Oregon City, Oregon
Oregon City was established as a trading post in 1829. Saw mills and paper mills were built in the mid 1800s that utilized water power from Willamette Falls near the center of town. As far as I know these were the first large water powered mills west of the Rockies. Oregon City was incorporated in 1845 and briefly contended with nearby Portland for regional supremacy. The first paper mill was established in Oregon City in 1866. For over a hundred years after that first mill was built, paper was the foundation of Oregon City's economy. 140 years worth of layers of industrial construction crowd around Willamette Falls in the center of Oregon City. Since the 1970s and 80s employment at the mills has declined. At the same time Oregon City has been surrounded by Portland suburban development. This has led to a sometimes awkward transition from factory town to suburb. The Blue Heron Paper Company mill on the Southside of the Willamette falls closed in 2011. Parts of that mill are now being demolished. I'm not sure what the re-development plans for the site are. The Willamette Pulp and Paper Company mill on the opposite side of the falls and technically in West Linn is still operating.
Oregon City is an interesting town to walk around in. The central area does not have many surviving 19th century buildings. I'm not sure why this is. Downtown has been experiencing a revival recently with several new stores, bars and restaurants. The Oregon City Municipal elevator (pictured above) is unique to Oregon City as far as I know. The first Oregon City elevator was built in 1915 at the site of the present one. It was built to help residents get up the steep bluff that separates downtown from the residential neighborhoods above. In 1958 it was replaced with the current structure. It's similar in function to the incline railroads in Pittsburgh although it's only a 89 foot climb. Unlike the Pittsburgh inclines, the Oregon City elevator is free to ride. There is an elevator attendant on staff during it's hours of operation and a viewing platform at the top. From the elevator there is a path along the top of the bluff heading up river. This path has great views of the city, Willamette falls and the paper mills and ends in a staircase that leads back into town.
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