North Plains Murals Bring the Past to the Present

February 7, 2019

The next time you are cruising west along Highway 26 on the way to a getaway on the Oregon Coast, take a little detour about 20 minutes west of Portland to see a community straddled between “was” and “will be.” Look around. You have arrived in the City of North Plains.

North Plains is a small rural town located in the heartland of western Tualatin Valley’s agricultural area with a population of roughly 3,000 people. With close proximity to the booming Metro area, this community has seen a considerable amount of recent residential growth, which has sparked an interest to improve the commercial and industrial service areas of our quaint town. Our city leaders have been working to update the City’s Comprehensive Plan to reflect our vision of a well-connected, independent community that maintains its small-town charm. We have plans to restore our downtown area in order to bring commercial and service growth in line with our rapidly expanding residential development. Our residents enjoy annual events such as an old-fashioned ice cream social, a chili cook-off and the infamous Elephant Garlic Festival.

In the early 1900’s, the electric train and the steam engine made periodic stops in North Plains to carry people and freight in and out of this aspiring community. North Plains was a transport center for agricultural vendors and fur traders. Over the years, the bustling hub grew quiet and people moved to larger towns. The remnants of the past such as the corrugated, metal grain storage buildings that sit in the heart of town were sometimes seen as an eyesore to the community. A group of citizens, with the help of the Urban Renewal Agency, Chamber of Commerce and the Washington County Visitors Association, worked with the building’s owners to revitalize the structures through a mural project. This group wanted to bring the past to the present so future generations would have a greater appreciation of the town.

A mural paiting shows a steam engine train riding through agricultural land.
North Plains was once a transport center for agricultural vendors and fur traders.

Building off of that project, the city set out to commission a local artist who used the collection of old photos from the North Plains Historical Society to paint murals on several downtown buildings. These visuals depict a vibrant and detailed version of the rich past of North Plains. The murals give onlookers a colorful display of the historical train station, a stagecoach, the band stand, local grocer, and the agricultural lifestyle of days gone by. One such mural on the Abbey Creek Winery building depicts an array of neighbors interacting and enjoying a large bounty. We are building on a community which respects its roots all the while celebrating our growing diversity and willingness to embrace change.

A painting depicts friends gathering over food, artistically under the roots of trees.
A mural on the Abbey Creek Winery building depicts an array of neighbors interacting and enjoying a large bounty.

The North Plains area is also home to many talented quilters. Similar to the murals, these textiles combine stories and images to create an intertwined fabric which binds our community. Our hope, and our intention, is to create a warm and inviting city that welcomes the changes the future will bring, while also honoring the qualities that made those folks in the murals attracted to North Plains all those decades ago.

If you are fortunate enough to drive through North Plains in another 50 years, you may recognize today’s landscape captured in the murals of the future. What will they look like? Well, we’re just getting started on that next chapter in our history…

Murals depict North Plains' location in the heartland of western Tualatin Valley’s agricultural area.

About The

Teri Lenahan
Teri Lenahan is the mayor of North Plains, Oregon, elected in 2016 to serve through 2020. Mayor Lenahan has been a business owner and is a lifelong learner, serving on several committees and associations. She enjoys music, traveling, gardening and distance walking.

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