By Charlotte Fugate, President of Revitalize Ontario!, an Oregon Main Street network community and recipient of a 2016 Oregon Heritage Diamonds in the Rough Grant
Ontario is a small rural community of about 11,500 and we rely on agriculture for our main industry. We border the Snake River and Idaho and we are on the far eastern side of the state. The town was platted in 1883 just after the railroad came to Oregon. Two years ago we organized a grass root group, Revitalize Ontario!, to develop and promote a healthy prosperous downtown within the context of cultural and historic preservation. To this end we started working with Oregon’s Main Street Program.
After setting our boundaries and phases, we formally joined Main Street as an “Exploring Downtown” member. We identified a cluster of large buildings in the core of our old town, two were in good shape, the third not so much. We selected the “not so much” building, the Lackey Building, to revive because it would have the biggest impact in enhancing our
historical downtown. We leveraged three different grants, including Oregon Heritage’s Diamonds in the Rough Grant, to take the building back to 1967 (although the Lackey Building was built in 1906). We couldn’t afford to take it back any further but felt we would preserve the building for future generations and the bones would be visible once again.
The grant application was relatively easy to fill out. I would suggest that you review what information is required before tackling the process and try to gather as much of the information as possible before starting. Kuri Gill, the Grant and Outreach Coordinator, was always available and walked us through the process. When our application was completed, Sheri Stuart, the Oregon Main Street Coordinator, reviewed our application and made a few suggestions that made our efforts more cohesive. The most difficult part was gathering old photos to show examples of our goals. Fortunately, a business that occupied the building in 1967 had an extensive photo album which they shared with us. We waited with great anticipation for the grant committee to review our application, then came the announcement… we were selected!
In the next few weeks we awarded the bids, set the construction schedule, and had a meeting with the major contractors and volunteers. We didn’t get off to a very good start since the volunteer who was going to demolition all the faux shingles and faux brick decided that he needed to be paid. We figured we could make that up with having volunteers do some of the paid tasks. We had to borrow $10,000 from the bank to cover one of the contractor’s bills, since they wanted to be paid when their work was complete. We had a visit near the project’s completion from Oregon Heritage’s Restoration Specialist, Joy Sears, to see our finished project and she was very pleased.
We completed our façade grant in four months (coming in under budget) and sent in our final report along with copies of invoices, receiving a reimbursement check within three weeks. I can’t praise the Oregon Heritage grant staff enough. They were helpful, encouraging, conscientious and really cared about our mission. A great group to work with! As for the Ontario community, we get accolades every day for the beautiful building and the improvements to the downtown. We have had several more downtown businesses take applications for city facade grants and have had one building owner inquire about the process to get their building on the National Historical Register. We are on our way!
Oregon Heritage has 5 grants currently open for applications, including a new grant only available to communities in the Oregon Main Street network. For more information visit here. There are several free upcoming grant workshops available across the state. Visit the calendar to find one near you. You can also contact Kuri Gill, Grants and Outreach Coordinator, at Kuri.Gill@oregon.gov or (503) 986-0685.
By Kathleen Daly
With the beginning of the new year, it’s a good time to begin to plan some cleaning and organization goals. This year’s Western Museums Association (WMA) Annual Conference provided a lot of great information to help with this very thing.
One useful tip gleaned from Find/Create/Organize: An Archive for a Small Museum, was a simple “how-to” for removing photographs from old, adhesive-based (sticky) photo albums. If you have ever attempted this, you know how dangerous and scary this can be. According to the presenters, try using unwaxed, unflavored dental floss to carefully tease the photo off the sheet. This method may not always work, so remember to work slowly and cautiously. If there is any indication of damage to the object, stop.
This session also provided a valuable outline for how to organize an archives collection. (Note: although specifically for archives, the same steps can help you through most collections organization projects.) First, define your collection. This may be done by following your collections management policy, or through a clear definition of the project at hand. Secondly, identify what is actually yours. Do you have paperwork to match up to the objects/material? Was ownership clearly transferred? Next, determine where your centralized collections space will be. In other words, where are these things going to be stored when the project is complete? It is important to prepare this space so that as soon as pieces have been processed, they can be put away. Before starting, identify your resources. This could be the National Park Service, Connecting to Collections, another, or, since we are so lucky to have this option available in Oregon, MentorCorps. (Remember, MentorCorps utilizes trained museum, library and preservation professionals from throughout the state to assist with a number of institutional needs. Plus, it is FREE!) Then lastly, begin your inventory and rehousing project.
