Before Portland, Oregon was named based on a coin toss–replacing the unfortunate moniker of “Stumptown”–Oregon City, located just fifteen miles to the south, was already a thriving commercial hub and the first incorporated city west of the Mississippi River. Oregon City was an important trading post in the early 1800’s and the destination for thousands of Oregon Trail pioneers from 1840 into the 1850’s.
Blaze your own trail in Oregon City, beginning in Midtown at 1st and High Streets. Join the McLoughlin Promenade, a linear park along the basalt bluff overlooking Downtown. Admire the powerful Willamette Falls on the river below. Amble along the Promenade, taking in the view. Several historic homes front the walkway, identified by a plaque listing the year of completion, original occupant’s name and architectural style.
Stop at the Oregon City Municipal Elevator to see 76 lenticular photograph panels. Each panel shows three different images of Oregon City’s past and present that change as you pass.
At 6th and Washington Streets, tour the Stevens-Crawford Heritage House. This foursquare-style home features 15 rooms furnished in the period of its 1908 construction.
Next, visit the McLoughlin House, a National Historic Site, at 7th and Center Streets. Built in 1846, the house displays furnishings used by the McLoughlin family, along with artifacts and early photos. Learn why John McLoughlin was granted the honorary title “Father of Oregon”.
Across 7th Street, browse the Friends of the Oregon City Library Bookstore which sells quality used books at astoundingly low prices. Sharing the storefront is the Three Rivers Artist Guild art gallery exhibiting works by local artisans. Stroll through the adjoining Oregon Antique Mall, a two-story extravaganza of vintage glassware, décor items, clothing, paintings and prints, furniture, toys and more.
See the historic Fire Station at 7th and John Adams Streets, built in 1923 and believed to be the oldest working fire station located west of the Rocky Mountains. Across the street is the Carnegie Center, a stately Georgian-style brick edifice surrounded by a serene park, built in 1913 as a Carnegie Library.
Take some refreshment at the Singer Hill Café across 7th Street. This local favorite serves up light fare along with gourmet coffee, wine and local craft beer. Marvel at the vertical gardens growing up the building walls. Then, peruse the latest exhibit in the Café’s art gallery.
Next to McLoughlin House, take the pedestrian underpass to the Grand Staircase and Singer Creek Falls. The stone staircase and McLoughlin Promenade were constructed in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration project. Follow the steps down, or use the Municipal Elevator to descend.
Downtown has over 30 commercial buildings dating from the 1800’s to early 1900’s; display signs give an account of each building’s past. Eight murals depicting Oregon Territory history also decorate downtown buildings.
On 7th Street, visit Coin Corner & Hobbies for a dose of nostalgia. This family-owned shop overflows with antique and collectible toys, comic books, TV-themed lunchboxes, Barbie dolls, LP records and more. Ladies will delight in visiting You Can Leave Your Hat On, a tiny boutique featuring new and vintage hats, accessories such as scarves and gloves, and gourmet chocolates.
Stroll west on Main Street and discover Christmas at the Zoo. You’ll find the holiday spirit year-round at this store specializing in Christmas décor and plush animals. Cross 5th street and walk to the riverfront for a different perspective of Willamette Falls.
Drop in at Willamette Valley Books and Bullion and browse their eclectic inventory of collectible coins and books, military artifacts and other treasures. As their name suggests, you can buy gold and silver bullion there.
Indulge your inner-child at Quality Farm Toys & Hobbies. Watch model trains in the window go round-and-round, then step inside and ogle all the toys you wish you’d had during your childhood. Better yet, buy one to take home!
Need a caffeine or sugar fix? Visit Coffee Rush for a scoop of natural Italian-style gelato. Stop by Muno’s Bakery for one of their signature maple bars. Or, try Wrightberry’s for delectable filled cupcakes in mouthwatering flavor combinations.
Downtown Oregon City has a plethora of eating and drinking establishments. For Mediterranean or Indian food, go to Cypress. Pho Thi offers authentic Vietnamese and Thai dishes, or step into The Caufield House for American food. Mi Famiglia serves up wood-fired pizza, paninis and salads.
McMenamin’s Pub pours its own microbrews and other beers. Pull up a bar stool at Winestock to sample some of Oregon’s finest vintages. Or, drop in to The Verdict Bar & Grill next to the courthouse for a cocktail.
At the end of your perfect day, let the elevator whisk you back up the hill for one last view of Oregon City and the Willamette River before you depart.
What & Where (all addresses are Oregon City, OR 97045)
Stevens-Crawford Heritage House 603 6th Street www.clackamashistory.org (503) 655-2866
McLoughlin House 713 Center Street www.mcloughlinhouse.org (503) 656-5146
Friends of the Oregon City Public Library Bookstore 502 7th Street www.oclibraryfriends.org (503) 594-0261
Singer Hill Café 623 7th Street www.singerhill.com (503) 656-5252
Coin Corner & Hobbies 215 7th Street www.oregonmall.com (503) 656-1835
You Can Leave Your Hat On 212 7th Street (503) 723-0395
Christmas at the Zoo 524 Main Street www.christmasatthezoo.com (503) 223-4048
Willamette Valley Books & Bullion 603 Main Street www.wvbooksandbullion.com (503) 935-6662
Quality Farm Toys & Hobbies 719 Main Street (503) 650-8023
Coffee Rush 900 Main Street www.coffeerush.net (503) 742-9900
Muno’s Bakery 616 Main Street (503) 656-4334
Wrightberry’s Cakes & Cupcakes 820 Main Street www.wrightberryweddingcakes.com (503) 344-4946
Cypress Oregon City 820 Main Street, Suite D www.cypressoregoncity.com (503) 387-5914
Pho Thi 716B Main Street (503) 657-2824
The Caufield House 723 Main Street (503) 305-8017
McMenamin’s Pub 102 9th Street www.mcmenamins.com (503) 655-8032
Winestock 820 Main Street, Suite B www.winestockoc.com (503) 656-9463
The Verdict Bar & Grill 110 8th Street www.verdictbarandgrill.com (503) 305-8429