5. Early Routes‎ > ‎

052.080 County "Market" Roads

In Oregon during the first decade of the century, there were virtually no paved highways.  Neither was there a state agency to oversee large-scale highway construction nor any means to identify the resources for accomplishing such a task.  Rural "market" roads were not much better than the primitive wagon roads built by early settlers -- far too wretched to accommodate the increasing demand of automobile traffic.  Paved with little more than packed dirt, macadam, or wooden planks, they were only seasonably usable and provided less than adequate connections between communities.  (Reddick vii)

1889 Map - Portions of the Wire Trail, Rooster Rock Road, and Latourell Road
Multnomah County 1889
Atlas: Multnomah County 1889
State: Oregon
Habersham, Robert A 1889

Early roads between Troutdale, Gresham and Corbett are illustrated on the 1915 map below:

Stark Street Viaduct, Interpretive Sign (2014)
Stark / Baseline. Historic Columbia River Highway. Oregon. January 6, 2014 
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt , All Rights Reserved

Having ascertained these facts the writer made several trips over the proposed route of the highway, and it was found that from the western boundary of the county, passing through the city of Portland to Chanticleer Inn, 22 miles to the east, the existing roads, serving a splendid agricultural section, are for the most part comparatively level, and with the exception of some short and dangerous curves in several places, and steep grades on both approaches to the Sandy River, these roads require but little more than drainage and hard surfacing to make them reasonably good, although, of course, the location can be improved materially in many places.  (Lancaster, 1914 58)

The portion of the CRH from the Sandy River to its junction with Larch Mountain Road (HMP
23), retains its original character as a country road. All of this section, except for 1.5 miles of the
2.5 miles between the Sandy River (Troutdale) Bridge and the Sandy River (Stark St.) Bridge,
predates the highway. It was part of an extensive farm-to-market road system in eastern
Multnomah County that radiated from Portland to its hinterland. The 1.5 miles of improvements,
which is immediately north and west of the Sandy River (Stark Street) Bridge, is a water-level
alignment created through substantial cliff side cuts along the Sandy River. It was built in 1916
as part of the CRH’s original construction and bypassed a county road connecting with the Sandy
River Bridge at Troutdale that had 20 percent grades.  (Hadlow, Landmark Nomination, 5)

From Chanticleer to the east line of Multnomah County, a distance of 20.48 miles, there existed no road. There was a narrow, steep and crooked link from Chanticleer down the side of the gorge to Latourelle, then up and over and down again to Bridal Veil, connecting with the short piece of road built in response to the petition previously referred to of Henry Wemme and others, when the Columbia Highway was inaugurated and where it had ended its course abruptly against a rugged mountainside some distance above the track of a trans-continental railway. (Lancaster, 1914 58)

Below, Lancaster may be referring to a route climbing up out of the Gorge following what is now called the Alex Barr Road and then descending via the Palmer Mill Road:

On leaving Latourelle the old county road climbed up the side of the mountain by heavy grades and hairpin turns, reaching an elevation of 555 feet (just about the height of the Washington Monument) before it turned and came down again on the other side by many a bend and crook. The side of the mountain was rugged and steep, and at its base was the main line track of a great railway reaching to Chicago. (Lancaster, 1914 62)

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