- Define the collection.
- Identify what is “yours”.
- Create a centralized space for collections.
- Identify resources (MentorCorps, Connecting to Collections, Oregon Museums Association, Canadian Conservation Institute, the National Park Service, etc.).
- Inventory and rehouse.
Whatever project you decide to undertake, be realistic about your outcomes, expectations and goals. And, as I always say, do what is within your means! You are not expected to know everything, nor can you. Focus on a strategy and do what works best for you. Also, think outside of the box. Perhaps a local university can use you as a project for one of their preservation programs. Or, maybe there is a local venue willing to share display space (to help market your facility) or temporary storage space?
If questions, frustration or obstacles occur during upcoming projects, remember to take a step back to re-focus on the task at hand. It is all too easy to become overwhelmed or find yourself in the weeds. You are only one person and can only do so much. Remember this. Most importantly, there is a community of individuals (museum professionals or not) who are ready and able to help.
Kathleen Daly received Oregon Heritage’s Elisabeth Walton Potter Heritage Preservation Training Scholarship to attend the 2016 Western Museums Association Annual Conference. This scholarship provides financial assistance for Oregon residents to attend a preservation-related conference, workshop, or training in the United States. Eligible travel expenses include registration fees, transportation, lodging, and meals. Scholarships are offered to those actively involved in local preservation efforts and who demonstrate how attendance at a preservation-related conference, workshop, or training will help meet the preservation needs of their local community. Scholarships are competitive and offered twice per year.
By Patricia A. Krewson
Dora Cemetery Incorporated 1886, aka McKinley and Dora Chapel Cemetery – Dora, Oregon
The Dora Cemetery started out as many did during the early days of mans’ desire to revere and honor those that came before. Sadly, many of these historic cemeteries fell due to the inability to be maintained and lost interest or funding. But for the Dora Cemetery, through a long-standing commitment to community pride, partnership and love, it has been transformed from a quaint local cemetery to a thriving panoramic area that invites visitors’ to linger for loved ones and its beauty.
Not singularly over time but most definitely the individual who envisioned what the cemetery could be was Julius L. Benham. Through his generous donation upon his passing in 1992, those who followed, as part of the Dora Cemetery Association (DCA) and volunteers, have worked tirelessly to bring to life a final place of peace for all who do now and will in the future rest there.
Some of the recognizable projects and changes that contribute to the transformation include the following:
- Donation of land by the Lone Rock Timber Company and the clearing and leveling of that acre
- Installation of a well for water
- Upgrade of an outhouse
- Secure, proper and esthetic storage of equipment
- Paved entry and parking
In addition to these larger scale improvements, continuous efforts were made to maintain all aspects of a community cemetery: headstone repair, lawn mowing and watering, equipment repair and replacement and financial accountability to the DCA.
You can see the changes by viewing the Transformation of Dora Cemetery video.
For more information about this cemetery, visit the Dora Cemetery website.
By Rosie Platt
The entrance foyer of Portland’s Chapman Elementary has been graced with the work of Aimee Spencer Gorham since 1938, when the large format wood marquetry mural titled Send Us Forth to be Builders of a Better World was installed. Aimee Gorham is best known for her work at the Timberline Lodge, the largest and most ambitious New Deal project of the area, where two of her pieces grace the walls of that temple to rustic regionalism. Under WPA programs, Gorham produced murals for Oregon State University’s School of Forestry, numerous Portland Public schools, regional art centers in Oregon, and for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. She established a workshop of furniture makers from Timberline Lodge that executed her designs into the 1950s.
Almost 80 years of accumulated soiling, wear, and vandalism had obscured the exquisite and glowing figural effects of the wood grains in the mural. In 2015, a former Chapman parent and art enthusiast, Martha Connell, brought the idea of the restoration project to the attention of the PTA President, Rosie Platt. The project was adopted as a priority by the PTA and Chapman administration. The true historic value of this art piece was relatively underappreciated and educating students, families, and the community on the cultural and historical importance of this public works piece became a priority.
