Lake View Villas, The Only Suburban Lake Resort Near Portland
A 1914 Lake View Villas advertisement offered, “We will build a modern bungalow for you at the lake and sell you the house and a one acre tract for $1,600 on easy terms like rent or we will sell an acre tract for $400 alone.” This was the first attempt by Atchison & Allen, the Oregon Iron & Steel Company’s exclusive marketing agents, to promote their lake property as residential real estate. As part of this plan they successfully petitioned the U. S. Geographic Board to change the less marketable name of “Sucker Lake,” named for the fish that inhabited its waters, to “Oswego Lake.” Lake View Park, later the Lake Grove Swim Park, was built as a sales area for prospective homebuyers. Clients would board the “Lotus” to take a scenic tour of lakeside lots. Paul C. Murphy of the Ladd Estate Company, the second marketing firm, later offered the park to the community. After being turned down twice, Murphy offered the park to the school board, who accepted it.
The Lake View Villas development also marked the beginning of the community of Lake Grove. This rural area was a spot favored for picnics and camping, but not as a place to live year-round. In the early twentieth century, cougar, coyotes, and deer roamed the wilderness. Transportation to the area was limited and difficult; Boones Ferry was a gravel road.
The lack of roads, dampness, and the still untamed nature of the shore conspired to make lakefront property less desirable than home sites with lake views. Ward Cotton Smith recalled that, “In order to buy an acre of land they had to buy a lot on the lake for $50.” Atchison & Allen, the company hired to market the lots, suggested using the lakefront lot as a watering hole for the family cow.
By 1914 the fire-engine-red “Red Electric” commuter trains were the catalyst that brought people and change and the Lake Grove Station gave the area its name. Roundtrip fare from Portland was ten cents and the ride one-way took thirty minutes. As the area transitioned to residences, a 1922 newspaper article reported that, “Owners already have had much trouble in keeping swarms of picnickers and frolickers from littering up their property.” In spite of this report, lakeside real estate proved difficult to sell for some decades into the twentieth century.
Until 1959, the city limits of Oswego encompassed only one-third of the eastern end of the lake. Motivated by the desire for city services such as sewers, some Lake Grove residents were in favor of annexation to the City of Oswego. The entire shoreline of the lake and 650 homes were brought into the city in 1960. This union prompted an official name change and henceforth the city was known as “Lake Oswego.”