A Sad Existence for an Erstwhile Greyhound Garage

Front detail on old Greyhound bus garage - 2521 SW Water Avenue. Lauren Radwanski photo.

In the shadow of the Marquam Bridge lies a little know building that was once a state of the art garage for Greyhound buses. Recently Architectural Heritage Center volunteer Lauren Radwanski, brought this building to our attention, as it appears on the verge of demolition. In fact, building owners Portland General Electric, have had the property on which the building sits, targeted for a new substation for several years. Clearly the building has seen better days, and recognizing that not everything can be saved, we thought it might be interesting to shed a little light on the history of this building before it’s gone for good.

Although to date the architect for the building has yet to be discovered, we know that the Greyhound garage opened in 1931 to much fanfare, at least within the “motor  stage” industry. That summer, there was a detailed spread in the trade publication Bus Transportation about Portland’s new $200,000 bus garage.

Excerpt from Bus Transportation magazine - July 1931.

Apparently, the garage could service 18 buses at one time and included in the nearly 58,000 square feet of space were living quarters for bus drivers – hard to image in the 21st century. The building’s roof was also cutting edge (no pun intended) for its time, described as “saw tooth”, with “light diffusing glass” to maximize natural light. Without a doubt, Greyhound invested heavily in this garage for the then-growing bus travel industry.

Photo of newly completed Portland Greyhound bus garage. From Bus Transportation magazine, July 1931.

There’s still more research to be done and hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll find out additional details about the old garage. In the meantime, if you happen to be passing underneath the Marquam Bridge, on SW Water Avenue, take a moment and try to imagine the pride that went into this now-derelict building’s construction.

Street view of Portland's old Greyhound garage. Lauren Radwanski photo.

Wheel-themed detail on facade of old Greyhound bus garage. Lauren Radwanski photo.



Filed under Historic Preservation, Local History

19 responses to “A Sad Existence for an Erstwhile Greyhound Garage

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  2. Fred Leeson

    Back in the early 1970s, when George McMath was chair of the landmarks commission, Greyhound was still using this garage. They swapped in some new windows that were a dismal fit with the original style. McMath called it the “bombed out look” ….the first time I’d heard that phrase in connection with modern windows. I’ve never forgotten it, and always think of that when I see this building. It’s a sad to see it in such poor condition.

  3. Lisa

    This does make me sad. I have noticed that building from the bridge so many times and wondered what the story was, and why it hasn’t been bought and transformed into something new. Isn’t there any way to save this building from demolition?? It seems as though too many historic buildings are torn down instead of being preserved. I bet the McMenamins could make this bus station into something incredible!

  4. More modern 30’s warehouse like structures seem like an easy retrofit for a new use (unlike something like say a theater or private residence). What ever replaces it I’m sure would be roughly the same size and layout. Seems a waste to tear it down. There’s so little in that neighborhood that survived the onslaught of road construction.

  5. Lori Fisher

    When did Grayhound close the bus garage? They should at least save the signs and the detail you’ve photographed. Ironic that an icon to the “motor stage” industry fell to road construction.

  6. The posting mentions PGE’s desire to host a new or expanded substation on the property. Why not simply host the substation inside the building? It wouldn’t be the first time. Pacific Power has an indoor facility adjacent to the Matt Dishman center on NE Knott in Portland (which in irony, was a PGE facility not too many years ago).

  7. MBW

    FINALLY! Someone was kind enough to dig up info! Been meaning to go check it out myself, but life’s busy…blah blah, you know. I’ve wondered for years what this building’s story was and done rudimentary online digging for info. So, THANK YOU so much for doing research and answering my years long curiosity. Will keep checking back for developments and ways in which this building might be put to future use rather than demolished. Would be a shame indeed.

  8. Myrna

    I just noticed this building last week — my job route has recently put me in this area on a daily basis — and I immediately wondered how such a cool old building could be allowed to fall into such a sad condition. Glad to find some historical information on it. Hope it can be saved!

  9. Cat

    I wish there was more that we could do to keep these wonderful old buildings free from graffiti. We have the same problem in Tucson (and I’m sure other cities as well), once a building becomes empty, it becomes a magnet for this stuff. I think there should be an ordinance in place that makes the owners/sellers/realty co. responsible for cleaning it, and fined if its not. Just my opinion. Thanks for the great story/photos!

  10. zilfondel

    This would be an awesome building to convert to the Portland Streetcar maintenance garage. Wouldn’t that be ironic and fitting?

    Its also close to the existing streetcar line!

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  12. Stan

    Thank you for doing a piece on this building. I “found” it last year, after wondering for many years if it even still existed. You see, my Dad was a Greyhound Bus Driver out of Portland for many years, and I used to be thrilled to get to go to work with him on occasion, usually runs up to Seattle and back. I remember being in that building in the wee hours of the morning many times in my youth. One detail that was left out of the article; the garage included a “bus-wash”. When I was in 2nd grade, Dad came to my school (now gone as well) and picked up our entire class in a beautiful big shiny bus (I think it was a Scenicruiser), and took us to that garage. One of the highlights of the trip was riding through the buswash. That field trip made the newspaper; I’ll have to see if I can find the article.

  13. Nancy Cole

    I believe this is the garage where my dad worked at.He was working there in 1975 as a diesel mechanic for Greyhound, when he passed away. Am I correct when I say that this was the garage for Greyhound buses where they were serviced? I was very young then but I do remember going here with my dad on different occasions. When was this building closed down? I would like to know more history about this. Please tell me where I can find information.

  14. Nancy, this was a repair facility for Greyhound. We’re not sure when they stopped using the facility, but it may have still been in use in the mid-70s. A check of city directories from that time would probably answer this question. Polk City Directories are available at Multnomah County Central Library, the Oregon Historical Society or the Portland Archives and Records Center on the PSU campus.

  15. Back in the 70’s as a cab driver I remember waiting at the main Greyhound bus station waiting for fare’s. It was a real BUMMER when a Greyhound driver came out cuz he had a “Flat Rate Ticket” to that garauge!!!! 😦

  16. SteveM

    Sorry to have to report that this building has been demolished, probably several months ago. Although I only just discovered that development today, I had not passed the site in several months (possibly not all year), and a Google search found that the city issued a demolition permit on October 30, 2012 (about one year ago now).

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