Foothills, From Industry to a Neighborhood
In 1888 the Oregon Iron & Steel Company was awarded the contract for manufacturing cast-iron pipe for Portland’s Bull Run water system. Three hundred and twenty-five workers were added to the payroll when the second iron furnace went into production. At the same time, a pipe foundry was built 500 yards north of the new furnace. Twenty-five tons of cast-iron pipe a day were manufactured.
Herman Blanken recalled, “They made the pipe here, forty-five inch cast iron pipes. They had a big furnace where they melted it, and a monster big crane in there. And this crane had like a dipper on it. They would put in there, four, five tons of molten iron. Then these men would prepare everyday, they would make the molds for the next day for these pipes. The molds were cast iron and the cores were from clay.” The clay came from the Duck Pond, i.e., Lakewood Bay. After a few hours the iron was cool enough to remove the pipe from the molds, the mud was hammered off, and the pipe was tested for quality.
A third major industry, the Portland Cement Company, was also located in the Foothills area. Construction of the plant began in 1909. In 1915 Robert Pim Butchart, whose wife Jennie created Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, became a major investor in the company and it was reorganized under the name, Oregon Portland Cement Company. Butchart hired fellow Canadian, Lawrence C. Newlands, as the new superintendent of the plant. It went into operation in 1916 and cement from the tall stack dusted the city for the next seven decades. Newlands was civic-minded and the company clubhouse was made available for community meetings. This clubhouse, along with a baseball diamond for the well-known Oswego team, was located where the Oswego Village Center is today.
The Foothills area was an industrial site for a 101-year span. In 1989 the construction of the Oswego Pointe apartment complex heralded the transition to residential use. A total of 422 units were built amid a stand of Douglas fir trees. The cement company preserved these trees as a buffer between the industrial area and the Old Town neighborhood. The conversion of 112 apartments to the Oswego Pointe Village condominiums brought individual residential ownership to the area so it was platted for the first time in 1997. Adjacent to the condominium complex, nine acres of industrial land along the Willamette riverfront was transformed into Foothills Park in 2005. Roehr Park, also located in Foothills, was named for Mayor Osco C. Roehr who served from 1939 to 1945. The remaining industrial land in Foothills may hold the largest potential for residential development in the city.