Sunday, March 3, 2013

Constance Fowler's Water Works and our Smaller Bridges

Today in the paper there's a nice note about the Salem Water Company and the Water Works located just north of the Commercial Street bridge over Pringle Creek. Bridge replacement construction has revealed brick foundation work, likely part of the Water Works.

The photo they used to illustrate the piece doesn't show the Water Works very well, however.  But there's a painting that does!

Constance Fowler's painting at Hallie Ford shows the bridge and Water Works - only the painting doesn't work quite right!

South Commercial Street and Water Works (circa 1940)
Constance Fowler, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Check out the angle of the bridge and road. If the Water Works is on your right, you are looking north and are looking downhill, not uphill!

Commercial Street Bridge and Water Works
Since this is a painting clearly of a Salem scene, we shouldn't feel badly about being literal-minded. Why would Fowler reverse the slope? I suppose the sideways < formed by the street and the roofline elements of the Water Works might make for a better composition, but it's still distracting and even annoying!

The focus in the photo on the smaller bridge might remind us of their role in Salem.  Over at No 3rd Bridge, advocates responded to the Chamber of Commerce's claim that a new ginormous and super-expensive bridge is an essential part of preparation for the Cascadian Subduction Zone "big one" for which we are now due.   No 3rd Bridge says,
Simple logic says that we should further retrofit the bridges we have before building a new one. The City is wasting $100,000 a month on consultants for the Third Bridge that should be going into preparing our existing bridges for the next major quake.
And they're right. But maybe even more than reinforcing the Marion and Center Street bridges, we need to be thinking about reinforcing the bridges across creeks downtown.  Salem has around 100 smaller bridges!

Downtown bridges over Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch
Here, for example, are some of the bridges on streets that would connect the hospital to Salem north of Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch.  Most of these are old bridges from the 1920s and 30s.  It is likely they will collapse in a big earthquake.  Forget, for a moment, getting across the Willamette River.  Getting almost anywhere in Salem requires crossing a number of creeks and these smaller bridges.  Many of them - maybe most of them - are vulnerable to earthquake and flood damage.

Winter St. Bridge Closure after Flood Damage, Spring 2012
Repair during summer 2012 of Winter St. Bridge at Shelton Ditch
The bridge design largely duplicates Commercial Street!
In a world of limited resources, if we allocate them to a big bridge and highway project instead of repairing and reinforcing our existing and smaller bridges, we will surely regret it.

Fortunately the Commercial Street bridge is being replaced - though you wonder just how beefy is the new design.  Is it engineered for the 9.0 "big one"?  Or just for a more ordinary 7.0 quake.

For more historic notes on the Commercial Street bridge and general vicinity, see:

Pringle Path to Follow Flume and History under Commercial St Bridge

Commercial St. Bridge Shows Ties to Past, Part 2

Historical Bridge Bits: Hippies in Eugene, the Flood of 1861 in Salem

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

In his notes to the Constance Fowler show at Hallie Ford this month, Emeritus Professor Curator Roger Hull says:

Fowler judged Salem of the 1930s to be one of the nation's most beautiful towns and continued to focus on subjects in and around the capital city in the 1940s.South Commercial Street (ca. 1940) depicts a man leaning on the railing of a bridge located just south of Trade Street, near the present day Civic Center. In the spring of 1913 this bridge was destroyed to make way for a new one, and the site is otherwise much changed since 1940 when the bridge overlooked the roundhouse of the Salem Water Department. Fowler found in the bridge railing, roundhouse, and tower an almost European vignette, reminiscent of scenes by Maurice Utrillo. But her distinctive treatment of the tree, with its angled trunk and billowing foliage that fuses with the energetic stream of clouds, injects a cyclonic element into the otherwise tranquil depiction.