Photos from our icy past

As we pick up the pieces from last week’s snow and ice, we thought you might like to see a trove of photos that offer a glimpse of a similar winter event from 105 years ago, complete with downed power lines and broken limbs. Click in for a good close look.

Looking south on NE Grand Avenue near Holladay, courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society, OrgLot151_PGE139-24. February 1916.

Near NE Glisan and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society, OrgLot151_PGE139-30. February 1916.

These are two of 21 images made by Portland General Electric to document a destructive snow and ice storm that hit Portland in the first week of February 1916. The photos are part of the Oregon Historical Society’s digital collection. Here’s a link to see all 21.

The February 1916 storm–referred to as a “silver thaw,” which essentially is rain falling through lower-elevation cold air that coats and freezes on contact with cold surfaces–left quite a mess. Schools were closed, streetcar service interrupted and significant damage inflicted on local infrastructure.

Local newspapers were filled with photos and reporting about the weather event, including this interesting look back (from the perspective of 1916) at the frequency of ice storms, the presence of ice in local rivers and hints of a changing climate.

From The Oregonian, February 8, 1916. Author Leslie M. Scott was chairman of the Oregon Historical Quarterly, a 40-year board member at the Oregon Historical Society, son of The Oregonian editor Harvey W. Scott, and went on to serve as Oregon Treasurer from 1941-1949.

If you are into old photos—as we guess you might be if you’re a regular AH reader—you should spend some time with the OHS Digital History collections, especially the rich collection of photographs, which is a favorite big black hole of time travel. You might also consider signing up for OHS newsletter, which is one of the handful of digital newsletters we always look forward to reading.

Thankfully, underneath the ice—then as now—are the daffodils.

2 responses

  1. Seems like in 1916 PGE would have learned the value of underground utilities 🙂
    105 years later, same photos could have been taken.

  2. My Mom used to always call them “silver thaws”. She was born (1915) and raised on Mallory Avenue just W of Union (now MLK) and North of Portland Blvd (now Rosa Parks). They had a cow and chickens in back. My Dad was born and raised a few blocks over. Both said they often had bad ice and snow. My Grandfather at some point drove a car on Willamette river by Sellwood bridge as the river iced over sometimes.
    Yes, as Steve said Deadman’s and 32nd were packed with crowds of kids (much braver than I) back in 1960s storms

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