Long before I became a local Realtor, Coach, father, builder, community leader, writer, scallywag, or hellraiser, I was a little kid growing up in a historic craftsman 2 BR home at 22950 NW Dogwood Street in Orenco, Oregon. Oh, the fun we had and the stories I can (and will) tell about those Golden days in the old Dogpatch. The home sat on 5 acres on the South edge of the original 1908 Orenco Townsite- a City platted in Washington County and recognized as a legal Oregon City for several decades. Our home and farm were built by the Oregon Nursery Company for Fred and Alice Sergeant. Fred was the master grafter for the Company that, at one time, was the largest Nursery in the United States. Our orchards included over 50 fruit trees with dozens of varieties that Fred had helped the company perfect and sell worldwide. The Seargants were as old as dust when we met them, and I was such a young kid that I only remember how sweet she was and that he was kind, thin, and seemed as ancient as time itself.
This farm was a part of the burnt-out town of Orenco; the name derived from the company name (Oregon Nursery Company). In this series, I will introduce the structures that I have photos of and place them on an interactive Google Map to help you and future generations understand what was here in the town. Today, people know the Orenco name well- it is home to the economic super engine of the State of Oregon and to Intel- Ronler Acres D1X Campus. It is famed for the Orenco Station community, which won the best new home community in the US several times, innovating Brownstones, alley-loaded cottages, and live-work units that rose up like a movie set in the Oregon suburb of Hillsboro. These fields were the former growing soils of Millions of fruit trees that the people of Orenco and the Oregon Nursery Company would produce and ship worldwide. Orenco is also home to the nicest and safest MAX Light Rail stop on the electric train line- which is built on the backbone of the same tracks of the Oregon Electric Railway (1908) that was built partially to support the booming business of the Nursery.
This story is too big to tell in anything less than a novel, so let me do it in bits. But realize this; history teaches us many things. It is ironic and essential to note that this little town suffered many of the same issues that Hillsboro is today. Growth, jobs, a changing economy, competition- and the too-big-to-fail mindset. The largest employer in the Region at the time, the nursery company failed under international pressures and poor business decisions. The electric train that was built to help move people and freight to the company came in 1908 and left in 1933. That was almost the same trajectory that the town followed- the two tied together in both rise and fall.
Now, the MAX Light Rail, which opened to Orenco in 1998, has been running for 26 years. So has Ronler Acres Intel campus, which also opened in 1998. These modern-day powerhouses opened about 62 years after the Oregon Electric Railway and the Oregon Nursery Company failed. Biggest Employer in both cases, and an innovative and heralded train line as well. History and these patterns repeat themselves- outcomes remain uncertain, but what happened in the past is worth noting.
On to the Series – Orenco History Comes To Life- Part 1
The first stop on the Map below is the Orenco Hotel. Built about 1908, it was directly across from the Oregon Electric Station and next to the Orenco Drug Company. Owned by James Borwick of Hillsboro, the craftsman beauty was known for its rooms, beautiful construction, food, and hospitality!
The Orenco Hotel was built in Orenco, Oregon, to support the City of Orenco and the many visitors and business clients coming to this company town. This Hotel served the community well for many years until it was no longer needed and more modern structures were built! Located 100 feet from the Original Orenco Station, the Hotel had a water tower to allow gravity-fed water pressure inside before city water existed, a large dining room and parlor, and a full basement on top of the guest rooms. The front porch was a great gathering spot where many spent afternoons watching the men and women of the town scurry about at the Orenco Nursery Company, where upwards of 600 people worked between 1908 and about 1930.
Many a great meal was served in the Hotel, which hosted locals and dignitaries too. See the wooden Boardwalk out front? Those raised sidewalks were built through the 9-block town for citizens to enjoy and keep the mud off their shoes! The Oregon Nursery Companies offices, the founder’s grand home, and the train station and packing shed were directly behind the person who shot this photo. From the porch, one could see Helvetia and miles of orchards growing millions and millions of fruit trees!
The hotel was torn down during the Depression, so the materials could be repurposed- long before its time! A home sits on the site today at the corner of NE Alder Street and NE 68th Avenue. Portions of the massive basement reportedly still exist under the current home.
See the Map link below- which I will be adding to at the link below- Part 2 will be posted later this week!