In the days before freeways, the main route to the east from Portland was the Columbia River Scenic Highway, which starts in Troutdale and goes to The Dalles.
The Historic Columbia River Highway was America’s first scenic highway and Oregon’s first paved thoroughfare. Construction of the highway, which is known for its ornate stonework, began in 1913. The lower section was dedicated on June 7, 1916 and the upper sections of the highway were finished in 1922.
The one person most responsible for the Columbia River Highway was Sam Hill. Hill was born in 1857 in North Carolina and he lived for 74 years. He is most remembered for having built: the Columbia River Highway, the Peace Arch at Blaine, Washington and Maryhill Museum. Starting work at age 17 on a railroad survey crew, Hill quickly became a protégé of Pennsylvania Railroad magnate A.J. Cassatt.
After earning a law degree from Harvard, Sam Hill settled in Minneapolis where railroad tycoon Jim Hill (no relation), organizer of the Great Northern Railroad, hired him as the company lawyer. Sam Hill took the hand of Jim Hill’s daughter, Mary Frances Hill, in marriage. Eventually, Sam Hill, who made a fortune in the railroad business, moved west to tend to his own enterprises: a gas company in Seattle and a phone company in Portland.