Oakland is a Southern Oregon town that prides itself on its home town feel and a historic “Main Street” with many homes and business buildings on the National Historic Registry.  The town of 900 residents has more than 130 historic registered homes and businesses buildings, including one of the state’s best brick storefronts dating to the 1890’s.

The trip to Oakland starts along the Umpqua River Scenic Byway that will sweep you past scenes that are striking and soothing: waterfalls, whitewater rapids and wildlife before you drive through the ‘Rochester Covered Bridge.”

 Oakland’s Mayor Betty Keehly said that the town was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as Oregon’s very first “Historic District.“

“The buildings are pretty much preserved the way they were,” noted Keehly.”The windows have not been changed which is one of the big things. The town council created an ordinance right after both sides of the street burned down 120 years ago to build only brick buildings in Oakland. So far, it’s worked.”

Oakland’s ‘Main Street’ is real show stoppers to be sure, but it turns out that there are many Oregon towns that have discovered their own “Main Street, Oregon” stories that are worth sharing too.

Sheri Stuart is Director for Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department’s “Main Street, Oregon” Heritage Program. Her job is to support and guide towns that are looking to link and promote their heritage.

“Sometimes it’s the history of an area; something that happened there historically that is really interesting and unique. For example, it may be the mining heritage of Baker City or the fishing heritage of Astoria.”

In Oregon City, connecting with history is easy at places like the famous Mcloughlin House.

No single person was more influential in the state’s development than Dr John Mcloughlin – often called “The Father of the Oregon Country.”  Mcloughlin was the Supt of the Hudson’s Bay Company and helped new Oregonians settle in the new Oregon Territory. He gave them food and tools and the seeds to start a new life – despite orders to the contrary from his British bosses.

John Southgate is the Director for Oregon City’s “Main Street” program and said the McLoughlin residence provides visitors a visual connection with important stories and offers history so close you can reach out and touch it.

“We are proud of our community and we’re seeing our history brought back to life. It is authentic history; a real place. These buildings were built to last and have intrinsic architectural value rather than things that are just thrown up and torn down and replaced thirty years later.”

Dayton, Oregon is on the fast track toward developing a “Main Street, Oregon” plan for its community too.  Kelly Haverkate is the volunteer manager for local community development and is steering the town’s course through the program.

“Dayton is one of the oldest platted towns in Oregon,” noted Haverkate. “It was platted in 1850.”

She added that the town has approved storefront improvements to the town’s core business area that provide an eye catching scene and also restored historic buildings to help tell Dayton’s story.

“We’re sitting right in the center of a whole lot of beautiful wine country, plus, we have our history, our agriculture and a culinary abundance. We’re prime to grow and become something really special.”

Back in Oakland, Oregon, Mayor Keelhy insisted that every Oregon town has “special” history that is worth sharing and those stories can become good business too.

In fact, she noted that tourism is Oakland’s number one industry and the town draws visitors from all over the country.

“Visitors arrive and take a look at what we have and they’re intrigued that we still have so many historic buildings that are in such good shape. We want to hear that and we want to preserve all of it so people can enjoy and learn more about Oregon.”

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

In this Grant’s Getaway

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  1. Carole says…

    What I love about this site is that I learn about places I never knew existed (even as a native Oregonian), and about things that I never knew were happening. I love history, and this program is one that I think is truly needed.

    History needs to come alive for people, to be something they can see and touch, and even feel around them.

    There are so many historic areas that have modernized or torn down buildings of significance, and now are trying to recapture some of what they once had. The problem is, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It’s nice to see some of our small towns working at preserving the history that this state. It deserves to remain in tact.

    Years ago I worked at the Oregon Trail Ctr (when it was still housed below the senior ctr), first as a volunteer, then a short stint as curator. I was in my twenties at the time, and it was something I truly enjoyed doing.

    Written on October 30th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
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