Anyone from Hillsboro, Oregon already knows some of the history of our fine City. Newcomers and visitors too, will get a sense that there is more to this bustling tech boomtown than just computer fabs, smokestacks, and data centers. One visit to Main Street or the areas around Old Orenco and it becomes clear that the historical roots run deep. Hillsboro is in fact one of the oldest cities in Oregon and beyond that, the place that held the men and women responsible for the settlement of the Pacific Northwest. One factoid you should all know is that the first cabins in the Tualatin Plains around Hillsboro were built years before a single home existed in Portland.
The mission of the Hillsboro Historical Society is to:
… protect and preserve our historic properties and to educate and engage the public in appreciating the value of our heritage … Find Out More Here
That organization has been the work of a handful of people for the last 21 years. And the work they have done has been noteworthy. This author is the current President of the HHS and our membership is just beginning to grow. We have some plans for the future and are working on events for Fall that you should all consider joining in on. You are all needed and welcome to participate, the membership is just $25 a year. You can join right here and the work we do is focused on preserving Hillsboro’s rich history. That is something almost everyone agrees is beneficial.
One of the ways we can preserve things is by collecting photographs through donations and purchases. Many which we have recently acquired have never been seen before. Taking those photos, our staff can enhance and colorize them as well as complete some historical storytelling by showing a then and now photo. This compares what is in the photo in the past to what exists there now.
Here is a very iconic photo of two young Hillsboro men on their Harley Davidson motorbikes. The photo was donated to us by Mr. Don Schoen of Hillsboro. Don’s father, Herman Schoen, and another local man, are seen in this photo. The family became famous for Herman’s work as a baker. He bought the Perfection Bakery and took his skill set as a baker and brought magic to the people of Hillsboro. Perfection Bakery had a 70 plus year run as the premier bakery in Washington County and was located for most of those on Main Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets.
Lucky for us the HHS has some of the best historians in the Valley as key members. It only took a few moments for Treasurer Matt Andersen to recognize the Donelson House by the iconic porch posts. The Donelson House is now Decadent Creations, a Bakery, and coffee shop. Andersen’s keen eye has allowed all of us to be transported from back to 1919, a little over 100 years, and experience what we call a Then-N-Now moment.
The Donelson House, seen here in 2020, has porch posts that are unmistakable. The 1909 arts and crafts home has what is known as a “bell-cast” hipped roof, and the porch posts were unique in every way, especially the brackets at the top, which were all hand-milled. This is but one look into the past of our great town.
How amazing that a donated photo featuring an iconic citizen, who became a master baker, can connect the past to the present. It is not lost of us that the location of the photo is now Decadent Creations which is run by Mindy Simmons, who many believe to be the premier baker on the west side of Portland.
All of this was made possible because we work hard at the HHS to spread the word, research, and connect our citizens. Matt Andersen’s eye is as good as they get. Lucky for us Don Schoen is a friend and a real estate client of mine and trusted me with this photo. A photo that has not been seen in decades by anyone.
Another method we are using is to apply technology to old photos and colorize them. This 1949 photo of Main Street is one of the best snapshots ever taken of our town. Shot from the middle of the intersection of 2nd and Main, we see the late 1940s as they were. The first shot is black and white, and the second we colorized to bring the scene to life.
A blown-up view of the Northside of the street reveals the Piggly Wiggly, the Delta Drug, The Hillsboro Pharmacy, and yes, The Perfection Bakery run by Herman Schoen some 30 years after the motorcycle photo above was taken.
On the Southside of Main Street, we see First National Bank (US Bank Bldg now), Dorothy’s Women’s Wear, The Shake Shop, The Pastime Card Room, The Hillsboro Argus, Kramien’s Drug Store, The CC Store, The First Commercial Bank (Shute Bank), and the Chrysler dealership.
There is much we can learn from our past, many lessons most of all. Some of the people in these photos are still alive. The boy on the bike, the woman on the street. People like my friend Don Schoen, who made this story possible. Seeing the way things were in the past never presumes they were better. But learning where we came from and who made it possible for us to enjoy Hillsboro today makes us a better modern society. I will always listen, and always be interested in learning more, and I will share it with all of you. So will all of the members of our society.
We encourage you to join and get involved. Our City has such a rich history, but much of it is gone and disappearing as the days go by. The City of Hillsboro has no official support for groups like ours, we hope to change that, but for now, we remain self-funded by small donations, volunteers, and a whole lot of time and research.
History, our history, needs to be told and remembered.