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Beaverton, Pendleton downtowns show strength with new Main Street designations

February 4, 2016
MainStreetPhotos 24web

Pendleton’s program of signage and information kiosks was designed and built with downtown urban renewal funds.

By Sheri Stuart

Oregon Main Street just accepted the Beaverton Downtown Association and the Pendleton Downtown Association at the Transforming Downtown level of Oregon Main Street. Communities participating at this level have a high degree of commitment to using the Main Street Approach® as a model for their downtown revitalization effort. The Main Street Approach® is a comprehensive program that uses historic preservation as one of its most important tools. It is a practical program that helps a community build on their district’s unique assets.

Both communities are a perfect fit for the Oregon Main Street Network. The Beaverton Downtown Association has worked hard over the last five years to take an aging downtown and transform it into a jewel of Beaverton. Old Town Beaverton now has new unique restaurants, an art gallery featuring local artists, and multiple vintage shops which help to attract people to the downtown core.

According to Paul Cohen, chair of the BDA, “None of this would have been possible without the support of the City of Beaverton, the Oregon Main Street Program, and our hard working volunteers.”


Visitors in downtown Beaverton can take a rest break from visiting the area’s shops and eateries.

While newer to using the Main Street program, downtown Pendleton has an amazing collection of historic buildings mostly built between 1880 and 1920, a solid mix of downtown business, and is home to the city’s civic functions. Significant  public and private sector investment has already been made to improve the look, feel, and function of the district. Participating in the program will help the Pendleton Downtown Association leverage its tremendous assets to strengthen the local economy while preserving their identity.

“The PDA Board and its members are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Oregon Main Street Program and their staff,” said Fred Bradbury, PDA board president. “This nationally recognized program will provide tremendous support for the Pendleton Downtown District as we go forward in implementing our Strategic Plans.”

Over the past few years, Oregon Main Street has seen an increased interest in building a comprehensive downtown revitalization effort using the Main Street model and a renewed awareness of the link between local heritage and sustainable economic development across the state. Between 2010 and 2014, communities participating at the Performing Main Street and Transforming Downtown levels – the two highest levels in the OMS Network – saw an increase of 295 net new businesses, 1,995 net new jobs, 719 private sector building improvement projects representing $53.9 million of private sector reinvestment.

Communities participating at the Transforming Downtown level must have a cohesive core of historic or older commercial and mixed-use buildings that represent the community’s architectural heritage and may include compatible in-fill. They must also have a sufficient mass of businesses, buildings, and density to be effective, as well as be a compact and pedestrian-oriented district. The selection process included submitting an application that describes their community, downtown area, historical identity, goals, readiness, support, and funding commitments.

MainStreetPhotos 1

Using historic buildings, home-grown businesses like The Prodigal Son brewery in Pendleton (above) and the Beaverton Bakery (below) are a common site in Oregon’s Main Street communities.


Sheri Stuart is the manager of the Oregon Main Street Program, which is part of the Oregon Heritage division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.



Dragon dance, OHS exhibits show struggles of Chinese-American experience

February 2, 2016
OHS 1939 Chinese New Years

A 1939 Chinese New Year celebration in Portland.

by Rachel Randles

America’s desire for trade with China is older than Independence, yet in 1882 the nation’s borders shut for the first time to exclude Chinese workers. A long and bitter contest over immigration and citizenship ensued, influenced by tensions within the United States and the changing tenor of relations between the two countries. This struggle over freedom and the right to belong shaped the Chinese American experience and the formation of American society.

This spring, the Oregon Historical Society is sharing this complicated and deep history through two exhibitions and a slate of public programs. “Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion,” on display through June 1, is an exhibition loaned from the New-York Historical Society.

On Feb. 29, OHS will open “Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland’s Historic Chinatowns,” complimenting the national story with a local perspective of a time when Portland boasted the second largest Chinatown in the West. Using rare and seldom seen objects like Chinese opera costumes, theatrical sets, bilingual text, audiovisual media, and interactive visitor stations, “Beyond the Gate” tells a sprawling transnational story of contact and trade between China and the West, focusing on Portland’s Old (1850-1905) and New Chinatown (1905-1950).

To celebrate these exhibitions, OHS is hosting a dragon dance and parade on Feb. 7. Beginning at 11 a.m. on the corner of NW Davis & 4th Avenue in Portland’s Chinatown, local lion dance teams and volunteers will dance the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association’s beautiful dragon through Chinatown to the Oregon Historical Society in southwest Portland.

Following the parade, which will be the first time in a decade that the dragon has been shared with the public, OHS will be open for free all day and will host special lion dance performances and treats.

For more information on these exhibitions, and on the many free public programs taking place throughout the spring in Portland and across Oregon, visit For more on Chinese American history, visit The Oregon Encyclopedia, an online resource for Oregon history.

