The Benson Bridge
One day while out at the site with Simon Benson Lancaster remarked to the wealthy Portland lumberman and good roads enthusiast, that it would “be nice if there were a footbridge across the lower waterfall, with a path up to and across it so that visitors could…look up at that magnificent waterfall above, then without moving look down on the lower one into the pool below.” Benson asked what it might cost and Lancaster calculated the figures on the back of an envelope. Benson then wrote out a check for the amount and directed Lancaster to build it. The resulting footbridge is a 45’-0" reinforced-concrete deck arch, 105’ above the lower Multnomah Falls. The location provides a spectacular view of the upper falls. Benson later purchased nearly 1,000 acres along the Columbia River, including 140 acres around Multnomah Falls which he gave to Portland for a city park.
In 1914, the Pacific Bridge Company of Portland received the contract to construct the Crown Point Viaduct and several bridges along the 16-mile-long “waterfalls section” of the Historic Columbia River Highway, from Shepperds Dell Bridge to Horsetail Falls Bridge. As was common practice, the firm subcontracted portions of the work to other companies. Robert Lee Ringer, who previously completed an electric fountain on the state capitol grounds in Salem and had just completed the reinforced-concrete portions of the 500’ viaduct at Crown Point subcontracted work on the Multnomah Falls Footbridge. Ringer reminisced in 1967 that the Pacific Bridge Company “was too large to be concerned with the little bridge over the falls, especially at the end of the season.” As a “small-time contractor” who picked up “some lesser jobs along the highway” Ringer was ready and able to construct the bridge and finished it in the fall of 1914.
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