Lake Oswego

Date of visit: October 29, 2010
Population: 36,755 (2000 Census)

These days, Lake Oswego is known as a well-to-do suburb of Portland, full of expensive homes and manicured lawns. But many people don’t know about Lake Oswego’s humble beginnings. The town started out in 1850 as Oswego, named after a town of the same name in New York. In 1865 the Oregon Iron Company started producing pig iron with the ore mined from Oswego’s hills. The smelter they used is still standing in George Rogers Park today (see photo below). The pig iron produced in Oswego was used for railcar wheels, water pipes, and structural elements in Portland’s many cast-iron buildings (downtown Portland has the section largest collection of cast-iron-fronted buildings in the country; New York City’s Soho district has the largest).

The iron business went belly-up in the late 1800s, but in the early 1900s developers started promoting the town as a great place to raise a family, and the Lake Oswego we know today started to take form. The lake had strictly been used as a source of power during the iron days, but it started to become a site for swimming and recreation. As more and more homes popped up along the shoreline, the lake was eventually closed off to people without lakefront property. In 1960 when it merged with the nearby community of Lake Grove, the name of the town was changed to Lake Oswego (although, confusingly enough, the lake itself is called Oswego Lake).

Welcome to Lake Oswego

Old furnace
The old iron furnace, at what is now George Rogers Park

One of the many fine houses along the lake

Oswego Lake
Oswego Lake during a draw-down, when they empty the lake for dock maintenance

Brown House
The historic Brown House, built in 1885

Conway House
The historic Conway House, built in the 1890s

An antique shop in downtown

Lakeview Village
Upscale shops in downtown

The place of yummy pastries
St. Honore, a bakery with many yummy things

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Oregon Towns Project


Date of visit: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Population: 9,580 (2000 Census)

Florence is known for its charming Old Town area, as well as the nearby Heceta Head Lighthouse, probably the most photographed lighthouse on Oregon’s coast. But Florence is also famous for being the site of the exploding whale.

The reporter who reported on the whale was a 23-year-old named Paul Linnman. In 2003 he wrote a book about the experience called The Exploding Whale (And Other Remarkable Stories from the Evening News). On November 12, 1970, he had been a reporter for KATU for several years when he and cameraman Doug Brazil were given an assignment to cover the disposal of a dead whale that had washed up on the beach near Florence. The Oregon State Highway Division was going to blow the thing up with dynamite. The whale stunk to high heaven and definitely needed to be disposed of. For whatever reason, officials decided that explosives were the best way to go.

It didn’t quite work. To sum it up from the news story (in what is quite possibly the best quote ever uttered in a newscast): “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.” Paul Linnman says in his book, “If anything ever gave me the sense of what it might be like to be in combat and under fire, it was the day Doug Brazil and I ran in terror to escape the blubber shrapnel.” I’m sure it was plenty terrifying to experience that, but because of the incident, we now have a highly amusing news story that we can watch over and over again. The video has gone viral thanks to the internet, and Dave Barry even wrote a column about it once. And now, enjoy:

Here are my photos from Florence:

Weather vane

Weather Vane

Florence Old Town

Old Town



Over the Siuslaw

Siuslaw River Bridge

Waterfront Depot

Waterfront Depot


Roses on a picket fenceRoses on a Picket Fence

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Oregon Towns Project