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Who Knew Sharing Cemetery History Could Be So Much Fun?!

October 25, 2017

Written by Dirk Siedlecki, President of Friends of Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery

MTP 2015 CastWhat started out in 2006, as an idea for a onetime event to raise some much-needed funds for restoration work in our cemetery, turned into a very popular annual event. After my wife Mary and I attended a similar program in Grants Pass, Oregon in 2004, we thought it would be a fun and interesting project to take on to benefit Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery. We discussed the concept with members of our Cemetery Committee who all seemed very interested and excited with the idea. So in October 2006, Meet the Pioneers, guided Living History Walking Tours was launched and has been playing to sell-out audiences since.

Emma & David BW 01We have Players in period dress or costumes who are at  grave-side and portray the Spirits of the dearly departed and share their life stories with the audience. In addition to personal stories we also cover the important topics and happenings of the day, mid-late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Such as the small pox epidemic that struck Jacksonville in 1868, or the last hanging in Jacksonville in 1886.  This year we covered the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, and its impact on Southern Oregon along with ten other stories. Each year we offer new stories and tend to “kick-it-up-a-notch” by adding props, Narratives and this year’s Vignettes.

This program Steve & Mary Ann BW 02has not only provided us with ongoing funding for cemetery restoration and preservation projects, but equally important it has introduced the cemetery and its value to  the community. These Living History Tours, along with our History Saturday in the Cemetery and Tuesday Evening Cemetery Strolls, have greatly increased the number of visitors and supporters of Jacksonville’s Cemetery.

Meet the Pioneers attracts approximately 700 visitors during its two-day run and helps the community merchants during a time of the year where visitor numbers are usually down. The continued success of  Meet the Pioneers has inspired the local Chamber to promote other fall activities in Jacksonville such as Haunted Trolley Tours and Historic Jacksonville Inc. to offer Haunted Walking Tours, all to the benefit of the community and its residents.

Don’t forget! It’s Historic Cemeteries month and there are bound to be historic cemeteries near year having events this weekend, such as the ones listed below:

The Power of a Cemetery Clean-Up Workday

September 7, 2017


What do dump trucks, 10 shovels, and 900 strawberry plants have in common? SOLVE! In 2005, several community groups partnered with SOLVE for the first of many workdays at the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery in Coos Bay. With a grant from SOLVE, a small cache of tools, including ten shovels, was put together. On May 7th, 2005, virtual army of volunteers descended on the cemetery to attack the vegetation that over-topped every headstone. By the end of the day, three and a half dump trucks loads of invasive species had been hauled off, heritage roses – including one that was barely two inches high – were identified, and the task of recording information on the headstones was begun. The efforts of the more than 100 volunteers did not go unnoticed: the project was selected from over a thousand other volunteer projects for a Join Hands Day Excellence Award, one of the twenty national awards given in 2005.

MPC-dumping.jpgFor many years, the cemetery was open only for Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day, so twice a year inmate crews would would arrive at the cemetery to cut back as much vegetation as possible. As a result of this single workday, visitors could at least walk through the entire cemetery and could make arrangements to visit at any time of the year. On the workdays that followed, volunteers used weed wrenches and a lot of muscle to remove more of the unwanted vegetation. The cache of tools expanded from the first ten shovels to include lopers, rakes, and small hand tools, some of which were purchased with another SOLVE grant. The crumpled, chain-link gate that had been padlocked most days of the year was replaced with a new gate. With the assistance of a OPRD Historic Cemeteries Grant, a new, black picket fence stretches along the new sidewalk, a project of the City of Coos Bay, and along that sidewalk – nearly 900 native strawberry plants were planted during the SOLVE workday last April.

Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery has been able to have workdays sponsored by SOLVE for the past 12 years. This year is the first attempt at a SOLVE coordinated historic cemetery workday. It will be paired with the 34th Annual Beach Clean-up on September 23rd. SOLVE is anxious to make it clear it promotes responsible care for all of Oregon, not just its beaches or the Portland metro area. Cemeteries are located in every community throughout Oregon and can give everyone an opportunity to become involved in a worthwhile event.

Our clean-up at the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery will actually take place on Friday, September 22, to accommodate the high school’s schedule and homecoming events. Work at the cemetery is on-going, and a single workday day can’t undo years of neglect, however, in the case of the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery, a single, awesome workday did serve as a catalyst for renewal. Now, under SOLVE’s banner, historic cemeteries may be remembered and cared for at least once each year. Who knows what may evolve!

