Thursday, February 14, 2013

Long-vanished Rail Spur leads to Location of Bend's Old Flour Mill (pt. 1)

(If you receive this post via email, you may wish to view it directly by opening the link. There are plenty of photos and maps.)

Part 1 
Wall Street Storage Building holds Key to Old Rail Spur

Wall Street Storage sits close to the north end of Wall St. near Olney Avenue. It is a great hulking building of wood timbers, constructed back in the day when lumber was easy to come by in Bend and 12 by 12s were a foot across. Inside, buzzing sodium-vapor lights hung from the ceiling 20 feet overhead cast pale yellow light throughout the vast space, illuminating a warren of aisles and storage spaces, large and small, divided and partitioned by plywood sheets.

Entry is through a small door up a short flight of stairs at the front of the building. A powerful spring keeps the door closed at all times, and a security camera surveys the entry hall. The air inside is cool in summer and dead cold in winter. 

Jack and Mrs Elliott rent a small space on the lower level, a space for our personal and business tax and accounting records, unused trinkets, old photograph albums, and a whole lot of seasonal items. In winter, boxes of Halloween and Christmas decorations and wrapping paper come out of storage and move into our garage, while summer's toys -- camping equipment, deflated vinyl rafts -- leave our garage and move into the storage space.

Other than the buzz of the lamps, it's generally quiet inside.

Mrs Elliott finds the place gloomy and forbidding, but Jack is fascinated with old buildings, old properties. 

A tale of discovery of some old Bend history

Jessica Woodmansee has been manager of the facility since 2007. She has an inquisitive mind, takes delight in arcane facts, and finds old buildings intriguing. When I visited the place to rent a space around 2011, she offered to show me around and describe some of its history--and I was pleased to take that nickel tour. 

She said that the building dated from 1939. Called "Hudson House," it was built by Portland-based wholesale grocer Hudson-Duncan. In the office she sifted through a stack of papers and pulled out a manila folder containing old newspaper clippings. A photograph, from a July 31 1939 Bend Bulletin story (page number unknown, the online archive of this edition is missing seven pages) was photocopied into two halves. The manila folder may contain the only remaining evidence of the photo.
Composite image of front of Hudson House, 1939 made by crudely pasting together the two halves of the photocopy. Across the front are loading docks for trucks. "Hudson House, Inc." can be seen on the south, left, wall. Click to embiggen.

It's a vast building: 20,000 square feet on the top floor, 12,000 square feet in the basement, according to this article in the March 3 1939 issue of the Bend Bulletin.
Interior of warehouse after completion. The photo does not give the scale of the place. The ceiling is easily 20 feet high. Photo courtesy Wall Street Storage.

But what really caught my eye were three large, counterweighted doors on the south side. This is door No. 5:
Door No. 5 is located closest to Wall Street. Doors No. 6 and 7 are spaced along the side, respectively closer to the western (back, river) side of the building.
According to Woodmansee, when Hudson-Duncan was serving Central Oregon with groceries, produce, and goods these doors were used to load and unload freight from box cars parked on a railway spur alongside the building.

The Adventure Begins

Old infrastructure and trains are catnip to Jack. Better than single-malt Scotch whisky.

Like a stale madeleine, the freight doors lingered in my memory. Earlier this year, while shifting some household possessions into or out of our storage space, I took a few minutes and looked at the outside of the building. There was no sign of the old freight doors: they had been covered; nor were there any clear indications of tracks alongside or near the building.

Here is a historic shot of the building:

Front of Hudson House (Courtesy Bend Bulletin, July 31, 1939)
And the building today.
February, 2013. The front loading area is now completely enclosed to provide more space for storage inside. (Jack Elliott)
Sighting eastward toward the railroad tracks (now on the other side of the parkway), I saw that the south side of the building across the street (1340 NW Wall St.), is aligned with the south side of the storage facility, and paralleled by a line of pylons -- big utility poles --  all the way to the parkway.

Here's an aerial shot (click to embiggen):
Satellite photo of Wall Street Storage with notations. The side of the Wall Street Storage building closest to the bottom of the picture is blank on the outside, but the freight doors are visible inside. The long arrow pointing eastward across the street toward the parkway and the railway is the likely route of the old rail spur. (Photo courtesy Google Maps.) 
Power lines often follow railway rights of way, and the alignment of the south sides of the two buildings suggested that they had once abutted something. My guess was that there had been tracks there.

Calling in Backup

If there were tracks, there surely must be a record of them. So far I had nothing but supposition. 

I needed help.  

And I knew just the man to contact: Michael Hill of Sweeney Pond, Alsea, Ore., a genuine cartophile (map lover); student of: surveying notation, township & range & section, taxlots, metes and bounds, benchmarks, farmer ... and general swell guy.

The map-fu is strong in this one. So is his desire to help. I suspect I took advantage of him.

So here's this poor dude vacationing at his partner's house in Bakersfield for the winter, minding his own business & enjoying the sun when I sent him an email, asking for assistance.

Little did he know that my idle little request would turn into a full-blown research project. He innocently agreed to help.

To The Maps!

Michael first turned up a link to the Department of the Interior's United States Geological Survey (USGS) collection of historical topographical maps.

