27 March 2014

[pdx] 1 Elevator Street, Oregon City, Oregon

In Oregon City, an elevator is something other than else.

The history of the elevator goes way, way back, and the legend goes something like this: as the city developed, this legend goes, the early OCans made do with the trails that the original inhabitants used to get between the bench and the bluff. That wouldn't fly over the long term, of course. Eventually, funds were raised for a more civilized way up the hill.

The first elevator, which went into operation about 1915, was a water-powered contraption, very business-like, matter-of-fact, practical, and plain. You got up and got down and got about your business. In the mid 1950's, though, the current version - which is done in a combination of what I understand to be Art Deco and a Space-Age style somewhat appropriate to The Jetsons, possibly inspired a little by Metropolis, was built and went into service. And this is what we have now.

The entry is a tunnel leading below the railroad tracks from this nifty fa├žade at the intersection of 7th and Railroad Streets, just one block away from the end of the Arch Bridge (Downtown OC is defined by three N-S streets, and is only two blocks wide).

The crow's-nest observation deck is about 130 feet up, and has the nifty look of a alien spaceship from some 1950s B-monster SF flick.

You can fly me anytime, baby.

The elevator is really a conventional elevator, which is unique because Oregon City employs an elevator operator. He (today it was a he) sits on a small stool behind a plexi partition and works the buttons, is generally a nice host-y presence.

Being a map aficionado, the floor of the deck had a great thing for me to see. That, of course, would be … a map. Quelle suprise.

A plat map (a plat is the term of art of the original town street design on the ground, whether the streets actually get built or not) from the original OC was adapted into a design for the floor of the deck. Brown blocks for the lower level; green blocks for the upper.

The 'wooly-worm' design that denotes the bluff is known by cartographers as a hachure, and in this case is mostly symbolic, but is a rather rustic way of indicating slopes. In more technical representations, the length and width of the hachure indicates the slope and direction of slope; much as you can tell how sheer a hill is by the spacing of the contour lines on a modern relief map, knowing how to read a hachure gives you a graphical glimpse-idea of the terrain.

The crow's nest design of the deck allows historic Oregon City to show herself off at her sexiest.

All about, the deck (and the tunnel below) are lined with an ingenious historical display. Each photo is a layered thing: a modern view, a historic view, and a wide panorama of the falls. Due to the same effect that allowed a kids eye to wink at you in those toys that had the corrugated plastic, that gave a kind of animation effect, the exhibits designers packed a time panorama into a series of well-curated panels.

The below I selected because, well, vintage street signs, and the kind of finger-directional signs we used to grow around here, a style which existed well into the 1960s.

The art-deco touch even extends to the well-chosen typography, which is drawn from the past's idea of what the future would be. Of particular note is the low waistline on the font, which can be noted in the R, E, and G, and the absolute geometric perfection of the forms. The Art-Decoish feel to the facade just reinforces the retro-future feel.

The tunnel leading to the lower entry to the elevator is a great place to play your songs, as this guy working it showed us. He didn't seem to be busking, just playing to hear himself play. He was quite skillful and very much into it.

I love tunnels. They're fun to photograph and the neat thing about it is you can take it for where you are or it can be anywhere. They're great for fantasizing and getting lost in your own visions.

And from this Art Deco treasure, you can see the other.

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