Cascade Locks

Date of visit: May 12, 2012
Population: 1,144 (2010 Census)

The town of Cascade Locks is on the south bank of the river in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. The river at this spot used to be very dangerous for boats since the channel contained numerous eddies, boulders, and rocky reefs, compounded by a swift current. In November 1878 construction of a locks was started, although it was plagued with problems at the beginning. The managing contractor, A.H. Ball died from exposure. Work was slowed by delays in receiving and assembling equipment and by severe weather: high winds and large masses of floating ice in winter followed by heavy rain and high water in the spring. Worker morale was low due to the primitive living conditions for the workers and the lack of medical facilities. Eventually the workers went on strike. Fed up, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled the contract in November 1879 and took over supervision of the construction.

By 1880 a town had started to develop thanks to the presence of the workers, the emergence of a fishing industry, and the summer tourists drawn to the scenic beauty of the Gorge. On November 5, 1896, residents and visitors cheered the opening of the locks. Although construction had taken 17 years, the economic benefits began immediately since the value of freight through the canal each year usually exceeded the entire cost of the locks construction. The locks were used for more than 40 years until they became obsolete when the backwaters of the Bonneville Dam drowned them in 1938.

Welcome to Cascade Locks
Welcome to Cascade Locks

Old locks
Looking downstream from the flooded locks

Historical Museum
History museum located in one of the old locks tender’s houses

Cascade Locks
The main drag in Cascade Locks

Cascade Locks post office
Post office

Pacific Crest Pub


Clark Thompson House
The historic 1907 Clark Thompson House

City Hall
City Hall

Map of Cascade Locks

Oregon Towns Project

Hood River

Date of visit: May 12, 2012
Population: 7,167 (2010 Census)

One of Hood River’s early settlers, Nathaniel Coe, thought that the soil in the Hood River Valley would be good for orchards so around 1854 he planted apple trees. His hunch proved to be correct and within a few decades the valley was dotted with fruit trees as well as strawberry fields. Hood River became well-known for its apples.

In December 1919 the temperature dropped to 27 degrees below zero and thousands of fruit trees were killed. The apple trees were especially affected, the pears less so. So when farmers re-planted they chose pear trees over apple trees. Although apples are still grown in Hood River, today the area is the world’s leading producer of Anjou pears. About two-thirds of Oregon’s pears are grown here, and a Pear Celebration is held in September with at least 18 different varieties of pears available for tasting and purchase. Over a billion pears are grown in Oregon each year, and they are shipped to 36 countries around the world.

Welcome to Hood River

Downtown Hood River

Hood River City Hall
City Hall

Hood River County Library
Hood River County Library

Mike's Ice Cream
Mike’s Ice Cream, a very popular place on a hot summer day

First National Bank
First National Bank building

G. Williker's Toy Shoppe
G. Williker’s Toy Shoppe

McLaren House
The historic 1907 McLaren House

Inn at the Gorge B&B
The Huggins House was built in 1908 and is now the Inn at the Gorge B&B

Columbia Gorge Hotel
Columbia Gorge Hotel

Map of Hood River

Oregon Towns Project


Date of visit: May 12, 2012
Population: 433 (2010 Census)

Prior to 1920, the only way to drive between Hood River and Mosier was up and over Mosier Hill on a dangerous road that had been built in 1874. During construction of the Columbia River Highway in 1919, two highway tunnels were constructed just east of town. The tunnels were carved into the steep hillside 300 feet above the railroad tracks and the river. The new highway and the tunnels made it easier for people to drive between Hood River and Mosier, even though frequent landslides caused headaches for both drivers and road crews.

In the 1950s the tunnels were abandoned when Interstate 84 was built. But in the 1990s the abandoned stretch of historic highway between Hood River and Mosier was restored, including the twin tunnels. The old road is now a hiking and biking trail.

Welcome to Mosier

Pioneer cemetery
Mosier Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer cemetery
Mosier Totem

Route 30 Classics and Roadside Refreshments

Thirsty Woman
Thirsty Woman Brewpub

Post Office
Post office

Mosier Valley Library
The volunteer-run library

Mosier City Hall
Mosier City Hall

Beautiful setting
View of the train tracks and Interstate 84 from town

Mosier Tunnel
One of the old tunnels

Map of Mosier

Oregon Towns Project


Date of visit: October 16, 2011
Population: 105,594 (2010 Census)

In the 1800s the Gresham area (known as Powell Valley back then) was sparsely populated and the people scattered around on farms. There was no church there so traveling preachers known as “circuit riders” visited outlying areas like this, traveling from one rural area to another. Religious camp meetings in the summer were big events. Not only were they a chance for people to get together and worship with the circuit rider preacher, but they provided an opportunity to see friends and family, share news, and eat food. Some families built lean-tos or cabins on site so they could spend the week in comfort. The book Gresham: Stories From Our Past describes it all as a “prolonged picnic.”