The earliest quad map showing Bend dates from 1926 and isn't very high resolution. But there is a some information here:
Section of Bend from USGS 1926 map. It's a bit hard to pick out, but there is a railroad spur (highlighted) running from the railroad mainline, on the east, across Wall Street (in red), and then close to the river. It looks as though it curls a bit southward at its end. At or near its end appears to be an "X" symbol, which could be an open pit quarry, or a gravel, sand or clay borrow pit.
The next map is dated 1929 and it's a wee bit clearer:
Section of Bend from USGS 1929 map. It's a rail spur. The symbol at its westward end may be  crossed pickaxes: the symbol for a quarry or open pit mine. The little black dots on the river bank, north of the spur, may represent buildings. 

USGS map symbols:

You be the judge.

Anyway, when we get to 1955, the USGS was doing much higher-resolution work (WWII technology?) and we see the spur clearly. The quarry symbol is no longer present:
Section of Bend from USGS 1955 map. The rail spur is quite clear. No indication of a southward curl or a quarry (the "X" out in the river appears to be an elevation control mark, but there is no elevation noted next to it, so that's odd). The power house and the Newport Ave. dam, originally put in in 1910 by the Bend Light and Power Co. and now owned by Pacific Power, are both shown on the river bank.   
But Hill wasn't done yet -- not by a long shot. Jack may rely on USGS topo maps in the backcountry, but Michael knows they are not reference documents when it comes to property.

So he turned to city of Bend documents and found a couple of historic zoning maps. Here's a cropped section of the map entitled "Proposed Zoning Ordinance Map, City of Bend, February 1947":

Section of City of Bend's 1947 Zoning Ordinance map. 
Now this is interesting. Here the railroad spur is shown curling south along the river.

And he found a zoning map titled "The City of Bend, 1960":

City of Bend 1960 zoning map. The spur is clearly visible, curling down to the river just north of the old Pilot Butte Inn. 
I was struck by two things about these maps. First, the earliest USGS map (1926) showed that the railroad spur predated the Hudson-Duncan building, which was put up in 1939; and second, while the USGS maps all show, or suggest, that the spur ended to the west of the storage building, the city maps tell a different story, showing it curling to the south.

And then Michael turned up a real gem. The next day he wrote, "This will help." and gave a link to the Right of Way and Track Map of the Oregon Trunk Railway, dated June 30, 1916 (8MB jpg). Here's the relevant section:

Section of 1916 map of the Oregon Trunk Railway. The right-of-way for the spur extends west from the mainline, crosses Wall Street, alongside the site where the Hudson-Duncan building will later be erected in 1939, then curls south, almost into the parking lot of the present-day Liquid Lounge at Newport Avenue. 

The earliest USGS map indicates that the spur was put in sometime before 1926. Does this railroad map tell us when? We get a clue. Note the callout "No. 138" right above the right of way where it starts to curl southward. The map's Schedule of Property tells us that the right of way for the spur was procured on December 15, 1910.

The railroad obtained the right of way for the spur from the Pilot Butte Development Co. on Dec 15, 1910
The Oregon Trunk Railway had already sent surveyors to Bend before April 1910 (Schedule of Property No. 126, above) to establish rights of way well before the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company would commence regular passenger and freight service. The first train pulled into town just before 9 pm on October 31 1911, 26 days after James Hill drove in the "Golden Spike."

This was a big deal at the time. Before the train, Bend didn't have much going on. Goods were hauled into town by wagon.

To prepare for the train, the October 25, 1911 edition of the Bend Bulletin reported that "[t]here is no letup in the activity in the local yards. Clearing of the roundhouse grounds, grading of the spur to the flour mill, erection of water tank and building of the passenger station continue, a large force of men being at work." *

End of Part 1

Next: In Part 2, Jack puts feet and eyes on the ground at Wall Street Storage, seeking signs of the old rail spur. 

* Four examples of the work being done in Bend before the train arrived were described in the October 25 1911 Bend Bulletin article. I did a little research on those four:

The Roundhouse and the Water Tower: Bend was the south terminus point of the rail line until the late '20s when the Great Northern Railroad established connection to Klamath Falls and to California. Until then, the return trip back up to the Columbia river necessitated that the locomotives be serviced and turned around. A roundhouse would provide the necessary facilities, but I couldn't find any information about the old roundhouse. The end of the line for the Oregon Trunk Railway was by Jaycee Park. Roundhouses need a lot of space and there is a large railroad property about 1/2 mile north of the terminus point, so perhaps the roundhouse and water tower were there. 

Click to embiggen. (Courtesy
The Passenger DepotThe depot was originally located a block north of Greenwood (N 44° 03.657’ W 121° 18.411’ center of this Google Maps image). NW Kearny Ave. went directly to it. The passenger depot was built of volcanic tuff stone in a unique "Mission and Romanesque" style, and is said to be "[...] one of only 4 examples throughout Oregon's passenger railroad stations with this unique combination of masonry and the porte cochere design [...]. "In the 1990’s planning was underway for construction of a new route for Hwy. 97 through Bend [the parkway - Ed.] and the Depot was in the way [and] the Depot had been taken apart, stone by stone (" then later reassembled to the south, as Arts Central Station (The Central Central Cascades Geotourism Project).

And the Spur to the Flour Mill? We'll get to that in a bit. 

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