Live Where You Play
Lake Oswego’s history is unique. Within the span of a lifetime the ugly-duckling, Oregon town became a swan. Historic buildings are often adapted to a new use, but rarely is an entire town reinvented.
Is it worth anything?
Herbert Letcher Nelson recalled the Fourth of July in 1910 when he rowed the principals of the Oregon Iron & Steel Company to Lake Grove, “I think on that date the Ladds and the Corbetts had that picnic for a special purpose. It was to see if anything could be done with Oswego Lake, to see if it was worth anything. At that time it had been so neglected, so ignored and forgotten that they probably wondered if it was worth anything or not.”
Before the mansions
Lakeshore lots that were practically given away almost a century ago are now among the most expensive real estate in Oregon. Multi-million dollar mansions have taken the place of unassuming summer cottages. Gone are the population fluctuations that spiked in the summer months. Between 1880 and 2000, population increased from 97 to 35,278. The city has grown from a single neighborhood to over twenty-five.
Clues on the water
Change is encapsulated in the succession of watercraft on the lake. One of the first were John Trullinger’s steam scows, the Minnehaha and the Henrietta, which were used to ferry wheat and passengers followed by canoes, rowboats, real estate launches, wooden motorboats, and powerboats. The activities on the lake and its shores also transitioned from milling, mining, and logging, to fishing, sailing, swimming, and water-skiing. All of these progressions signaled a move from industry to leisure.
No suckers here
The Ladd Estate Company changed our local vocabulary by changing “Sucker” to “Oswego” Lake and renaming the Duck Pond “Lakewood Bay.” Milestone annexations such as Old Town and South Town in 1922, Lake Grove in 1959, and Mountain Park in 1969 altered the fabric of the city and even changed its name by adding ”Lake” to “Oswego.”
Stewardship of the Lake
The lake was a diamond in the rough. Once it became a jewel, stewardship was required to maintain the water quality, levels, and monitor activities. The Oregon Iron & Steel Company transferred these responsibilities to the Lake Oswego Corporation in 1941. Today 3,000 homeowners, with deeded access to the lake, pay annual fees to accomplish these tasks.
Dynamite & shovels
Dynamite and shovels permanently changed the natural landscape, but the point was to improve upon nature, not to erase it. Natural materials such as stone, brick, and wood were selected to blend houses with the landscape.
The boom years
Only 82 of the more than 500 plats in the Oswego area predate 1945. Clearly the city’s greatest housing boom followed World War II. Prior to that time, development was concentrated at the east and the west ends of the lake and in the three original neighborhoods. Density is now an issue throughout the city.
Live and Play
Paul Cole Murphy’s vision of creating a resort-like community of fine neighborhoods out of industrial land holdings, a neglected lake, and a marshy duck pond was an utterly transformative alchemy that turned iron into “gold.” A 1928 newspaper article sums it up: “Nature (assessed by the Ladd Estate Co.) has done its share.
- Transportation—How It Shaped Oswego’s NeighborhoodsThe paramount problem in the development of any suburban property is that of transportation.”– 1910 Glenmorrie advertising brochure A handful of original settlers came to Oswego in… Read more: Transportation—How It Shaped Oswego’s Neighborhoods
- 1850 OswegoOswego Founded in 1850, The Town’s Beginnings The high bluff overlooking the river, a short distance from their sawmill on Sucker Creek, was where the… Read more: 1850 Oswego
- 1883 South OswegoSouth Oswego, The Second Neighborhood Matthew Patton returned from the California gold rush with $10,000. He purchased part of the Collard Donation Land Claim in… Read more: 1883 South Oswego
- 1888 First AdditionFirst Addition, Oswego’s Third Neighborhood The second iron furnace built one-quarter mile north of the original furnace reshaped the town. The completion of the modern,… Read more: 1888 First Addition
- 1908 GlenmorrieGlenmorrie, The Manifest Charms of This Peerless Homesite Parker Farnsworth Morey was a man of vision and action and he loved trees. In 1883, he… Read more: 1908 Glenmorrie
- 1912 Lake View VillasLake View Villas, The Only Suburban Lake Resort Near Portland A 1914 Lake View Villas advertisement offered, “We will build a modern bungalow for you… Read more: 1912 Lake View Villas
- 1922 Oswego Lake VillasOswego Lake Villas, The First East End Lakeside Development The lake was stump-filled and unattractive to all but curious children during the iron era. The… Read more: 1922 Oswego Lake Villas
- 1925 Forest HillsForest Hills, A Restricted Residential District Successive 25-year deed restrictions were used to maintain control over housing that fit the Ladd Estate Company’s ideal of… Read more: 1925 Forest Hills
- 1925 LakewoodLakewood, Beside the Lake, Beneath the Trees A 1925 advertisement declared “Of all Lake Oswego’s districts Lakewood is the most accessible—the nearest—possessed of modern advantages.… Read more: 1925 Lakewood
- 1926 Forest Hills ExpansionForest Hills Expansion, Uplands’ Beginnings A few miles from the iron deposits discovered by Matthew Patton, iron was found on a mountain eventually named after… Read more: 1926 Forest Hills Expansion
- 1926 Lake View Villas ExpansionLake View Villas Expansion, Palisades’ and Blue Heron’s Beginnings Helen Smith recalled, “We used to get in a boat and go up Blue Heron Creek… Read more: 1926 Lake View Villas Expansion
- 1932 Forest Hills AcresForest Hills Acres, Out of the City, Into the Country When the Ladd Estate Company opened this 100-acre development it was reported, “There are many… Read more: 1932 Forest Hills Acres
- 1968 Mountain ParkMountain Park, Nature’s Neighborhood Governor Tom McCall, the featured speaker at the August 17, 1970 dedication, remarked, “Mountain Park is the most exquisite form of… Read more: 1968 Mountain Park
- 1979-1984 Holly OrchardHolly Orchard, From Agriculture to Neighborhoods In the 1860s Otto and Frances Kruse bought acreage and began to farm the area now known as Westlake.… Read more: 1979-1984 Holly Orchard
- 1989 FoothillsFoothills, 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… Read more: 1989 Foothills
- Country Club DistrictCountry Club District, A Dream Come True The concept of creating Country Club Districts near large cities was spreading across the nation in the 1920s.… Read more: Country Club District
- Donation Land ClaimsDonation Land Claimants, The First Neighbors In 1843 at a series of meetings in Champoeg, Oregon settlers passe the Organic Act establishing a provisional government… Read more: Donation Land Claims
- Ladd Estate CompanyLadd Estate Company, Nature as the Antidote to Civilization After the demise of the iron industry, the Oregon Iron & Steel Company held extensive acreage… Read more: Ladd Estate Company