portland definition, a named "street"). Whoever named it probably called it "Reed Way", which concatenated over time into a single word, proably echoing "Broadway" and the similarly named "Wardway" (which is the little road that snakes down to the light at NW Nicolai Street and Saint Helens Road, in case anyone's ever wondererd, and was presumably named for the old Ward warehouse which is now Montgomery Park. Reedway, we presume, was either named in honor of Simeon Reed or the unique college that bears his name, which is close to hand).

Latterly, as these signs age, they have been replaced with more conforming signs: SW and NW Broadway are not yet signed "Broadway Av", but N and NE Broadway are increasingly being badged as "Broadway St", as is SE Reedway (and presumably NW Wardway, though we haven't been over there in a while to see.

Needless to say, we like this not. We need to keep Portland quirky.

Next exhibit:

This picture shows something I love to find–this sign, which can be found at the corner of SE 97th Ave and Harold St (how about that? I man, what are the odds?) shows signs made in the Portland style but the format does not conform. The blade on 97th should read SE 97th AV, not SE 97TH AVE (the unsuperscripted ordinal just kind of jumps out at you, and the street type should be AV not AVE) and the Harold blades street type (ST) should be much, much smaller than it is.

As information design, Portland street blades are spare but very efficient and above all, uniform. Something like this is a happy find–it's a little like finding that postage stamp with the upside-down biplane that was so famous

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4 comments:

stan said...

Thanks for the geekout, my friend. I've been needing my fix of Portland address nerdery lately.

I too have noticed those three streets, Broadway, Reedway (delivered pizza near there in the early 90's) and yes, even Wardway (I worked at Monty Park for a spell) although Google Maps shows them as SE Reedway St. and NW Wardway St., but left NE Broadway alone. Odd.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Thanks for the geekout, my friend. I've been needing my fix of Portland address nerdery lately.

Well, I've been hiding the Nerd under a bushel for a while. Might be time to haul him out for a little tear–especially since it makes you happy there...

Notice that you got back here to Stumptown in your own blog there. Hope Missouri is treating you and yours alright–now that you're a Carthaginian, the world should be your oyster, after all (I mean, it took the Romans to put them down, didn't it?)

...although Google Maps shows them as SE Reedway St. and NW Wardway St., but left NE Broadway alone. Odd.

I think those mappers take their database cues from other less authoritative sources, for instance, back in the 90s, based on a similar misspelling of NW Albemarle Terrace, I was convinced that Thomas Guides were cribbing from Pittmon...but I digress.

I always dreamed of creating the definitive printed map of Portland...maybe I ought to start researching that.

Oh, hey, come to that, if you have any interesting street sign photos of Carthage and the surrounding area, I'll post 'em here. I love Portland street blades, but all street blades really interest me.

stan said...

The second time I visited here in July of last year, I actually did take a bunch of sign blade photos because indeed, they are interesting. I may have to dig those out of the hard drive and Flickr 'em.

One new item came to my attention today regarding streets named ***way—while I was at work, of all places. Seems that there's a business in our database that's located on SW Parkway in Portland, and when I looked it up tonight, Google shows it as SW Park Way. Certain sites show it as SW Parkway, though. Any insight, Sam?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

No real information, but some inspired speculation.

I've always thought, in this wise, that people's perceptions abhor a void. In this case, calling this street simply "SW Parkway" even though that might be the official spelling of the name seems incomplete.

Someone looking at the name thinks that something is missing...SW "what" Parkway? Or they wonder if that's Parkway Dr, Parkway St, Parkway Rd...etc.

My thought is that it eventually evolves, through changing use...a new street blade here, a map printing there...into a more conventional form. Those making city street maps for retail are looking at the word and saying to themselves "That can't be right...they must have meant SW Park Way...and so it goes.