Charles H. Purcell

View Exhibit map

Charles Henry Purcell (1883-1951) was one of the most distinguished civil engineers of the 20th century. His most notable accomplishment was as the chief engineer for the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. During his career Purcell held many distinguished positions in public service mostly on the west coast.

Purcell was Oregon’s first State Bridge Engineer beginning in 1913 where he established the first statewide bridge design department for the State of Oregon. Major bridge projects under Purcell’s watch include the bridges of the Historic Columbia River Highway, the Center Street Bridge in Salem, Oregon, and many smaller bridges throughout the state.

Purcell left the Oregon Highway Department in 1918 for the position of District Engineer for U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. In 1928 after seven years as district engineer, Purcell was appointed California State Highway Engineer. During his tenure in California Purcell was responsible for the design and construction of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. He also assisted in the development of the first major freeways on the west coast and other major bridge and highway projects throughout California.

Engineering History

- State Bridge Engineer, Oregon State Highway Department (1913-1918)

- District Engineer, U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (1920-1928)

- State Highway Engineer, California Highway Department (1928-1942)

- Public Works Director, California Department of Public Works (1942-1951)


Bixby Creek Bridge (Monterey County, California)
Highway Engineer, 1932
Concrete arch bridge over Bixby Creek on CA 1
Open to traffic

Bridal Veil Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Girder bridge over Bridal Veil Creek on Historical Columbia River Highway in Bridal Veil
Open to traffic

Center Street Bridge (Marion County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1918
Lost cantilevered pony truss bridge over Willamette River on OR 22 EB
Replaced by new bridge

Dollarhide Bridge (Jackson County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete deck girder bridge over Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad on OR 273
Open to traffic

Eagle Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete arch bridge over Eagle Creek on Historic Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic

East Multnomah Falls Viaduct (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Bridge over Rocky terrain along railroad tracks on Historic Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic

Horsetail Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Slab bridge over Horsetail Creek on Historical Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic

Latourell Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete arch bridge over Latourell Creek on Historical Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic

McCord Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1915
Lost Concrete deck girder bridge over McCord Creek on Historic Columbia River Highway (US 30)
Replaced by new bridge in 1997

McDonald Bridge (Columbia County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Truss bridge over Milton Creek on Milton Way in St. Helens
Replaced by a pre-cast concrete slab bridge in 2004

Moffett Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1915
Closed-spandrel arch bridge over Moffett Creek on Historic Columbia River Highway (Abandoned)
Open to pedestrians

Multnomah Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete arch bridge over Multnomah Creek on Historical Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic

Oneonta Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete beam bridge over Oneonta Creek on Historical Columbia River Highway
Open to pedestrians only

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge (San Francisco County, California)
Chief Engineer, 1936
Suspension bridge over San Francisco Bay on I-80 connecting San Francisco, Yerba Buena Island, and Oakland
Open to traffic

Shasta River Bridge (Siskiyou County, California)
Built 1928
Concrete tee beam bridge over Shasta River on State Route 263
Open to traffic

Shepperds Dell Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete arch bridge over Shepperds Dell on Historical Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic

South Fork Trinity River Bridge (Humboldt County, California)
State Bridge Engineer, 1929
Lost Deck truss bridge over South Fork Trinity River on State Route 299 in Salyer
Replaced by new bridge

Stark Street Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Through truss bridge over Sandy River on Stark Street
Open to traffic

Steinman Bridge (Jackson County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Concrete deck girder bridge over OR- 273 (Old Siskiyou Highway) & Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad on OR-273 Old Siskiyou Highway (Old Hwy 99)
Open to traffic

Tanner Creek Bridge (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1915
Concrete deck girder bridge over Tanner Creek on Historic Columbia River Highway Trail in Bonneville
Open to pedestrians

West Multnomah Falls Viaduct (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Bridge Engineer, 1914
Bridge over rocky terrain along railroad tracks on Historic Columbia River Highway
Open to traffic