A reader shared images of a phenomenal home located off of SE Oatfield and Roethe Road in Oak Grove (near Milwaukie, Ore.)
Here’s what they said:
This is a picture taken probably in the late 40’s by our Mom of her Mothers property which was on Oatfield road near Roethe. I remember this building on the Eastern border of her property. I don’t think it was there after the 1960s but it looks like a very modern home with a Frank Lloyd Wright style to it. They would have had an amazing view. Not sure who owned that horse. The house must have been off Roethe Rd east of Oatfield. Perhaps someday I’ll drive out there and see if I can figure out where it might have been.
Snuggled along the Clackamas River, you might know Estacada as the town where you stop in for supplies before heading out to the river or maybe as the home of the now defunct Safari Club that once showcased stuffed animals while diners enjoyed a meal or a cocktail.
Estacada is more than that, with a deep history going back over a century. It started out as a camp for dam builders, then a weekend destination for Portlanders who stayed at the (long gone) Hotel Estacada, shuttled there via trolley line (also long gone) from downtown Portland. The key word here though is: dam. In fact, there are four dams on the river near Estacada built by workers who have lived in Estacada at one time or the other (while earning the nickname “the dammedest town in Oregon,” according to an old diner’s matchbook).
Sure, it’s had its moments—some positive, others negative.
“There’s been several decades where Estacada suffered from a negative perception challenge that it was a rough and tumble place on the outskirts of Clackamas County,” says Matt Lorenzen, Estacada’s Economic Development Manager.
However, thanks to a strong economy and population growth in the greater Portland region, engaged city staff, a forward-thinking City Council, and tools like tax increment financing (urban renewal), downtown Estacada is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. Several downtown buildings have been recently rehabilitated and occupied by new businesses, including a dance studio, an outdoor outfitter, and a frozen yogurt shop, with help from local urban renewal grants.
Most recently a Revitalization grant made available through the Oregon Main Street program—a division of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)—will make possible the retrofit of the popular Broadway Building, built in 1938.
“If you do a back-of-the-envelope pro forma on putting a quarter million dollars into this building, it makes no sense whatsoever,” says Lorenzen. “But with these public funds you can do some cool things to breathe new life into a building, and in our case, into a highly visible corner in a downtown that’s trying to come back to life.”
The Broadway Building sits in a key location at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Broadway. In Estacada, Broadway is considered the “main” street, even though there’s an actual Main Street. It’s the first intersection visitors come to when exiting or entering downtown from Highway 224, and with the public art on the walls, it’s a highly visible building.
Using historical photography, it was discovered that the building had a somewhat dubious addition to it in the 60s or 70s that Lorenzen describes as “very utilitarian,” and “at any rate its [architecture is] incompatible with downtown and with the corner that we’re revitalizing.”
The goal, he says, is multifaceted in that it will restore the facade of the building, taking a historically incongruent facade on Fourth Avenue and bringing it into alignment with the downtown and with the building that it’s attached to.
SUM DESIGN STUDIO + architecture, the team behind the design, came on board and agreed the Broadway Building was the more cost-sensitive in terms of not having to do a deep demolition and treated it as more of an addition project.
“We looked at it from a storefront aspect,” says SUM’s Matt Loosemore. “We’re doing an awning replacement, we’re taking off all of a failed stucco system, exposing the substructure, and then re-stuccoing the facade.” The goal, he says is to scale back the existing two facades by breaking up the canopy line, keeping them at a consistent height, and adding more glass into the center space. “That way, we’re actually gaining an additional retail space.”
However, because grant dollars are through SHPO, they’re required to follow Oregon’s Secretary of Interior’s standards for revitalization or rehabilitation, compelling the team to respect the historic aesthetic of the building.
The building will have a bit more modern touch, using a steel canopy, with all new window systems. “You’ll be able to see the old character of the building, but at the same time, appreciate some of the newer amenities,” says Loosemore.
The Broadway Building is just one project out of many helping to contribute to downtown Estacada’s revitalization.
“There’s a bit of a demographic shift taking place and an economy shifting towards tourism and outdoor recreation,” says Lorenzen. “That shift doesn’t mean just razing old buildings and building new ones, but rather preserving and enhancing and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the past.”
“There’s no ghost town here. The internet lied to you.”
