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On an early spring day in 1844, a solitary man astride a horse traveled across a well-worn Indian trail in search of an ideal spot to settle in the new Oregon country. After crossing a stream that would later bear his name and traveling some distance through dense timber, 26-year-old John Gordon Baker emerged into a clearing of rolling meadows where lush, waist-high grass waved gently in the Oregon breeze. Little did he know that these meadows would soon form the foundation for the thriving community of McMinnville. Closely following in Baker’s footsteps was William T. Newby, who had been a traveling companion of Baker’s during the Great Migration of 1843. Newby took up a claim immediately to the south of Baker’s, and this is where the city proceeded to grow. Samuel Cozine, another immigrant in the 1843 wagon train, settled to the south of Newby. Soon other members of the 1843 Great Migration and subsequent wagon trains came rolling to a stop around their friends and acquaintances.
Between the years 1885 and 1912, most of the historic business structures were built. They were constructed primarily of brick and were the successors of the town’s earlier wooden business structures. Building activity peaked in 1928, with McMinnville’s commercial center extending from City Park on the west to the railroad tracks on the east. Through the years, McMinnville has continued to expand while remaining sensitive to its history and the buildings associated with its past. Many of the buildings from that era are still intact today.
– Ruth Stoller
In 1987, the McMinnville Historic District, which includes historically significant buildings built between 1884 and 1937, were entered into the National Register of Historic Places. The District consists of a nine-block area and is comprised of 64 historic properties in 14 easy-to-walk blocks.
In February of 2015, the McMinnville Downtown Association received funding to develop a comprehensive inventory on the buildings and businesses within the MDA’s historic district. For this project, private, county and state archives, personal interviews, historic newspapers, local high school and college yearbooks, city directories, maps, and other documents were compiled.
We hope HistoricMac.com will serve as a living history of McMinnville’s historic district - past, present and future, and be used by residents, students, historians and tourists alike.