Main Street Oregon

October 25, 2013 (Updated January 25, 2016)

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 The

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.