The bridge’s architect called it "a prayer in steel." Whatever that means, we have to agree. 🙏(📸: City of Portland Archives)
WHAT: The St. Johns Bridge — Portland’s only suspension bridge and, objectively, one of the most magnificent in the country.
FUN FACTS: The bridge was named after James John, a ferry operator and founder of the St. Johns community in north Portland, who also was one of the first people to trek the California Trail. The bridge landed in the national spotlight in 2015 when Greenpeace activists dangled from it for two days to prevent a Shell barge carrying drilling equipment from heading to the Arctic.
The bridge was designed by American architect David Barnard Steinman, who designed well over 400 bridges in his lifetime. (Editor’s note: Including the Mackinac Bridge that connects the “mitten” of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula across the Great Lakes, and that your editor would travel across nearly every single summer to see her grandparents.)
WHY IT’S SO SPECIAL: When it was built nearly 90 years ago, the St. Johns’ Gothic spires and distinctive design were about more than functionality. As historian Dell Upton put it: “The great suspension bridges of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fed a national sense of self” — and St. Johns architect David Barnard Steinman seemed to have that in mind. “Every bridge should be designed with the guiding and impelling thought to achieve beauty,” Steinman wrote. “Strength, utility and beauty must be combined. To these may be added a modern requirement — efficiency.”
THE #STJOHNSBRIDGE INSTA-PULITZER GOES TO… Brett Becklund, for a black-and-white gem that shows off the bridge in its true Gothic majesty.
QUOTABLE: “Yes, the St. Johns Bridge is my best poem — a prayer in steel.” —David Barnard Steinman.
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