Synopses & Reviews
Hillsboro began as a crossroads for the Native American Atfalati, retired trappers, missionaries, and land-hungry settlers whose collection of farms became East Tualatin Plains. These earliest residents were drawn to the rich valley land between the forested creeks. As the missionary influence waned and the railroads arrived in the 1870s, the town, by then called Hillsborough, was dubbed "Sin City." Farmers and merchants quenched their thirst and gambled in saloons and placed bets on horse races down Main Street. Throughout the early 20th century, Hillsboro became predominantly a conservative, family town. Residents enjoyed their town bands, theaters, and Carnegie Library. Then and now on the Fourth of July, proud farmers drive their state-of-the-art farm equipment in the downtown parade, and fireworks light up the sky at the County Fairgrounds. Today the crossroads is one of agriculture and high technology, as people from around the world become new residents of Hillsboro, drawn to the Tualatin River plain as were their predecessors.
Title: Authors document Hillsboro's history in photo-filled book
Author - Casey Parks
Publisher: The Oregonian
For months, Kimberli Fitzgerald and Deborah Raber have been living with ghosts. There's Mary Ramsey Wood, the state's oldest resident in 1907 at a reputed 120 years. There's Harold Wass Ray, the racetrack owner. There's Thomas Tongue, the attorney turned mayor.
Since Fitzgerald and Raber began working on "Hillsboro," a photo-filled history book published last month, they've studied them all. After a while, they said, the people started to seem real.
"I can remember walking down Main as we were writing the book," Raber says. "It was a funny feeling. You get a sense of everything that was."
Documenting what was is important for a city such as Hillsboro, whose population has doubled in the past 15 years. Many of today's 90,000 residents are relative newcomers. As the city plans what it will become, the authors say, it first has to know what it has been.
"Cities grow; they change," says Raber, 55, a Hillsboro planner. "Like any growing thing, if you don't have strong roots, you don't grow as well."
The book is part of Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series, which already has featured volumes on West Linn and Portland, among others. It uses historic photographs and brief captions to tell of towns' early industries, notable citizens and civic institutions.
The paperback is filled with photos -- 198, to be exact. In them, downtown's famous sequoias grow from seedlings to towering giants. Farmlands become neighborhoods.
For the authors, who volunteered their time, writing the book had personal significance.
"I didn't grow up here, so I need to know the history of a place to feel rooted," says Fitzgerald, 43, a private consultant on historic preservation. After writing the book, she says, Hillsboro feels more real, more like her city.
"People move so often now," Raber says. "After a while, it must all blur together, especially in suburbia, where they always have the same Starbucks, the same other stores. But every city is different. What makes it different is its history."
So they started researching. For months, Fitzgerald spent every Friday at the Washington County Museum scanning in old photographs. The more she learned, the more eager she became to share the town's history.
"I would drive around the Streets of Tanasbourne with my kids, pointing out where everything used to be," Fitzgerald said, laughing. "They just rolled their eyes, like 'Mommm.'"
Now that the book is out, Fitzgerald says, "I've had people come up to me and say, 'I didn't know Hillsboro had a history.'"
Indeed it does. Its storied past includes a surprising nickname: Sin City. In 1880, the town had four saloons. Compared to neighboring Forest Grove, which was called Piety Hill back then, Hillsboro was a raucous place.
One saloon owner was so rambunctious that 20 men broke him out of jail only to tar and feather him on Main Street.
Eventually, Hillsboro "reformed" and became a dry town in 1913 -- six years before Prohibition began.
So far, city response to the book has been good. The City Council thanked the duo at a recent public meeting. Fitzgerald's 16-year-old daughter is studying "Hillsboro" in her Century High School Advanced Placement History class.
Now that they've had a little time to rest, the authors are ready to start on a sequel, something more in-depth.
After all, at 125 pages, "Hillsboro" is just "history light," Fitzgerald joked.
"An aperitif," Raber added.
Title: Hillsboro History Enriches Familiar Sights
Author - Susan Gordanier
Pubisher: The Hillsboro Argus
I spent my childhood in New Jersey. There, roads with names like Kings Highway were common. Class trips to Valley Forge or Washington Crossing State Park were traditions and not really very exciting. "What did you see?" "More cannons."
I'm not the first to point out this difference between the two coasts. The East overflows with historic sites; the West, not so much and can't seem to move fast enough to replace the remnants of what few are left.
In fact, without the Oregon Trail, I'm not sure how elementary school teachers would spend their history class sessions. When my own children were young, the Trail seemed to pop up every year. "Forget the piano, Annie. Better those oxen haul another sack of flour."
Perhaps coincidence, but there is a certain appropriateness to Arcadia Publishing's Nov. 2 release of "Hillsboro," the latest in its Images of America series. On page 92 is a photograph of the "grand new" Hillsboro Union High School, not long after its May 6, 1929, dedication. If you hurry over to Sixth and Lincoln, you may be still able to catch a glimpse of a few recognizable bits of that building's facade before the last of the rubble from its demolition is trucked away. The final walls fell Friday, not long after the mail carrier delivered my review copy of "Hillsboro."
I'd seen some page markups of this book while Debbie Raber, project manager of the Planning Department, and Kimberli Fitzgerald, locally based preservation consultant, worked their way through the long process of assembling it - not on the city's clock, by the way. They donated their time in service to the Hillsboro Landmarks Advisory Committee, with an added dash of labor of love thrown in.
What their work translated into was hundreds of hours poring through the collections at the Washington County Historical Museum - if you've ever gone there to research a topic you know what that entails. Someday, with enough volunteer help, the collection may receive the cataloguing it warrants. They also made use of the morgue of bound past papers here at the Argus and interviewed some long-time Hillsboro residents such as Mary Stafford, granddaughter of theater entrepreneur and former mayor Orange Phelps.
Stafford kindly contributed some photos from her family's archive, one of which became a personal favorite of mine as I returned to "Hillsboro," after an initial straight-through reading. It shows the Cardinals, one of the city's semi-professional baseball teams. Orange Phelps, decked in catcher's gear, stands with his teammates, all of whom appear to be a good head taller than he.
I'd never seen a photo of Phelps before, just run into his name time and time again while covering the city. Likewise, I arrived in Hillsboro too late to have seen the Shute Park Pavilion built by Phelps in 1921 before it was torn down in 1974 to make way for the library. The caption accompanying a photo of this hall says fragments of its entry were preserved on either side of the Maple Street driveway into the library's parking lot.
I've driven up that drive probably hundreds of times and never noticed. Or maybe I have, but their possible significance didn't register. They were just part of the scenery, taken for granted and always there.
Hillsboro, the book, is organized by chapters to illustrate the progression from the original residents, the Atfalati tribes, through the 1970s and roots of the high-tech invasion.
It can certainly be read that way. But I prefer dwelling on the tiny discoveries, like seeing the names Sewell or Shute, Bagley or Tongue and, if only briefly, realizing why earlier generations named the roads, parks and other familiar places in their honor, keeping the names alive for us to rediscover.
"Hillsboro," will be available for $21.99 at local retailers, online bookstores or directly through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or 1-888-313-2665. Keep in mind, Raber and Fitzgerald are donating all royalties to the city for historic preservation.
Readers can reach Susan Gordanier at 503-214-1109, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Authors Kimberli Fitzgerald, a preservation planner and consultant, and Deborah Raber, a city planner, have lived in Hillsboro for many years. With the help of the Hillsboro Historic Landmarks Advisory Committee, the authors selected vintage images from the Washington County Historical Society and Museum, as well as private residents of Hillsboro.