That was the most memorable line—delivered by a wary local —of an epic road trip two summers ago. Some pals and I rented an RV and drove it across Eastern Oregon in search of ghost towns. Despite the ominous conversation and the rotten wood and rubble we could only find at the dusty spot (the dude was right, at least) we did end up finding ghost towns, or at least what remained of them on the rest of the journey. Fueled by beer, road food, lack of sleep and long stretches of driving on lonely roads, the trip was a success and it only solidified by own obsession with ghost towns. I’m not alone.
“Ghost towns hold our fascination for a variety of reasons,” says Theresa E. Rea, MLIS, CA and archivist at Oregon State Archives. “There’s something simultaneously macabre and romantic about them that draws curiosity and intrigue. I can’t speak for others, but I think of ghost towns as unique time capsules. Many nameless souls at one time made their lives in these towns. The remnants allows us a small peek into the past and contemplate what secrets they hold.”
And, to celebrate these long lost towns, the Oregon State Archives are debuting a new exhibit: “Rust, Rot, & Ruin: Stories of Oregon Ghost Towns.”
Rea graciously offered to answer some of my questions about the exhibit as well as go a little deeper on what makes ghost towns so alluring.
What’s the inspiration behind the exhibit? Oregon has hundreds of abandoned settlements, mining camps, and company towns across the state, and the Archives want to exhibit the rich history of a choice few of these decrepit places. Each town is a unique story of dashed hopes and sundered dreams – each is a tombstone where a frontier community failed. These towns and the forces which slew them were tied to advances in science, industry, and transportation that changed the face of Oregon. In eulogizing these lost places, we will examine the historic factors which contributed to their rise and fall, the people who called them home, and what of their remains lie scattered across the state.
What should visitors expect? Visitors will encounter stories of selected ghost towns sudden burgeon and demise. Portions use imagery to depict the “then” and “now” of some towns while other segments resurrect towns that have disappeared. Guests can learn about Oregon’s mining, lumber, transportation, federal projects, and tourism industries that informed a ghost town’s fate. Attendees can read about a remarkable 9 year old newspaper editor of a company town or how much a lumberjack ate to sustain their daily work. We are also displaying related artifacts, all on loan from the Oregon Historical Society and the Forest History Center.
What makes Oregon’s ghost towns unique? I have read claims that Oregon has the most ghost towns in the whole county. Whether that is the case or not, I don’t dare to speculate, but ghost towns are woven into the fabric of Oregon’s robust history of industry, transportation, and tourism. Remember during much of this time period, Oregon was far from settled by Americans and other pioneers. Many of these towns drew individuals and families from all over the world, seeking their fortune. Those who remained helped populate the state and became an integral piece of Oregon’s history.
Why did some towns fail while others thrive? Research reveals that many of these towns died as quickly as they sprung into existence. This can be due to many reasons. One primary reason which we encounter time and time again is resource exhaustion. Gold mining towns in particular are a great example of this. Many of these places were typically dependent on a single activity or resource, such as mines, mills, or resorts. Crossroads towns are also fascinating because their economic importance was reliant solely upon the railroad. Revitalization or preservation of a ghost town can be seen through the efforts of a citizens invested in keeping history alive.
Roy’s Pancake Corral in Baker, Oregon, promised 16 varieties of pancakes served all day and a western style chuckwagon every evening:
The other location, in downtown La Grande, Oregon, served chuckwagon every day and invited hungry Oregonians to “come as you are,” as opposed to come as you were I guess.
Not big on the professional food photography I take it. Or maybe they were going for the stark, unappetizing look.
Also, a big thank you to Dave Knows: Portland who linked to my previous Burger King post on OregonLive. Tremendous traffic and new readers – for those who found Lost Oregon from the link, welcome aboard. Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed, too!
I’m not usually a big fan of “this day in history” type posts, but it should be noted that on this day more than 60 years ago, the only civilian casualty on American soil of WWII happened right here in ol’ Oregon. According to the History Channel’s History.com:
In Lakeview, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it.
The town eventually went on to become a typical small town, from the looks of this 1960s card:
That ultra-modern building in the front left is a US Bank either a public library or post office – and it’s a real beauty. Click here for a huge, hi-res version on Vintage Roadside [and for many other fantastic roadside photos and postcards].
Here’s a current view of the downtown. Any Lakeview residents want to chime in?