Gresham’s first camp meeting was held in the fall of 1855 and became an annual affair. The meeting grounds — referred to as a campground — was a two-acre grove of firs and cedars in what is now downtown Gresham.  In 1880 a storm blew down the trees and destroyed the campground. The Methodists built a small church on the site, where circuit riders preached to the congregation until a permanent minister was assigned in 1905.

Welcome to Gresham

Once a church
The former German Evangelical Church, now a home decor store

Zimmerman House
The historic Zimmerman House, built in 1874

Wildwood Cafe
The Wildwood Cafe in downtown Gresham

Main Street
Downtown Gresham

Gresham Library
The Gresham Library

Arching bridge
Bridge in the City Park

The old library is now a museum

Witter House
The Witter House was built in the late 1800s

Map of Gresham

Oregon Towns Project


Date of visit: October 16, 2011
Population: 15,962 (2010 Census)

Troutdale’s downtown was hit by a devastating fire on July 21, 1907. The fire started at the Red Front, an annex of the Troutdale Hotel. The occupants of the annex had been “carousing in the saloons” late into the night according to a 7/22/1907 Oregonian newspaper article. After returning to the Red Front W.J. Smith was so intoxicated that he knocked over a kerosene lamp and a fire began. Smith was apparently too drunk to save himself and was burned to death in the fire.

The fire quickly spread to the main hotel and even though every able-bodied man in Troutdale responded to help fight the fire the only equipment was a small hose cart and a fire hydrant fed from a spring on the hill. The newspaper article said that “this inadequate means of fighting fire was used for all it was worth, supplanted by a bucket brigade, but nothing be done to check the flames until the whole block was destroyed.” Fortunately the buildings on the other side of the street were saved.

Shopkeepers and hotel owners up and down the street could see what was going to happen and a surprising amount of merchandise and furniture was saved. The postmaster was able to save everything except the cabinet and office safe, but he seemed to determine to live up to the famous postal service motto (Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds) and opened the office on time the next morning in temporary quarters at the Masonic Hall, receiving and dispatching mail as usual.

Welcome to Troutdale

Sculpture in the downtown area

Centennial Arch
Centennial Arch

Shops along main street

City Hall
Troutdale City Hall

Troutdale Rail Depot Museum

Harlow House
The historic Harlow House, now a museum

Barn at the Harlow House

Troutdale Methodist Episcopal Church
Troutdale Methodist Episcopal Church

McMenamins Edgefield
McMenamins Edgefield, formerly a poor farm

Map of Troutdale

Oregon Towns Project

Wood Village

Date of visit: October 16, 2011
Population: 3,878 (2010 Census)

Wood Village is a former company town, built to house the workers who worked at Reynolds Metals, which operated an aluminum reduction plant. The plant was built by the government in 1941 to produce aluminum for the war effort, and Wood Village was established the following year. It was one of the first planned communities in Oregon and was constructed on 50 acres of farmland surrounding the Stephen Arata estate. It had single and multi-family housing (183 homes and 264 temporary apartments), streets, stores, a water system, a sewage treatment plant, street lights, and a community building.

The plant was purchased by Reynolds in 1949. It was one of three plants that Reynolds purchased in order to boost their production during the post-war building boom.
The plant shut down in 2000, a victim of falling aluminum prices and the increased use of plastic. Wood Village is now a small suburb tucked in-between Fairview and Troutdale.

Historic Shaw House, built in 1887 and now a nursing home

A path in Donald L. Robertson City Park

Arata Creek School

One of the old company houses

Map of Wood Village

Oregon Towns Project

Columbia City

Date of visit: October 15, 2011
Population: 1,946 (2010 Census)

When World War I broke out, the government was in need of ships. The Sommarstrom Ship Building Company from San Francisco established a shipyard in Columbia City in 1917, which was quickly followed by another shipyard built by the International Shipbuilding Company. The Sommarstrom Company produced eight ships for the the war effort, which is impressive considering that the war ended in late 1918. The last vessel constructed by Sommarstrom was the Kate G. Pederson, which was launched in May 1920, its first voyage to carry lumber to Australia. The shipyard was sold shortly thereafter.

Welcome to Columbia City

City Hall
City Hall

Caples House
Caples House Museum

Hanging house
A house suspended over the river

Map of Columbia City

Oregon Towns Project