Thursday, September 29, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 266

Mitchell Point Tunnel, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca 1920s

The vintage Sawyer Scenic Photo postcard numbered CG 50 above shows the Mitchell Point Tunnel located toward the eastern end of the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon.  John Arthur Eliot, an engineer with the Oregon State Highway, was the designer.   To build the tunnel it was necessary to blast through solid rock 95 feet or 29 meters high up on the bluff of Mitchell Point above the Columbia River Gorge.  Five windows were carved out of the stone to offer scenic views of the Gorge and motorists could pause to see steamboats on the Columbia River below or look up at Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens.

When the tunnel opened for traffic in 1915 it was adequate for the small amount of automobiles in use but as the vehicles became larger and wider and truck transport became more common it was no longer able to accommodate them.  To avoid collisions traffic signals were installed at each of the tunnel entrances and it became a one-way road.  By the 1930s the tunnel was considered inadequate for modern traffic.  In the 1950s a new, wider, river-level route was built at the base of Mitchell Point.  The tunnel was abandoned with the windows bricked up, the tunnel filled with rock and the access roads blocked until 1966 when Interstate 84 was being widened and the Mitchell Point Tunnel was destroyed.  Today there is an ongoing Historic Columbia River Highway restoration effort by the Oregon Department of Transportation with plans to re-create the tunnel.

Carlton Sawyer started producing Sawyer Scenic Photos postcards Portland, Oregon beginning in 1911.  In 1918 the brothers, Fred and Ed Mayer bought part of the business and joined him.  By 1926 Harold Graves had also joined the group and was responsible for Sawyer’s souvenir sets of scenic photographs.  These sets were expanded to include greeting cards to be sold in department stores.  Another person who joined the company was Wilhelm Gruber who was originally a piano tuner and organ builder who also became a photographer.  Gruber and Graves worked together using the new color film Kodachrome and in 1939 updated old fashioned stereo postcard images to the View-Master.  View-Master images were designed to be an alternative to postcards and proved to be very popular.  The Sawyer Company has since changed hands several times with the current View-Masters being manufactured by Fisher-Price.

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