For more information on how to join the volunteer effort or a list of participating cemeteries, visit

Plan + Process = Success!

August 31, 2017

St. Helens grant process.jpgBy Jasmine Jordan

When members of St. Helens Economic Development Corporation (SHEDCO), the downtown association in St. Helens, first heard about the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant, we immediately recognized the potential impact such a program could have on our local businesses. The scenic riverfront and beautiful historic buildings attract many visitors to our little town along the Columbia, yet several properties have degraded over the years and are due for both aesthetic and safety improvements. The challenge with this grant was creating a process to select a project that aligned with their priorities and would be competitive.

Of the 212 properties that are within the Designated Main Street District in St. Helens, SHEDCO had to select one project for the grant. Given the limited time left before the grant application was due, I created a four-week selection process. First, I sent personal letters to all of the property owners within the district. I asked the owners to send me proposals for projects that would both help St. Helens advance its community development goals and meet the state requirements for the grant.

Of the proposals we received, eight of them seemed feasible and urgent enough to proceed to the next round. All of the businesses that sent proposals that met the basic requirements were asked to present their ideas in front of our board. They were asked to bring building drawings, plans, and any other documents that would help us with our decision. The proposals were scored on four aspects:

  • Does it meet the goals of the grant program
  • Does it help SHEDCOs mission to provide the leadership and coordination necessary to enhance the economic viability of St. Helens
  • Does it meet logistical requirements (deadlines, funding, contracting, permitting, zoning)
  • Does it fit with larger city economic development plans

After the four-week selection process, SHEDCO chose a proposal presented by the local restaurant El Tapatio. During the winter storms this past January, the El Tapatio building sustained significant roof damage, limiting operations. The grant will help fund the roof repairs, rehabilitate the building, and expand the inner and outer dining area.  The project will enhance the pedestrian experience along Columbia Boulevard by adding an outdoor patio with a fountain and flower pots.

The entire community was ecstatic when we learned that the El Tapatio project had been selected as one of the grant finalist. SHEDCO hopes to expand its selection process for the 2018 round of the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant by encouraging more properties owners to submit proposals.

St. Helens is part of the Oregon Main Street Network. In 2015, the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant program was established by the legislature with a $2.5 million infusion of lottery bond funds. 27 projects were funded across the state. In 2017, $5 million for this grant was included in a lottery bond bill. This funding will be awarded in spring of 2019. To learn more about Oregon Main Street and the grant program visit

Oregon Main Street Highlight: Hillsboro

August 16, 2017

This post is part of a series celebrating Oregon Main Street’s ten years of downtown revitalization. Throughout the year we will be highlighting some of our Main Street network communities and the great work they are doing. You can learn more about Oregon Main Street here. Main Street efforts in Hillsboro are being carried out by the Hillsboro Downtown Partnership and here is a snapshot into the work they are doing.

Out with the Vacant, In with New Business!

Us Main Street folks too often hear complaints from community members about vacant businesses and lack of desired merchandise in our Downtown districts. Because of this, The Hillsboro Downtown Partnership (HDP) partnered with the City of Hillsboro to take action by filling vacancies in the Downtown business district and diversifying the business mix. The City conducted a Retail Market Analysis for the district, with the goal in mind to pass recommendations to HDP’s Business Development Committee to implement. And the process is already working.

Initial findings from the market analysis show gaps in supply and demand and help us understand perceptions from different sectors of the community. Among the findings, bakeries, clothing stores, breakfast and brunch restaurants, home furnishings and anything related to natural and healthy products made the top of the list of community desired businesses.

PropertySellSheets_July2017_Page_01.jpgActions the Business Development committee is undertaking fall under the umbrella of helping existing businesses succeed, focusing on the top 3 to 5 retail ready vacancies and filling them, and finally organizing and implementing a target business sales campaign. Specific projects include workshops for business and property owners, developing a restaurant “boot camp” and restaurant week promotion, creating Downtown marketing packages for potential investors, and filling vacancies through aggressive marketing to successful existing businesses looking to expand and open in new locations.

