A Quick Fact Sheet on the Concord School & Neighborhood
THE CONCORD AREA is a long-standing neighborhood in unincorporated North Clackamas County, located south of old Oak Grove and north of Jennings Lodge, whose informal boundaries reach from the Willamette River up and over Oatfield Ridge to the east.
CONCORD SCHOOL is a WPA brick structure visible from McLoughlin Blvd (99E) in the unincorporated area of Oak Grove, OR. The building is sited on 7 acres (est) just a half block from Pacific Highway 99E, which was designated as a primary roadway from Canada to Mexico far into the 20th century. Owned by North Clackamas School District #12, the school stands on land originally purchased in 1890 from pioneer Michael Oatfield when two prior ‘riverside’ schools, built in 1856 and 1866, were no longer sufficient in the burgeoning pioneer settlement.
DISTRICT 28 TAP ROOT IN OREGON HISTORY - In 1854 the Oregon Territorial Legislature voted to establish school district up and down the fast settling Willamette Valley. District #28 (later named ‘Concord’ in 1890) was charged to serve students from both sides of the river, including those living on land claims in Oswego and Willamette City (West Linn) as well as eastside claims from the Milwaukie boundary on the north to the Clackamas River on the south. The 1890 Concord schoolhouse (below left ) sported a bell in its belfry and was the first of three schools to bear
the name, the second, behind it, having been built in 1910, and the third and current school in 1936. The school’s PTA was the second parent /teachers unit formed in Oregon and played a critical role in community education and family welfare from its beginning.
CONCORD AS AN EARLY COMMUNITY GATHERING PLACE - Based on the nearby location of the first two riverside schools, the area’s first lending library and Risley’s busy river landing—even the last Indian campsite in the same general area-- a case can be made for Concord’s being the first ‘neighborhood’ or community gathering place between Milwaukie and an ancient (and different) Indian village on the banks of the Clackamas later occupied by the City of Gladstone. As years went by, lands retained in the hands of a few families in the Concord area did not encourage successive subdivision, growth or commerce there.
The Neighborhood . . . A Microcosm of Emerging Transport & Settlement
RIVER AS HIGHWAY - The Willamette River—only blocks west from the Concord School site-- forms the area’s western boundary and was the primary road by which local Native People, traders and trappers, then missionaries and settlers, penetrated the Willamette Valley southward. Later, steamboats (right) regularly stopped at several landings in the neighborhood, carrying people and goods to the north and south.
INDIAN TRAILS traced paths along both the river and the ridge to the east. With use, these trails become alternatively dusty/muddy tracks, Territorial Roads, and then Market Roads by which farmers—located midway between two growing cities-- reached primary markets in Portland and Oregon City. Today, they are well-used Clackamas County arterials, Oatfield and River Roads (Tri-Met bus routes 32 & 34).
INTERURBAN RAILWAY that ran between Oregon City and Portland opened in early 1893—allowing farmers, dairymen, nurserymen plus a growing number of people to reach their jobs efficiently. Construction of rail sidings allowed farmers to load rail cars with produce for markets as far distant as the East Coast over several days. Since common use of automobiles did not pervade Oregon until after WWI, the trolley played a prominent role in local life ‘til its closure in 1958.
ELECTRICITY generated at Willamette Falls traveled north to light the streets of Portland along the trolley route in the nation’s first successful long distance transmission of electricity.
THE SUPERHIGHWAY - The State’s first 4-lane high-way — 99E midway between the Brooklyn Neighborhood in Portland and the Clackamas River in Oregon City — was completed in 1936 at the height of The Great Depression-- the same year Concord School was completed by WPA masons (see far right). The highway became the equivalent of Route 66, eventually hosting motels, drive-ins, trailer parks and, in the late 1940s, a local icon—the Bomber gas station—anchored by a retired B-17 sited at the north end of Oak Grove.
INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS I-5 AND I-205 later by-passed the larger neighborhood. Investments and develop-ment moved eastward, leaving the area a pass-through territory and island of post WWII suburban life. Activity on the boulevard declined, slowly but surely.
Happily, THE TROLLEY TRAIL, has since re-traced the former path of the streetcar through the community. TRI-MET’s REGIONAL LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM has planted the southern-most terminus of the new Orange Line in Oak Grove; service will start in Sept, 2015. To the south, METRO is partnering with private enterprise to re-open Willamette Falls to the public. Planning is underway to revitalize McLoughlin Blvd. Today, the community is once more looking outward—preparing the welcome mat for a fresh wave of business, travelers, and new neighbors. We are looking forward.