Numerous company-owned towns have dotted the American landscape over the years, but few will have their history as well preserved as the Central Oregon community of Gilchrist.
Thanks to conscientious company employees, a generous private donation and a grant from the Oregon Heritage Program, a complete set of records from the Gilchrist Timber Co. is not only safely secured in the Klamath County Museum, but is also digitally preserved and available online.
The Gilchrist Timber Company was operating in Laurel, Miss., in the early 1900s when the supply of logs began to run out. The company scouted forest resources available in the Northwest, and sent an agent to begin acquiring lands in northern Klamath County in the 1930s. By 1938 the company had acquired about 100,000 acres of forest land, built a sawmill and opened a company-owned town that included the first enclosed shopping mall west of the Mississippi. Other amenities included a school and a movie theater.
Millions of board feet of clear lumber sawn from old-growth pine on the Gilchrist tree farm was shipped out via the company-owned Klamath Northern Railroad for more than 50 years until the family operation closed in 1991.
Several boxes of detailed company records were stashed in a crawl space at the World Forestry Center in Portland, where they remained until being transferred to the Klamath County Museum in 2010. Gilchrist native John Driscoll relied heavily on the records as he researched and wrote a book on the history of Gilchrist in 2012. Driscoll also donated $4,000 to the Museum so the records could be scanned.
The museum offered Driscoll’s donation as the match for an Oregon Museum Grant, and used the combined funds to hire high school student Kristen Tyree as a part-time technician. Tyree scanned nearly 20,000 pages of records from the Gilchrist files. Many of those files are available online at: http://www.co.klamath.or.us/museum/gilchristpapers/overview.htm
These records reveal many aspects of the company’s dealings, from building design and acquisition of equipment to rationing of products during World War II and issues involving employees.
Among the more interesting examples of records preserved are a list of employees by seniority date, handwritten notes from job-seekers, and Christmas greetings to wholesale customers of the Gilchrist Timber Co.
Contributed by Todd Kepple, Klamath County Museums
Preserving Oregon’s African American Historic Places Project
A BIG thank you to those who have already submitted information as part of the Preserving Oregon’s African American Historic Places project. We endeavor to protect and preserve African American historic sites and places from the time period of 1844 to 1984. The information received speaks volume about the richness and depth of Oregon’s African American history and demonstrates that there is substantive physical evidence of the life and tales of Oregon’s African American pioneers.
Black pioneers cemetery burial information comprises the majority of the data collected to date. Two Civil War Veterans, Louis Napoleon and John W. Jackson, of Westport and North Salem, respectively were among 180,000 African American soldiers who fought for the Union. Pioneer Louis Napoleon retired in Oregon and worked as a hired hand for the West family. He became one of the founders of Westport Cemetery where he is buried. John W. Jackson served with the 5th United States Colored Calvary (USCC) and he is buried in the historic Hayesville Pioneer Cemetery in North Salem, Oregon. Another burial submission commemorates the life of Adam Augustus Waterford, who came to Portland with his parents in 1855. Waterford, hired as Portland’s first Black Fireman, possibly in the 1890s, is buried in the historic Lone Fir Cemetery.
Documentation of historic buildings include George Fletcher’s, WWI veteran and 1911 Pendleton rodeo champion, cabin in Pendleton. A 114 year old commercial building located in Portland, commonly known as the Burger Barn and was the site of the infamous Possum incident in 1981. In 1906, the same building functioned as the family residence of Kathryn Gray, a Black suffrage leader. Another historic site is the airbase located in Pendleton where 555th (Triple Nickles) Parachute Infantry Battalion, the nation’s first all Black parachute infantry test platoon, company and battalion, were secretly sent to become military smokejumpers.
Please share your information! You may submit your information online at www.makeoregonhistory.org. Questions? Email Kim Moreland, Project Coordinator, Oregon Black Pioneers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or Kuri Gill, Grant and Outreach Manager, Oregon Heritage at Kuri.Gill@oregon.gov.
Submitted by Kim Moreland
A project to restore the exterior of the historic Fossil Grade School Gym, has been completed, with funding from the Oregon Community Foundation, the Kinsman Foundation, the Bank of Eastern Oregon, the National Park Service through the State Historic Preservation Office, and numerous private donations. The gym was built as a WPA project in 1936, and is an outstanding example of architecture from that period.
The preservation effort was motivated in part by the need to deal with old asbestos siding and lead-based paint. The gym is still in use daily, by grade school kids, and it was important to handle these issues. Once an abatement firm dealt with these, much of the remaining work in painting and restoring the trim, was done by local volunteers.
by Bob Cramer
Fossil School District Education Foundation
This project was completed last year. It is an excellent example of the community coming together for a shared community asset. Being right on the main street and part of the school, it is a significant building both historically and today. The project also included listing the school and gym on the National Register of Historic Places. Initially, the renovation plan included replacing the historic siding, but upon removal of the asbestos, they found it fairly intact. Thanks to the people of Fossil for their great work for Oregon’s history.
