*This is the fourth installment in our seven-part series on the wonders of Albany, created by AVA Executive Director Jimmie Lucht.
There’s an old saying, “To know a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” This trail will demonstrate the accurateness of the statement. Be prepared to get to know the extraordinary people that settled the west. See and understand the Native Americans that have called this home for centuries, and the explorers, loggers and farmers that came to live in the Mid-Willamette Valley. Experience the rugged, difficult and only east-west route through the Cascade Mountains. Spend a day where the movie, “Stand by Me” was filmed. And finally, get close and personal with the history of the last one hundred years!
Albany is known as having one of the largest collections of historic buildings in Oregon, and is one of the most architecturally diverse with more than 13 styles represented. There are four Albany Historic Districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places: Airport District; Downtown District; Hackleman District and the Monteith District.
Make sure to request the guide, “Seems Like Old Times,” from the friendly staff at Albany Visitors Association, 110 3rd Avenue SE, Albany, 541-928-0911, to find the historic district’s tour routes, as well as information about architectural styles and the people who built these structures.
Your trail begins at Monteith River Park, located at the north end of Washington St. Most Mondays in July and August hosts free concerts by area artists during the “Summer Sounds” concert series. On most summer Thursdays, you will find the free “River Rhythms” concert series, featuring nationally known artists performing in the park as well. Then on most July and August Friday nights there will be “Movies at Monteith” providing family friendly entertainment. Each of these events features a selection of food and drinks available for purchase. So pack a blanket or a lawn chair and let yourself be entertained.
On the Downtown District Tour, the Albany Regional Museum, 136 Lyon Street S, 541-967-7122, offers an extensive collection of area memorabilia, photos and artifacts. Make it a point to marvel at the restoration and revitalization of the Pix Theater, 321 SW 2nd Avenue, 541-926-7499. They feature great movies and a great concessions menu, including their delectable truffles!
While enjoying the Monteith District, head on over to the Monteith House Museum, 518 Second Avenue SW, 541-928-0911. It’s an amazing chance to view the most authentically restored pioneer era home in Oregon. Another structure nearby is the Whitespires Church, 500 SW 5th St. This Gothic Revival structure was built in 1891 and displays beautiful stained glass windows.
Take a little side trip to enjoy the great outdoors at the Talking Water Gardens, 9710 Waverly Drive NE. Perhaps not historically significant, but it certainly is unique. This award winning public/private project takes waste water and runs it through engineered wetlands park to cool and further clean the water before sending it to the river. The loop trail is dotted with kiosks explaining the flora and fauna to be seen as well as the purpose of the ponds and waterfalls.
Back on the trail, head south on Highway 99E towards the small town of Shedd. This is where you will find Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site, 32655 Boston Mill Drive, Shedd, 541-491-3611. This is Oregon’s oldest surviving water-powered flouring mill. In its heyday, it shipped flour around the world—to China in 1912 and to Belgium during and after WWI.
Heading on 99E south, stop at the Harrisburg Area Museum, 490 Smith Street, Harrisburg, 541-995-4844. This museum holds some wonderful surprises for our history lovers. It has a variety of vintage farming implements, scale models of historic buildings built by Bruce Witmer, a renovated Victorian home that is full of memorabilia, and a picnic area with a table crafted from a single log milled by the Hull-Oakes Lumber Company that is 80-feet long!
Head east to the charming little town of Brownsville, so much to do and see so plan on spending the day. As you enter town, you will be awed by the unusual concrete and rock building on the south shoulder of Hwy. 228. Stop in to meet Nancy Bergeron, the daughter of the artist that built Living Rock Studios, 911 Bishop Way, Brownsville, 541-466-5814. Howard B. Taylor built the structure out of local agates, petrified wood and other semi-precious rocks he found while working in the surrounding hills. The intricate scenarios, many lit from hidden lights, are a sight to behold. As you make your turn onto Main Street and approach the bridge, suddenly it comes back to you—that scene from the classic movie, “Stand By Me.” Yes, this is the same small community where most of that movie was filmed.
While still in Brownsville, make sure to visit the Linn County Historical Museum, 101 Park Avenue, Brownsville, 541-466-3390, and you can view the movie with fresh popped popcorn. Or, pick up a map with directions for the “Stand By Me” walking tour of the film-scene locations. Next, it’s time to tour the Moyer House, 294 N Main Street, Brownsville, 541-466-3390. This historic home will give you a glimpse into life in the 1880s. The house was occupied by the original owners until 1920.
After all this historical touring, you may need some refreshments. Visit Randy’s Main Street Coffee for some of the best cinnamon rolls around and a cup of fabulous hot coffee, or try the Brownsville Saloon for a great burger and a beverage.
Return to Highway 228 and head east to Sweet Home, where “Unique Discoveries for Curious Visitors” is the motto at the East Linn Museum, 746 Long Street, Sweet Home, 541-367-4580. The entire museum contains antiquities from Native Americans, early settlers, loggers, gold miners, and more. Have you ever seen a “steam donkey?” What about a whiskey still? All of these and more are on display at the museum. After a few hours exploring the site, pick up a picnic lunch at one of the restaurants or grocery stores and head over to Sankey Park, 877 14th Avenue, Sweet Home. The Weddle Covered Bridge is located in this park, so take time to wander through this wonderful bridge. It is one of eight covered bridges preserved in the nearby area.
At the end of your day of exploration find your way back to Albany and your motel room. Take a few minutes to freshen up, then drop by Vault 244, 244 W 1st Ave, Albany, 541-791-9511, for a refreshing adult beverage, perhaps even one made with Oregon spirits, and enjoy delicious tapas or a complete meal. The perfect end to your day in Historic Albany.