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Volume Five, Number Two

Travel to Yesterday

Portland, Oregon 1977-1997

--Preserving Oregonís Past--

Walking the same path our ancestors crossed 100 years ago can capture our imagination and tempt us to dally in our thoughts about how things were for them. What was in their thoughts? What did they feel when they walked this same way?

We can only experience the most vivid memories of the past when we visit a place that has preserved its historic buildings and landscapes.

Most parents take their children to places that they enjoyed as a child, hoping to impart those associative feelings and values to the next generation. We value these family memories that we tie to the buildings and places where they were formed -- our homes, schools, churches and libraries.

Having lunch in Huber's Cafe can conjure visions of yesteryear, when Chinese immigrant Jim Louie served a free lunch, but only if you bought a drink from Frank Huber behind the bar. Today, the atmosphere of the historic interior of Huber's, Portland's oldest restaurant, contributes to this feeling of peering into the past because it has been lovingly maintained by the descendants of Jim Louie.

Many places have not benefited from the protection of guardians sensitive to the power of the past. Places that experienced a period of neglect are more numerous than those that have been handed down and carefully preserved through the generations. Individual examples of responsible stewardship shine brightest.

Ruth McBride Powers, a HPLO steward, "personally purchased and restored 17 pioneer residences and participated in the preservation of 11 other houses and churches in Oregon and Washington" between 1955 and 1989, as recorded in the Summer 1989 HPLO newsletter.

Many of the properties she restored date to the 1840s and 1850s. Powers' projects included a private residence (1846) in Oregon City that once belonged to Hudson Bay Company employee Francis Ermatinger, the John Boon House, and the Methodist missionary's (Jason Lee's) home ó both part of Salem's Mission Mill Museum.

The Mission Mill Museum Park historic area was so named because the Thomas Kay Mill had also been built on the site to take advantage of the nearby water source that continues to power the mill today, which still operates on a small scale and is a favorite tourist stop in Salem.

Southern Oregon Answers Call

The Bohemia Mining District in Southern Oregon became the focus of a study by Lewis & Clark College history professor Stephen Dow Beckham, who was hired by the U.S. Forest service in 1978 to "develop an overview history. . . and site-specific inventory of possible resources." Beckham found over 1,100 historic features, including tramways, stamp mills, bunkhouses, stables, taverns and ore assay offices.

The spirit of preservation captivated Southern Oregon with Albany and Jacksonville creating historic districts showing off their rich past. Starting with the Wolf Creek Tavern near Grants Pass, the passion to save historic buildings for the future swept up the Willamette Valley.

Some communities never neglected the rich aesthetics and historic character of their old structures. The City of Prineville is one such example. Income from the small railroad had managed to pay the town's operating costs for many years, and today those same tracks still support the town with income. The Crooked River Railroad Company annually attracts thousands of visitors who enjoy glorious dinner theater entertainment that unravels around them as they travel between Redmond and Prineville.

Private Citizen Heart of HPLO

In a 1991 HPLO newsletter, Eric Eisemann wrote: "We must never lose sight of the fact that it is the private citizen who is at the heart of good historic preservation."

This was vividly demonstrated by Dwight and Barbara Sidway, who recently rehabilitated the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City. The Sidways worked for three years to restore the 1889 hotel to its original grandeur. Fifty years of neglect and abuse was reversed by the emotional commitment and financial investment of these individuals.

This type of conviction consistently proves to be sound economic policy as well. Nearly all of Portland's historic hotels have been maintained, rehabilitated or adaptively re-used, such as The Governor Hotel and Hotel Vintage Plaza. Additionally, there have been projects like Fifth Avenue Suites Hotel, which turned the old Lipman & Wolfe department store into a four-star hotel in 1992.

When preservation projects are taken on by the private sector, they produce benefits that reach across the community, fostering a stronger sense of place and encouraging economic development that consistently out-paces projects exclusively driven by the public sector.

For example, Astoria owes some of its quaintness and charm to private citizens that have restored many of the late 19th century homes. Founded in 1811 by John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company, Astoria is marked with landmarks that have been maintained by private citizens, including the recently restored Astoria Column, which stands 125 feet above Coxcomb Hill (595 feet elevation above town). Besides a breath-taking view, the columns "pictorial frieze" tells the story of the discovery, exploration and settlement of Astoria. Another historic site is the Flavel House, a 1885 Queen Anne mansion that was recently auctioned by the Internal Revenue Service to an individual that intends to restore the home to its original stature in Astoria. excerpted from the front page

-- written by Bridget E. Smith, H.G. with Heather Kmetz, HPLO, as excellent editor.


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Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher

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Historical Gazette
Published in Portland, Oregon
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