We are just in the beginning stages of implementation; yet, we are already seeing success. Sharing market analysis findings with property owners has helped them


Decadent Creations, a new bakery in Downtown Hillsboro.

identify better fit tenants to bring into their buildings. We have since had a new bakery called Decadent Creations, and a home furnishings store called The Sofa Studio open. Furthermore, D’Anu Wine Bar and a clothing shop, Nan’s Glad Rags, are opening in the month of August. The clothing shop is the first women’s clothing shop to open in Downtown in decades, and they were recruited by our own Business Development committee member, EJ Payne, who used market analysis findings to recruit the new business.

We are excited to see where this project leads us in the next year and beyond in our efforts to fill vacancies and diversify Downtown’s business mix.

Oregon Main Street Highlight: Port Orford

July 6, 2017

This post is part of a series celebrating Oregon Main Street’s ten years of downtown revitalization. Throughout the year we will be highlighting some of our Main Street network communities and the great work they are doing. You can learn more about Oregon Main Street here. Main Street efforts in Port Orford are being carried out by the Port Orford Main Street Revitalization Association and here is a snapshot into the work they are doing.

Port Orford has one gallery for every 100 people. Capitalizing on art, our Main Street organization uses public art to help the revitalization effort of down town and brand Port Orford as a designated Art District. Movable murals help to solve problem buildings in distress until the problem is resolved. Other murals depict history or are just fun – giant flowers on fences, story book characters on murals at library and much more. Art walks improve pedestrian traffic and show off the galleries.

Public art in Port Orford expanded from murals and a mosaic to whimsical fire hydrants. Our most recent art addition turns rusting fire hydrants along Main Street into pieces of art. Residents and visitors can obtain a map at the visitor center and other places in order to find all of the art enhanced hydrants: Oregon Duck, Starry Night, Minion, Dotty, Quilt, Dalmatian, and many more. Artists did their thing to refurbish rusting hydrants to the delight of the fire department. School children submitted designs so that more will be done with their designs with hydrants close to Main Street. The fun hydrants add to the character of the community with its painters, poets, musicians, and many galleries.

Port Orford is now a designated Art District. Both the Main Street organization and the Art Council promote art with Art Walks, First Fridays and special exhibits.Be sure to stop by next time you are driving up or down the Coast and see what art treasures await in Port Orford!

Oregon Main Street Highlight: Canby

June 14, 2017

This post is part of a series celebrating Oregon Main Street’s ten years of downtown revitalization. Throughout the year we will be highlighting some of our Main Street network communities and the great work they are doing. You can learn more about Oregon Main Street here. Main Street efforts in Canby are being carried out by the City of Canby and here is a snapshot into the work they are doing.

Canby Main Street – a program of the City of Canby – serves as the liaison to the city’s Historic Review Board. As the staff liaison, the Main Street program leverages its funding to complete programs and projects that are unique to Canby’s history.

On May 5, 2017, the City of Canby’s Historic Review Board hosted “Re-discovering Canby’s Roots: Baker Prairie Cemetery”. The re-dedication event celebrated the completion of Phase One of the repair and cleaning of Baker Prairie Cemetery, and to kick-off Phase Two. It was held in conjunction with Canby Main Street’s May First Friday event.

BPC Program_Page_1In April 2016 the City of Canby’s Historic Review Board applied for and received a $6,200 grant from the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries (OCHC) to pay for Phase One of the Baker Prairie Cemetery Rehabilitation Project. The catalyst for the project was a phone call from Jeanine Kersey, the great-great granddaughter of Philander Lee, who is buried in Baker Prairie Cemetery. In addition to regularly visiting her ancestors, she has participated in efforts to maintain the grounds and the markers since 1949.

In October that work was completed. Twenty-six broken or tilted markers were repaired and/or reset. Another 30 markers were cleaned using products and tools that remove moss and dirt but do not harm the stones or the environment. Volunteers from local non-profits, engaged citizens, descendants of those buried at Baker Prairie Cemetery, and Historic Review Board members came together to learn the proper techniques for cleaning the headstones.

Baker Prairie Cemetery has been featured as one of ten sites listed in the City of Canby’s first heritage trail, “Exploring Community Connections: The Downtown Canby Heritage Trail,” a self-guided walking tour. Baker Prairie Cemetery was established in 1863 after J. Wesley Joslyn sold one-acre of his 1852 Donation Land Claim to the community for $1.00. Out of 131 gravesites, 86 individuals died before 1900. Members of many of the first families who settled in and around Canby are buried in Baker Prairie including Lees, Knights, Macks, Waits, Parrotts, Mays, and Joslyns.