National Main Street Conference, Detroit, MI – Works in Progress, May 18-20
As I boarded the plane for the National Main Street Conference in Detroit, many of my friends and family members chuckled when I told them where I was going, which was immediately followed with, “why?” Me, I was excited. Here is a city that is reinventing itself, incorporating the city’s past, present, and future, to create a place where people will want to live, work, and play. In a nutshell, it’s the Main Street Approach for downtown revitalization.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Works in Progress,” which was embodied by the Opening Plenary speaker, Don Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate and economic development consulting firm. He emphasized that downtown revitalization is a constant work in progress, and that the success and sustainability of the Main Street Program is because of the foundation of principles that directly tie to a community to its social, economic, political, and physical force of value.
His presentation captured the inner-geek in me when he outlined the principles of New Urbanism (1993) and Smart Growth (1996): urban planning initiatives that are widely recognized, and ones that I studied in college. What I found truly spectacular, though, was the connection he made between these two planning initiatives and the Main Street Approach: they are identical, but the Main Street Approach was first implemented in 1977. What has made the Main Street Approach sustainable over the past three-plus decades is its emphasis on incremental change and ability to adapt and evolve with a community, creating a sense of ownership by the community and a multifunctional, public gathering space for the community.
The workshops I attended echoed the themes of resilience, community involvement, innovation and hard work.
Elizabeth Walton Potter Preservation Scholarship Recipient
Astoria Downtown Historic District Association
Mandala Research LLC, one of the nation’s leading tourism research firms, studied these travelers in 2012 at the direction of the Oregon Heritage Commission. The study made some important findings:
1. 83 percent of leisure travelers in Oregon consider themselves cultural and heritage travelers. That’s five percent higher than the rest of the country.
2. These cultural heritage travelers will spend more than $1,600 on their trip, or about 50 percent more than the national average. That means tremendous potential for cultural heritage organizations and businesses.
These two statistics were part of the reason that the Oregon Heritage Commission made tourism and economic development one of the four key areas in the 2014-2019 Oregon Heritage Plan. That emphasis is one impetus for the Oregon Heritage Tourism Workshop that will be offered June 9 in Springfield. Workshop participants will have a highly interactive daylong event that will help them:
— Learn more about opportunities, market trends, issues and resources for cultural heritage tourism.
— Understand heritage tourists, their value and needs.
— Assess your organization’s readiness for visitors.
— Learn about the anchor draws for heritage tourism, and the regional assets that can complement heritage tourism initiatives.
— Explore collaborations among heritage organizations, and between heritage organizations and tourism organizations, to tap opportunities for heritage tourism in the region.
Whether you want to take immediate steps to engage travelers or begin longer-term planning, this workshop is for you. Register now!
African American Sites and Places Revealed
In honor of Historic Preservation Month the Oregon Black Pioneers, in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), announces one of our latest projects entitled Preserving Oregon’s African American Historic Places. Working with community partners we endeavor to protect and preserve African American historic sites and places from the time period of 1844 to 1984.
The revelation of relatively unknown and/or hidden African American historic sites and places promises to add yet another dimension to Oregon’s rich history. Did you know that an early settlement era, gothic revival style home belonged to Black pioneers Hannah Gorman and Eliza Gorman and is still standing in Corvallis, Oregon? Hannah and her six years old daughter, Eliza came across the Oregon Trail in 1844 with the John Thorp family. In La Grande there is the little-known church, Amazing Grace Fellowship, now known as Boyd Memorial Baptist Church. Constructed in 1920, Amazing Grace Fellowship represents one of the oldest African American Churches in Oregon.
Data Collecting Through Crowdsourcing
This crowdsourcing survey project, first of its in kind, allows the general public to contribute information online that pertains to existing structures with any African American association in their histories AND cemeteries with African American burials. These places can be buildings ANYWHERE in Oregon where African Americans worked, sites where important events happened, or objects created, installed, or inspired by African Americans.
Ultimate Goal: National Register Submission
Our ultimate goal is to identify, evaluate and assist in the submission of national register nominations. We need your help. If you know of any places like this, please share your information! You may submit your information online at www.makeoregonhistory.org . The information will be added to the collection of the Oregon Black Pioneers and the Oregon Historic Sites Database available at http://www.oregonheritage.org.
For More Information
Additional community outreach will take place throughout the duration of this project. If you have any questions about the Survey Project email Kim Moreland, Project Coordinator, Oregon Black Pioneers at email@example.com.Or Kuri Gills, Grant and Outreach Manager, Oregon Heritage at Kuri.Gills@oregon.gov.For more information about the Oregon Black Pioneers please visit www.oregonblackpioneers.org.