OHS Anna May Wong high res 54099_obverse_PR compress

Although born in Los Angeles, Anna May Wong was issued this identity card by the Seattle immigration office.

OHS Chinese New Year, Feb. 8, 1940, Al Monner Collection_6 compressOHS China in New York 4th of July Parade, 1911


Rachel Randles is the communications and marketing manager for the Oregon Historical Society.

Liberty’s lighted sign brings new attention to historic theatre in La Grande

January 26, 2016

By Ginny Mammen

At 4:30 p.m. Dec. 31, a new bright light shown down the main street of La Grande. This symbolized both an ending and beginning of a project undertaken by the Liberty Theatre Foundation to bring back to life a theatre that began as a vaudeville house in 1911.

The building housed a theatre from November 1911 until May 1959 under the names of Orpheum, Arcade and Liberty. The theatre went dark in 1959 and was converted into retail space. In 2010, a group of dedicated citizens came together to restore the theater and the Liberty Theatre Foundation was born.

Five years of planning, façade work, more planning, demolition of the retail inserts, and still more planning finally led to the creation of a sign that would tell those who saw it that someday the Liberty Theatre would again be a vibrant part of not only La Grande’s downtown but all of Eastern Oregon.

With the generous support of State Historic Preservation Office and Oregon Trail Electric Co-op grants, Carlson Sign of Bend was contracted to reconstruct the Liberty sign which had been affixed to the building in October 1930. Everyone involved had to be extremely creative as there were no detailed descriptions of the sign and no color pictures—only black and white. Some carpet scraps in the balcony gave a hint of the burgundy shade that was used inside the theatre in the 1930s to help decide the color which was finally chosen for the sign.

Three days before Thanksgiving, the sign was trucked from Bend to La Grande and during that week, including Thanksgiving eve, four patient proficient employees worked diligently to prepare the building and gently lift the 20-foot sign into place. Topping this was a four-foot detailed eagle with a wingspan of nine feet. Even without the lights being lit it was a beautiful work of art.

With the lighting of the 418 LED light bulbs on Dec. 31 the sign became a symbol of something wonderful to come.

Ginny Mammen is a supporter of the Liberty Theatre Foundation.

Libertyinsert 0216

The LaGrande Observer newspaper created a supplement about the Liberty’s restoration.

Given to-do list, Commission accomplished much during its first 20 years

January 7, 2016
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski presented a certificate of appreciation to former Heritage Commission chair Barbara Sidway at the 2004 Oregon Heritage Conference in Ashland.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski presented a certificate of appreciation to former Heritage Commission chair Barbara Sidway at the 2004 Oregon Heritage Conference in Ashland.

by Kyle Jansson, coordinator, Oregon Heritage Commission

While my new 2016 calendars make special mention of Valentines Day and Labor Day, they don’t give recognition to this week being the 20th anniversary of the first meeting of the Oregon Heritage Commission.

The 1995 Legislature followed up on a task force recommendation to create the commission, but it wasn’t until after commissioners had been appointed that it first met on Jan. 10, 1996. The commission was given a long to-do list that included:
1. Create an Oregon Heritage Plan.
2. Increase efficiencies and avoid duplication among heritage interest groups.
3. Coordinate an inventory of publicly owned cultural properties.
4. Work with the state’s tourism agency to encourage tourism activities related to heritage resources.

The commission’s first action was to elect Daniel Robertson, the director of the Douglas County Museum, as its first chair. (He later became a Douglas County commissioner.) Two commissioners volunteered to help the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which houses the commission, interview candidates for a half-time staff coordinator’s position.

The Oregon Tourism Commission turned the state’s museum grant program over to the Heritage Commission in 1997. Two years later, using funds that became available when voters approved Ballot Measure 66, the Commission hired a full-time coordinator, launched the Heritage Grants Program, and hosted its first conference.

Today, the Commission operates nearly 20 different programs, including the Oregon Heritage Tradition, the Heritage MentorCorps, and the Heritage Excellence Awards. These programs provide funding, training, and marketing for the approximately 1,000 cultural heritage organizations in the state.

Anniversaries are often a good time to reflect on the past and peer into the future. So the 2016 Heritage Conference will tackle the topic in a variety of ways using the theme of “16 going on 20, 50 and 100: Reflecting on the Past, Capitolizing on the Present and Building the Future.” The conference will take place May 4-6 so mark your calendars now.

How have you benefited from the Heritage Commission programs?

Kyle Jansson attended his first Heritage Commission meeting in October 1996. He has been its coordinator since 2002.

Preserving Oregon’s collections: three years later

December 30, 2015

by Kyle Jansson, project director

Three years can make a noticeable difference for heritage collections. That difference will grow even larger in the years to come.