The Historic Review Board invited descendants of those buried at Baker Prairie. Per Jamie Stickel, the Canby Main Street Manager and staff liaison to the Historic Review Board, “as Canby continues to grow, it’s important for us to look back and honor Canby’s unique history and the people who created this town. I look forward to continuing the work we have started.”

PSU’s Archaeology Roadshow Hits the Road!

May 25, 2017

ARS 17 Simpler Revised photo header 2

A challenge exists in the field of archaeology with finding effective ways to connect the public with archaeology and heritage. This is the central goal of Portland State University’s Public Archaeology class. In 2012 students in this class researched ways to engage the public and decided to host an event with artifact identification, demonstrations, and hands-on activities created by students and community partners from the Portland area. Thus, the Archaeology Roadshow was born!

Since 2012 the event has increased in size and has attracted more partner organizations to help connect the public to Oregon’s heritage through archaeology. The show expands even more this year by adding an additional show in Harney County (Burns/Hines). Funding was received from the Oregon Heritage Commission with the goals of developing a prototype “satellite” Roadshow in a different region of the state in addition to the usual Portland Roadshow. The idea is to celebrate and showcase the archaeology and heritage of more than one community. Hopefully this can be replicated in other communities in the future.

So what will folks see at this year’s Archaeology Roadshows?

  • roadshow2Hands-on archaeology for kids of all ages
  • Exhibits about local archaeology and history projects (including third graders from Portland’s SW Charter School whose exhibit was a smashing success last year!)
  • Tool-making demonstrations
  • A panel of experts to identify your personal artifacts
  • Samples of historic beer!

A main goal of the Archaeology Roadshow is to educate the public on the importance of stewardship and why archaeology and heritage matter. This event also gives archaeology students and professionals practice communicating to the public their research and why it matters and strengthening ties among professional and avocational archaeologists and other community partners.

We hope to see you June 3 in Portland or June 10 in Burns!roadshow3

June 3, 10am-3pm
Portland State University Hoffman Hall NEXT to the Farmers Market
1833 SW 11th Ave, Portland

June 10, 10am-3pm
Hines City Park
SW Cir Dr & W Barnes Ave, Burns

Check out the Roadshow’s of Facebook for photos, videos, and other Pacific NW archaeology related information.

Redmond’s Successful Rehabilitation of a Local Historic Landmark

May 22, 2017


By Scott Woodford

In February, the City of Redmond moved into its new (old) City Hall digs in the fabulously remodeled 1922 Redmond Union High School. From all initial reviews, it is a great place to work, a source of pride for the Redmond community and a model, adaptive reuse project, as the State recently recognized with a 2017 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award.

The new city hall is housed on the 1.24-acre school campus in downtown Redmond and consists of the 35,000-square foot, two-story, masonry school, built in the Renaissance Revival architectural style, and a separate 1944 gymnasium. The school is designated as a Local Historic Landmark and the gymnasium is National Register eligible.

After using it for over 80 years, the buildings were vacated by the school district in 2010 and the City purchased it a year later. In turn, the City marketed it to commercial developers to convert it into a revenue producing use through adaptive re-use. McMenamin’s was contacted to see about their interest. Others looked at it, but the cost that it would entail to bring it up to current building code (seismic and asbestos) were ultimately deterrents.

Around the same time, the City was outgrowing its existing City Hall and began investigating building a new facility. It soon dawned on officials, though, that it would cost about the same to build a new building as it would to remodel the old high school (around $12 million). So, in 2014, the Council gave its support to the remodel project, thus sparing it from neglect or, worse, demolition.

Preserving the historic integrity of the building, while remodeling it into a modern and technologically innovative public facility was the primary goal. One of the most important early decisions was to hire firms very experienced in remodeling historic properties – FFA Architecture and Interiors and Skanska Construction. The final product is a beautifully preserved and rehabilitated exterior.

The completely remodeled interior preserves many of the school’s unique features, such as the windows, interior doors, chalkboards, stair railing, and exposed brick. Large collages of old yearbook photos grace the large hallways outside of the Council Chambers and each office space is recognized with a plaque and pictures denoting which classroom originally occupied the space.

This will be a building that will continue to serve the community for another 100 years.

Heritage Tourism Success One Year Later

May 19, 2017

By Sarah LeCompte

Heritage tourism workshops held in eastern Oregon in spring of 2016 paved the way for a stellar year of visitation, with many heritage and cultural sites reporting visitation increases up to 15-20%.

