Where We Live: The history of Burnside

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The Burnside Bridge is raised to allow the Royal Canadian Navy ship HCMS Oriole into the Portland waterfront. (KOIN) 

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Burnside is one of the most well-known names in Portland –Burnside Street separates north from south and the Burnside Bridge is one of the busiest in the city — but its history isn’t as well known.

But Eastside Distilling’s Burnside Bourbon originally had the image of Civil War general and Rhode Island Governor Ambrose Burnside. He’s known for coining the word “sideburns” for his impressive set of whiskers.

But this Burnside never even visited Oregon.

“We figured out pretty quickly that people were confused, and thought Portland’s main artery was named after Ambrose Burnside,” Eastside master Distiller Mel Heim said.

The Burnside whose name is all over the city was Daniel Wyman Burnside from Vermont. He was a successful Portland business man in the 1800s when Portland’s main streets were letters of the alphabet.

In 1892, the city changed them to names of prominent citizens. B street became Burnside and the span over the Willamette River was renamed the Burnside Bridge. The name has endured through the decades.

Portland’s Burnside Street and Burnside Bridge are named after businessman Daniel Burnside. (Courtesy: Oregon Historical Society)

Now, Eastside Distilling’s Burnside Bourbon is all about the Portland connection and Ambrose’s image is gone. 

“Through time, we really wanted to bring the name Burnside back home,”  Eastside Distilling’s Heim  said. “We worked really hard this past year to get to our roots and sort of figure out what Burnside means to us.”

Burnside Bourbon is an example of how Portland distilled spirits are taking off nationally. Some Burnside Bourbon blends are named for Portland neighborhoods, including the West End and Goose Hollow. 

“We really wanted to tie it in to Portland neighborhoods, and that’s what we did,” Chairman and CEO of Eastside Distilling Grover Wickersham said. 

In some historical accounts, Daniel is called Dave or David, an error by Oregonian editor Harvey Scott. That innocent mistake has carried through history.

Eastside Distilling’s Burnside Bourbon. (KOIN)

Daniel Burnside died in 1887, 5 years before the street was named after him. 

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