Reconnecting with History and the Falls
If Oregon has a central spirit, the nexus of Willamette Falls would be the place. Initially a gathering place for American Indian tribes who harvested and traded salmon and lamprey, Willamette Falls became the epicenter of European American immigration in the Oregon Territory, as the terminus of the Oregon Trail and the first platted town. From the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, the site was both a main street and industrial enclave. It was sited to harness the energy of the falls—second largest in the country by volume—to power flour, wool and saw mills, which gave rise to a dominant paper mill industry that lasted until the early 21st century. We worked with Oregon City and its partners to research, write and graphically represent the historic evolution of this complex and ever-changing site and served as the cultural historians, storytellers and historic preservation experts on a multi-disciplinary design team tasked with implementing the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, reconnecting the falls and the downtown.