Blue Bridge: A History

Our iconic bridge was built in 1991, but what stood before? This particular stretch of canyon has a history rooted in the early 20th century, so listen in. The earliest bridge was a rudimentary structure built in the '30s, before the Cross Canyons or any other structures were built on the far side. Purely for the utility of getting across, and never commuting, this bridge evaporated practically without a trace. One of the only surviving records of this bridge is a grainy 1957 photograph documenting one of Portland's infrequent snow dustings. 

The Cross Canyon's conception induced the commissioning of a new bridge to more securely link the men's dormitories (how the times have changed!) with the remainder of campus. Bequeathed with memorial funds, the Arthur Churchill bridge was dedicated in 1959. Embodying the sleek aviator style of the era, this bridge was built light out of plywood with a stretched canvas coating, sporting bright red and yellow colors on its underside. Yet, this marvel was not without its flaws. The stretched canvas coating would become slippery and unwelcoming during the winter months, and after a few decades the plywood composing the frame began to break down and threaten the bridge's safety. When in the early '90s the Reed administration proposed to renovate the bridge, the idea was met not without opposition. At one point, a crowd of students gathered and the bridge's by-then-rickety deck, with the Doyle Owl standing proudly in their midst, chanting, "See! This bridge can hold a hundred!"

But, even with all the demonstrations, nothing lasts forever. In 1991 Reed hired an architectural group to design a new bridge to last  the ages and to keep the canyon pure. This third bridge on one site is the Blue Bridge we see today.