By Kim Moreland
Oregon Black Pioneers
The Deschutes County Community Development Department (CDD) is involved in a multi-year project to reenergize and rebrand its historic preservation program. As part of that effort, the CDD recently created an interactive map displaying historic landmarks in Sisters and rural Deschutes County. Using software produced by ESRI, Deschutes County’s Historic Landmark “Story Map” enables viewers to explore a gallery of location-specific landmarks at https://deschutes.maps.arcgis.com.
Historic landmarks can be queried based on their regional location or redeeming feature (structure, place, or site). Descriptions are provided for each landmark, including old photographs provided by the Deschutes County Historical Society and new ones taken by volunteer photographers.
CDD benefited from a Certified Local Government grant from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, volunteer photographers, the Deschutes County Historical Society, and an intern to customize the site’s content.
Access the Deschutes County Historic Landmark “Story Map” by going to https://deschutes.maps.arcgis.com
For more information about this specific project, contact Peter Gutowsky, Principal Planner at Peter.Gutowsky@deschutes.org or (541)-385-1709.
By Carolyn Purcell
Museums and archives have long been challenged to find balance between public access and preservation. Long-term preservation concerns often lead to stringent and restrictive public access policies that can impede the enrichment of the people the museums and libraries serve. Finding a balance that meets the needs of both preservation and access is the ultimate goal.
Digital technology has broached the preservation vs. access divide by offering a workable solution: the best preservation actually offers the best access. Digital copies of photographs and documents provide the ability to offer safe off-site storage of virtual copies and have images that can be viewed by anyone at anytime via the internet. This access does not in any way diminish the preservation of the originals.
Two noteworthy collaborative projects in our community in the past few years have offered solutions to long-standing preservation vs. access concerns. Through the assistance of Oregon Heritage Commission and Oregon State University Libraries we now have high-resolution scans of the entire 10,000+ images of the Wasco County Pioneer Association photograph collection and the images are available to everyone on the Oregon State University Digital Collections website.
Another very important resource for not only the community, but for the state and region, is the newspaper collection owned by Eagle Newspapers that has long been stored at The Dalles Chronicle office. This collection of papers dates back to 1864, chronicling the news of eastern Oregon. Realizing how vulnerable the collection was, the publisher began restricting access to it some years ago. Through funding from Oregon Heritage Commission and with the assistance of University of Oregon Libraries, the newspapers have now been re-microfilmed for inclusion in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Library Project. The new, better quality microfilm has been digitized to allow key-word searches and is available to everyone for free!
It is a pleasure working side-by-side with those who hold a passionate interest in Oregon’s cultural heritage. By employing the tools of digital access, heritage preservation is advancing at the velocity of the high speed internet.
Carolyn Purcell is the Executive Director of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Visit the Columbia Gorge Discover Center website at www.gorgediscovery.org
Portland’s Rinehart Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December of 2013. Until a few years ago, the building suffered extreme neglect, but its history is incredibly significant.
The Rinehart Building was constructed in 1910 along an important streetcar line in Portland’s historic Albina neighborhood. It is notable as one of the few remaining commercial buildings in Albina associated with the social and cultural fabric of the African American community. In 1939 Albina was already home to the majority of Portland’s African American population. The number of African Americans in Portland swelled during WWII to fill the large number of war-time shipbuilding jobs, and discriminatory housing practices funneled these new residents to the Albina area. After the war, African American-owned businesses along Williams Avenue flourished. The Rinehart Building was home to a number of African
American-owned enterprises, including the Cleo-Lilliann Social Club. Begun in the 1950s, the Club served as a community and charitable organization that provided entertainment, social support, and fundraising, and was a forum for community activism. The Club hosted many notable African American musicians, such as B. B. King and George Foreman. When the Club closed in 2001 it was considered to be one of the oldest African American social organizations of its kind in Oregon.
The Browns, who own the building, committed to its restoration. They got a little help in the big project from our Diamonds in the Rough grant program designed to help bring back lost historic character.
Brandon Brown shared his thoughts about the value of the grant on the project.
“The Diamonds in the Rough grant really helped us in completing the arduous project that the Rinehart building came to be. We purchased a 1910 structure which was as historically colorful as it was neglected. The biggest piece of our budget was the rehabilitation of the masonry facade. We had some beautiful aesthetic brick to work with, but the costs quickly increased as the coverage of the repointing became more exhaustive and the cleaning of the brick more intense than forecast. Additionally, we had to reconstruct the entire cornice that ran 120 linear feet from a single photograph and install an entirely new storefront.”
“The grant really helped with our additional expenses. Ultimately we were able to produce a wonderfully historically accurate facade and achieved a spot on the National Historic Register. We’re really proud of our project and thank you for your support.”
The deadline for Diamonds in the Rough grant applications is coming soon, March 31.
By Kuri Gill, Grants and Outreach Coordinator, Oregon Heritage