Story Map Captures History of Linn County Buildings, Bridges

Drawings about the value of saving the county’s covered bridges made by Scio area students in 1980. Provided by Alex Paul

If dozens of Linn County residents from Mill City to Albany to Sweet Home hadn’t banded together in the 1980s and 1990s to save old homes, churches, business buildings and covered bridges, the county’s rich list of historic places may not exist today, Associate Planner Julia Fox learned as she pored over reams of records kept by the Historic Resource Commission.

Fox has compiled a history of that group and of the many people who have helped save local landmarks and architectural treasures into a story map program available at the Linn County Planning & Building page on the Linn County website at: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/064c3205f1884aac80aabc42c8a6bc9d.

Fox said that in addition to the interesting stories she found, she hopes the document acts as a recruiting tool to help fill three open positions on the county’s Historic Resource Commission that is charged with maintaining an inventory of historic resources, reviewing applications for alterations to historic structures, increasing public awareness of historic resources and coordinating historic preservation activities with public agencies and citizen groups.

Associate Planner Julia Fox with a printed version of the story map she compiled about buildings and bridges in Linn County. Photo by Alex Paul

“We are fortunate that there is a lot of archival material that was compiled by the Historic Resource Commission,” Fox said. “We met in April, including a representative from the city of Albany’s Historic Resource Commission and we wanted to do something to celebrate Historic Resource Preservation Month, which is May.”

Fox said the group decided a fitting theme would be celebrating the history of historic preservation itself.

“The people from the 1980s and 90s kept really good notes and there was a lot going on,” Fox said.

She said a pleasant event for her was finding a photograph of Mary Gallagher, a member of the Historic Resource Commission in the 1990s, who was her supervisor when she worked as a student intern at the Benton County Museum.

“It’s amazing how much could have been lost 40 years ago if people hadn’t stepped up to save things,” Fox said. “Communities rallied together.”

Fox’s work starts with an acknowledgement that Linn County was once the homeland of the Kalapuya Peoples and it has grown from the county’s founding in 1847.

She weaves maps and old photographs into her written history of the county, including information about settlements that no longer exist, such as the town of Orleans south of Albany, that was washed away by flooding in 1862, just 12 years after its formation.

There was much growth in the 1870s to 1890s, Fox noted, and the invention of the automobile and creation of Highway 20 were major events leading to growth of the valley.

Preservation of local buildings actually began in the 1950s, Fox noted. Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 and Oregon took preservation a step further in the 1970s with adoption of Statewide Planning Goals.

Fox said one of her favorite anecdotes in the document includes copies of drawings by Scio school children as the county began its efforts to save its many covered bridges. A booklet of their drawings was compiled in 1980 by a group called the Scio Bridge Brigade.