Some of our staff at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center joined a work shop in John Day. If nothing else had happened, meeting staff and volunteers from other sites started a networking and awareness effort that is key to success in developing regional heritage tourism. What is going on, what does each site have to offer, and who to contact for more information provides the nuts and bolts that help answer visitors questions and interest them in staying in the region and visiting other sites. Participants worked together on developing itineraries, and figuring out travel times, visit times, visitor interests and budgets to attract visitors to try something new and different. Looking for opportunities to collaborate and cross market to build new audiences, they learned about the need to start connecting heritage attractions with other activities that might not seem compatible at first glance. Museum and brew pub? Historic sites and street fairs and bicycle rentals? Art gallery to museum to fishing spot?   It’s easy to get focused on promoting our own area of interest, and forgetting that most humans generally have more than one favorite past-time, and want a travel and vacation experience to match their unique set of interests. Workshop participants learned to think beyond traditional marketing profiles of “heritage” tourists, and realize that anyone of any age, economic bracket, and cultural background is probably a heritage tourist in waiting. Experience is a common word in tourism today. And authenticity. Both concepts that fit well with heritage attractions, and workshop participants considered the idea of marketing an experience rather than a tangible “thing”. And, perhaps particular to the slower pace and friendly attitude of eastern Oregon, that a personal first-person approach can have a huge impact. Word of mouth from an authentic “local” expert is almost always the most effective way to help a tourist feel comfortable finding that great cultural treasure down the street or in the next town down the road.

Our staff came back inspired with new ideas, and lots of information to share with visitors over the information desk throughout the summer. If a Heritage Tourism Workshop comes to your area this spring, it is time well spent to meet your tourism neighbors and start knitting together the great experiences for heritage tourists coming your way.

Spring 2017 Heritage Tourism Workshops
Succeeding with Heritage Tourism: Market Information, resources, and Ideas for Attracting More Visitors through Creative Collaboration

Ontario – June 7, 8:30-12:30, Four Rivers Cultural Center
Roseburg – June 15, 8:30-12:30, Jasmine’s Events Center
Preliminary Agenda


Oregon Main Street Highlight – Astoria

May 11, 2017

This post is part of a series celebrating Oregon Main Street’s ten years of downtown revitalization. Throughout the year we will be highlighting some of our Main Street network communities and the great work they are doing. You can learn more about Oregon Main Street here. Main Street efforts in Astoria are being carried out by Astoria Downtown Historic District Association and here is a snapshot into the work they are doing.

Collaboration and Craft Brewing Enliven a Once Abandoned Streetscape

Astoria has been rebuilding since the great fire of 1922. In our lifetimes, the transformation began in the late 90’s and took off in earnest about 2010.

Commercial Street and Marine Drive, long the major thoroughfares, are bustling centers of activities in good weather. Now, the work on the Duane Street corridor is being undertaken by enterprising individuals and non-profits alike.

The catalyst for the redevelopment of Duane Street is Astoria Station, the dream of the late Warren Williams Warren, owner of the Astoria Station building sitting at the unconventional intersection of 13th Street, between Duane and Exchange. It should be noted that 13th Street doesn’t exist on our main streets, but appears off the thoroughfare, due to a dispute amongst our earliest city planners.

Originally an auto-repair shop and later an illegal marijuana operation, a new vision was needed for this site and Warren knew just the thing for Astoria’s new economy. Mr. Williams dreamt of a multi-use space promoting craft brewing, local food, and areas for Astorians to come together to enjoy it all.

Now, after years of planning, Astoria Station is the proud home of Reach Break Brewing, Sasquatch Sausage, and The Hot Box BBQ. A micro-cidery, additional food cart, and barbershop are also in the works. Today, wine barrels for drinks and custom picnic tables for food and gathering are loosely pulled together with nautical ropes. On sunny days the garage doors at Reach Break roll up and folks spill into the light, meeting friends and neighbors. On a recent Saturday I spied a historic home rehab specialist, a local café owner, our community college president, and several Thai exchange students all gathered together enjoying artisan sausage, craft brewed beer, and our notoriously fickle sun on a Saturday afternoon.

Come see what’s new in Astoria!

Astoria recently received two grants for Main Street improvement projects. To learn more about the Main Street Revitalization Grant and those that received awards, visit here.