We began writing grants and fundraising for the restoration project and were generously awarded funding for the project. An educational workshop was held at Chapman’s annual event called the Art Ball which was attended by over 300 people. Students and families had the opportunity to learn about the WPA, the artist, and even made their very own marquetry project. Thanks to generous grants, including the State of Oregon’s Heritage Grant, the Juan Young Trust, the Autzen Foundation, and donations from the Chapman community, we were able to restore the mural over the summer of 2016. The restoration work was completed by Heritage Conservation Group, led by President Nina Olsson. The Chapman PTA, Neighbors West-Northwest, and Heritage Conservation Group are hosting a community educational event at the school for the public unveiling of the wood mural and new educational panels that will accompany them. Please join us on Thursday, Dec. 1st, from 6-8 pm at the Chapman Elementary School Auditorium. Appetizers and child-friendly activities will be provided.
For heritage organizations, Eagle Scout projects can accomplish two things: engage youth and get work done. That is the experience the Gleason Cemetery and the Oswego Heritage Council had when they each had an important project completed by a Boy Scout in pursuit of Eagle Scout status.
Planning and completing a service project is the last step for a boy scout to become an Eagle Scout. Boy Scouts can choose a project that benefits the community and Payton Becker and David Rollins decided to carry out their projects at local heritage sites.
When Payton Becker first came across the Gleason Cemetery outside of Molalla, he was shocked. The trail leading up to the cemetery from the road was barely accessible and the ivy vines and blackberry bushes covered the headstones. Through Payton’s hard work and with the help of work parties of friends and family, he was able to clear ivy and blackberry bushes and reveal twenty-one headstones and two walking trails. He was also able to draw up a map of the cemetery’s layout. Although the project took an immense amount of labor, Payton found it rewarding to be able to uncover a piece of forgotten history and hopes it helps the local historical society.
Oswego Heritage Council
David Rollins was inspired by his grandfather when he was deciding on his Eagle Scout project. His grandfather is involved with Oswego Heritage Council, an organization that preserves Lake Oswego history. A large part of that history is the iron industry that helped build the town. David’s project involved reconstructing an iron ore cart and creating a display in the gardens of the historic Oswego Heritage House along with an interpretive sign. It was a truly unique project as David had to do quite a bit of research in order to be able to reconstruct this iron ore cart and find a company to accurately reproduce parts of it. This display was part of the organization’s larger plan to provide additional interpretive opportunities, including a new permanent exhibit that opened in November 2016. For more information you can visit Oswego Heritage Council’s website.
Both of these projects helped bring history to life and not only benefited the Scout accomplishing the project, but also helped two heritage organizations accomplish something that they might otherwise may not have been able to accomplish. So if you are a heritage organization that has a project that you think might be perfect for an Eagle Scout project, it might be worth contacting your local Boy Scout Troops to see if someone is looking for a service project to complete.
By Laura Lo Forti
Sometimes history gets stuck in one monolithic narrative. A single event, often a dramatic one, is repeated over and over, until it becomes the official story. This is certainly true for Vanport, an important chapter of Oregon’s past that is usually summarized in one sentence: a temporary city between Vancouver and Portland built to accommodate the influx of shipyard workers and their families and wiped out by a flood in a matter of hours on Memorial Day, 1948.
But who lived in Oregon’s second-largest city and why? What did they build? What did they lose? Where did they go after being displaced? What does this all mean today?
In 2016 a group of artists, educators, historians, media makers with existing projects addressing the lack of awareness on Vanport, came together to explore these very questions and launched the Inaugural Vanport Mosaic Festival.
On the 68th anniversary of the catastrophic event, over 2000 Portlanders attended this 4-day multi-disciplinary celebration that honored the 40,000 people who came from all over the U.S. to build a new life, attracted by job opportunities and affordable housing.
With a fully staged drama,“Cottonwood In The Flood”, we shared the African American experience in Vanport. At screenings of “Lost City, Living Memories: Vanport Through the Voices of Its Residents” we offered a collection of community-produced multimedia oral histories. These personal narratives shared the perspective of Japanese Americans returning from internment camps, of veterans attending Vanport Extension Center (that later became Portland State University), and of the mosaic of memories of daily life in the largest WWII public housing project in the nation. More layers were added by poetry, music, tours of the historic sites, an educational symposium, an exhibit of photos and artifacts. At the center of all former Vanport residents, now in their 80s and 90s, were celebrated with a reunion and with this community-driven and artist-lead effort to tell full story, one of community’s strength and resilience.