Lane County’s historic clerk’s building is part of the artifact collection of the Lane County Historical Museum.

In early 2013, the Oregon Heritage Commission, on behalf of a half-dozen statewide and regional partners, received a Connecting to Collections grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to improve collections care and disaster preparedness.

Since then, more than 160 organizations have received training and mentoring in collections care and mentoring. While many are primarily museums, libraries and archives, assistance has also been given to a theatre, a Lions Club, an orchestra, a tour organization and more. Multiple ethnic organizations have participated.

Sixty organizations have engaged with members of the Oregon Heritage MentorCorps that was initiated with grant funds. We are indebted to the initial cadre of volunteer mentors, and will be supplementing them with a newer crew in 2016 to help meet the stronger than expected demand for help from organizations.

Our Mindyourcollections website developed primarily by Oregonians provides assistance to everyone 24/7.

Quantitative and qualitative responses in a recent survey of workshop participants were positive about the project.

phonographWhen the Oregon Museums Association, the Northwest Archivists, the Oregon Libraries Association, the Oregon State Library, the Oregon State Archives, the Oregon Historical Society, and Tamástslikt Cultural Institute helped plan the IMLS application, a fundamental element of the discussions was making sure this collections effort continued after the grant was completed.

That’s why we will be offering more collections care and disaster preparedness trainings this spring and summer, as well as bringing some new mentors onboard to help organizations solve their own specific challenges. Stay tuned for more details.

Kyle Jansson is the project director of the Oregon Connecting to Collections grant. He is the coordinator of the Oregon Heritage Commission.

Saying Thanks

November 24, 2015

This note from Dave Perry of the Gillespie Cemetery Veterans Project seemed appropriate to share in this period between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving:


Gillespie Cemetery

Four years ago, the Gillespie Cemetery board realized there were multiple Veteran graves in the cemetery. The cemetery has Veterans that served in the Oregon Territorial Militia, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean War and Vietnam.

We have Board members who are interested in history and genealogy who helped immensely identifying burials with military service.  A review of obituaries, Find A Grave records, credible family historical records and other resources enabled the Cemetery to identify burials with military service.

We initially began to mark those graves with flags that had military or identification of their service on the grave stone.  Each year research revealed additional Veterans that were honored.

Two years ago a compilation of Veterans was made, put in picture frames and placed on a red, white & blue wooden easel, draped with celebratory bunting. The compilation included the Veterans’ name, branch of service and conflict in which they served if appropriate.  Last year we added ‘Special Honoree’s’ which identified a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and a person that built ‘Liberty Ships’ at the Kaiser Shipyard in Vancouver, Washington during WWII.  The easel is placed under a tree near the Cemetery parking lot during Memorial Day weekend and removed when the flags are picked up from the graves. The flags are saved and used again the following year and the compilation is updated as burials are added. We initially used flags with 24” staff but located on line ‘cemetery flags’ with a 30” staff to keep the flags from touching the ground.

The project has been very successful and resulted many positive comments. Additional information regarding burials in the cemetery has been received from visitors and families which added to cemetery records.–Dave Perry

The Gillespie Veterans Cemetery Project found a way to show thanks to both veterans and their helpers from the past.  What projects, places do you want to show thanks for this year? The Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program which provides executive directors to our smaller Main Street communities; the Oregon Historic Theater Assessment and soon to be fifty-year old National Historic Preservation Act among many more top our list!

Share #oregonheritage

October 27, 2015


Oregon Heritage asks that you use the tag #oregonheritage when sharing Oregon’s history and culture on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The tag will help link the efforts and activities of all of Oregon’s historians, preservationists, curators, archivists and heritage fans. It will also maximize the social media efforts of organizations and practitioners that use the tag and help introduce their work to new audiences across disciplines and interests. For fans of heritage, searching for #oregonheritage will open up the entire universe of heritage activities, artifacts, sites and collections in the state. If enough organizations use the tag the general public will follow. So;

  • sharing a photo of a historic building on instagram? Tag it #oregonheritage
  • sharing an update about a cultural event in your community? tag it #oregonheritage
  • sharing artifacts from your collection on facebook? Tag it #oregonheritage

Use the tag and help create a network celebrating the many forms of Oregon’s history and culture.

Some examples:

Historic cemeteries

Japanese Cemetery In Portland #oregonheritage #oregonculture #volunteersrock

A photo posted by Kuri Gill (@kurigill) on

The historic pipe organ at the Egyptian Theater

I walked inside a pipe organ last week.

