Clackamas County

Where We Live: The Oregon City Municipal Elevator

The elevator was first built out of wood in 1915

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) -- In many ways, the history of Oregon starts with Oregon City. It was the end of the Oregon Trail, and the first incorporated city west of the Rockies.

Now, its most recognizable landmark is getting an upgrade. 

"Oregon City initially was along the river, and after time, we expanded and realized we were moving up the hill, and that was a bit of a laborious climb, so the community members got together with the city commissioners and decided to build an elevator," Lori Bell with the City of Oregon City told KOIN 6 News.

The Oregon City Municipal Elevator was built out of wood in 1915. Then, it was rebuilt with cement and concrete in 1955.

It's one of only four outdoor municipal elevators in the world -- and North America's only vertical street, elevator street.

"It's kind of a big deal," Bell said. "We take a lot of pride in it."

Elevator manager Carrie Crook said in the summertime, the elevator can get anywhere from 900 to 1,000 visitors a day. During the 30-second, 130-foot ride -- which is free -- she gives people the history of Oregon City.

The flying saucer-like upper level has sweeping views of Oregon City, West Linn and Willamette Falls.

"We get to act as ambassadors for Oregon City, so we get to tell our history," Crook said. "So not only do we get to study it, we get to engage with it currently, which I think is the special part."

The saucer historical panels -- and on the floor, there's a recreation of the city's grid and the Willamette River.

Oregon City is working to make it even more of a tourist attraction with interactive elements that take better advantage of the views.

"Linger a little more and engage in the city more," Bell said.

The elevator connects Oregon City's downtown with historic sites at the top including the John McLoughlin House where Oregon City's founder lived -- tying together the past, the present and the future of Oregon's first incorporated city.

The Oregon City Municipal Elevator was added to the National Historic Register three years ago.


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