OPB will be featuring the history of Vanport on an episode of the Oregon Experience series. The public is invited to a free screening event at McMenamins Kennedy School on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. and it will be airing on OPB on Nov. 14 at 9 p.m.
Save the date for Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017, May 26-30th. http://www.vanportmosaic.org
By Anne Richardson
On October 15, 2016, Oregon Cartoon Institute will present UNDERGROUND USA, a one day public history/arts education event which focuses on one chapter of Oregon print cartooning history.
Two underground papers, the Willamette Bridge (1968-1971) and the Portland Scribe (1972-1978), provided first jobs for a generation of artists and writers who went on to have national careers. Five of them – artists Bill Plympton and David Chelsea, and writers Norman Solomon, Richard Gehr, and Maurice Isserman – are coming to Portland to talk about these early experiences.
Among the questions they will address:
- What makes Portland so comics and cartooning friendly?
- What was the underground press?
- Who read it?
- Who wrote it?
- What role did underground comics play in creating the sensibility of the underground press?
- Was Portland’s current affinity for comics/cartooning already in evidence during this forgotten period of regional media making?
Through talks, presentations, onstage conversations and a culminating panel discussion, UNDERGROUND USA participants will explore these and other questions.
Patrick Rosenkranz, author of Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975, will give the keynote address. He will speak about two powerfully influential pop culture practitioners from Oregon, Carl Barks (1901-2000) and Basil Wolverton (1909-1978), and the impact they had on the cartoonists of the underground press.
UNDERGROUND USA is open to the general public. It is presented by Oregon Cartoon Institute in partnership with UO Comics & Cartooning Studies and PSU Comic Studies, and with support from Oregon Historical Society.
By Megan Lallier-Barron, Museum of Mental Health Curator
One of the oldest and most recognizable state-owned structures in Salem is the Oregon State Hospital. A study of hospital architecture has been an important way to better understand how the changing attitudes and philosophies of mental health care in Oregon over time. One of the key resources the Museum of Mental Health has used when researching the history of this architecture has been through blueprints and architectural plans that are a part of the state’s collection. This collection encompassed the entirety of the Hospital’s 133 year history, including other state-run mental health facilities in Oregon.
To better preserve this collection, the Museum applied for the Oregon Heritage Museum Grant. Our original plan was to use our grant funding to assist us in digitizing our collection while also providing an appropriate storage environment for these documents. Something that came to light during the grant review process changed the scope of our project. It was a surprise to learn that the blueprints were considered state documents and therefore could be transferred to the Oregon State Archives for storage and preservation. The Museum of Mental Health would be able to have duplicates and digital copies but would not have to bear the burden of storing the architectural blueprints and plans.
Working principally with Layne Sawyer and Theresa Rea at the Archives, we compared the items in the Museum’s collection and identified items that were missing from the State Archives holdings, and we found quite a few. From there, we worked with the Archives to transfer these items after they had been professionally scanned and a new shelving system was installed at the Archives. It has taken over a year since our initial grant proposal, but these architectural drawings are finally on their way to their rightful home.
To learn more about Museum of Mental Health visit their website.
Photos: (Left) Museum volunteers Howard Baumann and Karen Sewell during the inventory process of the project. (Right) Museum of Mental Health Curator, Megan Lallier-Barron, delivering scanned blueprints to the Oregon State Archives.
Latest National Historic Register Listing Helps Preserve Portland’s African American Civil Rights History
Today the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church in Portland was listed in the National Historic Register. Raymond Burell III gives us the following insight into its history.
Overshadowed though it may be today by new development, the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church (located at 3138 N Vancouver Avenue) is an important cultural and social institution of the Albina/Eliot neighborhood and African American history in Portland. It is one of the few remaining historic structures from the thoroughfare of Vancouver Avenue in the 1950s, and a link to the era when the area was known as “Black Broadway”: the hub of African American life and culture in Portland.
Redevelopment in the 1960s spelled disaster for the black community in North Portland, and modern construction threatens the few structures that have survived thus far. As one of the last standing monuments to Portland’s African American community in the 1940s and 1950s, the story of the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church is a vital social and cultural thread in the tapestry of Albina/Eliot’s and Portland’s past.