A video posted by Mike (@mighty_thylacine) on

A salmon bake:

Salmon Bake! #OregonHeritage

A photo posted by @kimxfitz on


Museum artifacts like the former governor’s saddle:

Detail, Gov McKay's #saddle at the #BentonCountyMuseum #thisisculture #oregonhistory #oregonheritage #folkart #oregon

A photo posted by Chris D'Arcy (@chris_darcy) on

Tweets about museum collections

News and updates about Oregon’s heritage

Deschutes Historical Museum using #oregonheritage

Deschutes Historical Museum using #oregonheritage

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the character #, for instance #oregonheritage. When used on social media sites it creates a link that goes to all public instances of that tag on the website.

Reporting from Reedsport

October 23, 2015
The crowd at the 2015 Main Street Conference Award Ceremony at Old St. Peter's Landmark

The crowd at the 2015 Main Street Conference Award Ceremony at Old St. Peter’s Landmark

Last week a few of us from Reedsport attended the 2015 Oregon Main Street Conference in The Dalles, and what a time we had!  The conference was filled with people representing cities from across the state, and everyone came with one question in mind: “How do I make my community better?” As you might imagine, the atmosphere was electric, crackling with optimism and creativity about how to reinvent, rethink, restore, and revive every aspect of our respective towns. Here are some notes I took:

  • Paint can make a big difference, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money.
  • 15 to 25 feet wide is plenty for a storefront
  • Businesses can find creative ways to collaborate with each other, like the hair salon that gives customers coupons for the restaurant next door.
  • In Independence, OR, citizens wanted a fence for their dog park, so they raised $1500 and put one up themselves.
  • Everybody has been to Reedsport, but almost everybody struggles to remember something about it. Time for a 50-foot concrete salmon statue?

In my free time I had the good fortune to find books by two early Oregon authors at Klindt’s Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in Oregon (established 1870.) Speaking of old books, did you know that Oregon had libraries before it had statehood? Early pioneers were incredibly literate, and many carried their personal libraries with them on the Oregon Trail. Oregon City opened the first public library in 1846, and Oregonians have been reading ever since. So if you want to celebrate a true Oregon tradition  with true pioneer pride, make sure you swing by the Reedsport Public Library’s open house to celebrate its completed renovation this Friday from 4 to 6pm, refreshments and tours included. You can thank our forefathers for starting us off right. – Adapted from the Reedsport Main Street Blog, written by Katie Lockhard, Program Coordinator


October 14, 2015
Nyssa Train Depot

Nyssa Train Depot

Oregonians often flock to forests of tall Douglas Fir trees, the towering peak of Mt. Hood, or the romanticized western landscape of the High Desert. However, there is a bounty of equally intriguing architecture that dots the famous landscape of Oregon.
The Oregon Heritage summer staff team had the opportunity to travel many miles over the past few months to study, document, and mostly importantly…to enjoy some of the buildings in the state.

A Mystery in Florence

A Mystery in Florence

In Nyssa, the team found an old train station which is perhaps one of the best representations of the Streamline Moderne style that there is in Oregon. The Conser House in Jefferson, resembling a colonial home on the East Coast, intrigued the summer staff with its one-of-a-kind floorplan. On the coast in Florence, the team is still scratching their heads about an early 20th Century house turned gas station, or maybe the other way around; it’s a mystery.
The team has documented over 300 buildings this summer and each of them is unique in their own way. Buildings tell the stories of the places they are in and the people that built them. Sometimes you have to look closely, but when you do, you will certainly find something that peaks your interest. There is still time to explore in this last month of summer. Whether you go to Gilliam County or downtown Salem, there are buildings waiting for you to fall in love with them. Go find them. — by D. Paden Vargo, 2015 Summer Staff at Oregon Heritage

Plan for emergencies now so your collections don’t go up in smoke.

August 28, 2015
Wildfire in Oregon - Image Courtesy of BLM and Wikimedia

Wildfire in Oregon – Image Courtesy of BLM and Wikimedia

The Northwest is on fire. Governor Kate Brown recently called the National Guard to assist an army of firefighters from all around the world. Many of the wildfires are creeping dangerously near towns and cities. Hopefully we will get a little relief this weekend with heavy rains but those of who care for Oregon’s heritage and collections shouldn’t just hope for the best. It is important to think ahead.

Think quick: a disaster is looming, what is the most important item in your collection to get to safety? Ok, how would you do it? Comment to let us know.

Never underestimate the importance of disaster planning. Take a moment in the next few days to create a basic plan for what to do if your museum, collection or historic place is threatened. The Pocket Response Emergency Plan is a good first step in this process and only takes minutes to complete. Once you have a PrEP phone tree, buy supplies and start considering a more comprehensive disaster plan or at least figure out your collection priorities.

Obviously staff and family are the most important thing to secure but what important piece of Oregon’s history would you save next? Think about it now so you can focus on getting it to safety if a fire, flood or other disaster draws near.

For more information and guidance on diaster preparedness and collections go to:


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