Journey to the Heart of Oregon City


Oregon City is about an hour and ten minutes south of my residence near Laurelhurst Park. I took the number 75 bus down 39th (Caesar Chavez Blvd) to Milwaukie, then the 33 McLouglin to Oregon City. The trip is anything but scenic, especially the stretch along McLouglin Boulevard, a wasteland of car dealerships, fast food joints, strip shopping centers, and at least one adult entertainment establishment that caught my eye when I looked up from my book, H.D.F. Kitto's The Greeks.

The destination turned out to be worth the trek as I found a pleasant downtown featuring the oldest Main Street in Oregon and McLoughlin Historic District on the bluff above it. The Oregon City/West Linn Arch Bridge a block west of Main at 7th Avenue offers a fine view of the Willamette River and Willamette Falls to the south. A block east of Main the Oregon City Municipal Elevator whisks intrepid explorers up to the bluff top. Or you can take the stairs. They are shaded, the climb is not at all arduous, and there is a sort of baby waterfall at the top.

A shaded promenade runs along the edge of the bluff. As you walk south the area below along the river is industrial, but the view of the valley stretching southward is almost idyllic, making this a pleasant spot to sit on a bench for a bit of reflection or to just take it all in. The rest of the district is less enchanting but not without high points, notably some of Oregon's oldest homes and a splendid library (Carnegie Center/Oregon City Libary). The library grounds are lovely and the building is new and modern but inviting. The new building, which held its grand opening in October 2016, is an addition to the original Carnegie Library completed in 1913.

Directly across John Adams Street from the library sits a fire station dating to 1923, and catty-corner across John Adams and 7th is Singer Hill Cafe, a family-owned restaurant and coffee shop that also houses Three Rivers Gallery & Gifts operated by the Three Rivers Art Guild. The cafe's atmosphere is low-key and pleasant. I found it to be a fine place to enjoy an espresso while taking a break from wandering.

I had no particular expectations when I set out. My intent was simply to see what there is to see. Oregon City turned out to be a pleasant discovery. A return is order for more wandering, repose along the promenade, and another visit to the cafe. Arch Bridge Taphouse on 7th Street between the elevator and the bridge looks to be worth reconnoitering some day when in pursuit of a libation. The taplist includes Freigeist "Mein Drumpf," billed as a hoppy tart Berliner Weisse, "a 3.2% collaboration beer with Port Brewing with the intention of donating 100% of profits to the ACLU." That alone is reason to patronize the establishment.

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David Matthews

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