The Church’s roots began with the “Kaiser Caravans” that brought thousands of shipyard workers to the Northwest during World War II. Most of these new arrivals were Southern, many were black, and as these migrants settled into their new homes in Portland, the Northwest received an injection of Southern African American culture. The Church itself originally formed in 1944 in a shipyard worker’s housing project in Vancouver, Washington called Burton Homes. One year later, it had a new leader who would prove to be the driving force behind the Church’s whole story: the Reverend Oliver Booker “O.B.” Williams.
Under Rev. Williams and his wife Willa Ida Jackson-Williams, the next decade saw the Church relocate no fewer than three times. As World War II ended, the housing projects closed, and the Church moved into Albina in 1946. In Portland, the congregation quickly outgrew each new space they moved into, even renovating a condemned structure in 1947, only to find that they were too large for it by the time they had finished. The Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church finally moved into its current location in 1951: a Methodist Episcopal church built in 1909 that could hold 600 people. Even this was eventually found to be inadequate, and in 1957 Rev. Williams renovated the space to hold 800, making this the largest African American congregation in the Northwest.
The Church’s most famous moment came in 1961. As a central pillar of Portland’s black community, the Urban League selected it as one of the stops on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s national speaking tour. He met with the clergy and delivered a speech entitled “The Future of Integration” to the congregation, commenting that “if democracy is to live, segregation must die. Segregation is a cancer in the body of democracy that must be removed if the health of the nation is to survive.” Albina–still a heavily segregated neighborhood in the 1960s and just beginning to feel the Civil Rights Movement’s arrival in Portland–must have felt the weight of King’s words. Its principal role in the local civil rights movement was highlighted by hosting and supporting numerous community rallies, social programs and town hall meetings for social change. Alongside the rest of Eliot, the Church saw most of its community displaced over the next decade, and today its congregation is a fraction of its old size. Now flanked by redevelopment along Vancouver and Williams Avenue, its continued existence is under constant threat. The Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church still stands as a direct line and touchstone from the present back to the old Albina of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. However, like many other historical institutions, the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church’s historical recognition pays homage to, celebrates and preserves the significance of a cultural cornerstone and social change agent landmark in the city of Portland. Today, the church now an active membership of 400 and 72 years, is under the spiritual leadership of the Reverend J.W. Matt Hennessee and continues to serve the Eliot community fervently under a changing redevelopment landscape and population demographic.
By Titus Tomlinson
There I was – opening day at this year’s Main Street Now Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was surrounded by excited, spunky and passionate change agents representing Main Street Programs from across the country. At that moment it became very apparent that I am one of a very large group of individuals who see the importance of Main Street and the role it plays in creating healthy communities that we all can enjoy, take pride in, and embrace as our own. As I spoke with countless volunteers, coordinators and state coordinators one thing became very clear – Main Street is and always will be the heart of our communities, both rural and urban alike. As humans we all know that a healthy heart makes for a healthy body and the same goes for Main Street; a healthy Main Street makes for a healthy community.
So what can you do to help create a healthy heart in your community? The good news is that a world of resources, structure and support is available to help create a healthy heart! For well over 35 years the National Main Street Center has been working with communities across the Country to revitalize their downtowns and commercial districts. And they do so using a structured “Main Street Approach” – an approach that has “has earned Main Street the reputation as one of the most powerful economic revitalization tools in the nation.”
One of my favorite components is the fact that this approach not only takes into account the local economy, its drivers and the regional context, but that it also realizes the importance of the stories each community has to share. It’s those stories that help create “sense of place” in all Main Street Communities. And when it comes to what sets each and every community apart, preserving historic building stock is one of the first things that comes to mind.
By embracing the history of our communities we often find those assets that set us apart from others. Whether we are talking about the Liberty Theater in Astoria or I.C. Nickelsen’s / Klindt’s Booksellers building in The Dalles – these are buildings that tell a story and create that sense of place I am speaking about. So what is it about your community that sets it apart and tells that story? Find it, embrace it and make it yours because sometimes the past really does play into the present!
Titus Tomlinson received the Elisabeth Walton Potter Oregon Heritage Preservation Scholarship to attend the 2016 Main Street Now Conference in Milwaukee, WI. For more information about this scholarship visit here.