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Cities, tribes and other community groups will celebrate bridge centennial Oct. 1

COURTESY PHOTO: ODOT - The Oregon Department of Transportation completed the Arch Bridge between Oregon City and West Linn in 1922.One century ago, crews constructed the West Linn-Oregon City Arch Bridge, which spanned the Willamette River and filled the final major gap in the Pacific Highway from Canada to Mexico.

To celebrate the centennial of what was then called "The Most Beautiful Bridge in America," the cities of West Linn and Oregon City, along with the Oregon Department of Transportation, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and several other community groups, are temporarily closing the bridge to commemorate its history Saturday, Oct. 1.

Officials from each of those entities, along with the West Linn Historical Society, Willamette Falls and Landings Heritage Area Coalition, Clackamas County Arts Alliance and Historic Willamette Main Street, have worked on plans for the celebration since January.

"A lot of people are excited about it and excited to be a part of it," said Rae Gordon, a member of the organizing committee.

The event will include musical performances, a spiritual blessing from the Grand Ronde and the recreation of a wedding that took place at the celebration of the bridge's opening in 1922.

"We want to see if there's a young couple looking to officially get married," said West Linn Historical Society member Lorie Griffith.

The bridge opening and dedication 100 years ago included a "Wedding of Two Cities" in which a woman from West Linn married a man from Oregon City. Griffith said the historical society wants to find another couple representing both sides of the river to marry on the bridge Oct. 1.

COURTESY PHOTO - The West Linn-Oregon City Arch Bridge was completed in 1922. Newly elected Oregon City Mayor Denyse McGriff, who has helped plan the event, said the Arch Bridge and the cities working together to celebrate it symbolize "how much we have in common with each other on both sides of the river."

McGriff has enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with officials from West Linn like former Mayor Russ Axelrod, current Mayor Jules Walters, Deputy City Manager John Williams and community relations coordinator Danielle Choi.

Gordon, who is helping organize the musical acts, said musicians from West Linn and Oregon City, including the Youth Music Project in the Willamette area, will perform on stages set at both ends of the bridge.

The historical society and heritage area coalition also will hold activities at West Linn's former City Hall building, at the foot of the bridge. Historic City Hall recently was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The historical society will offer a history of bridge designer Conde McCullough, a children's bridge-building activity, a model of the Willamette Falls Locks and images from Old Oregon photos.

The Friends of McLean Park and House have organized an open house with coffee and doughnuts for the morning ahead of the ceremony, after which a Boy Scout troop will lead the short walk from the McLean House to the bridge.

Other features of the celebration include an interactive art display, where attendees can complete a paint-by-numbers work, which eventually will form an art panel displayed throughout Oregon City and West Linn, and a gift exchange between the cities of West Linn and Oregon City and the tribes of the Grand Ronde.

According to McGriff, she and Oregon City Commissioner Rocky Smith came up with the idea to exchange gifts as a way to further cement the friendships between the cities and the tribes.

Smith managed to obtain a program from the 1922 bridge opening on eBay and the committee hopes to recreate the booklet representing West Linn and Oregon City today.

"I think it will be a fabulous day," McGriff said.


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