Where We Live: Saving Vernonia’s historic grandstands

Oregon

Vernonia's Greenman Field grandstands were built in 1960 using old-growth timber

VERNONIA, Ore. (KOIN) — A former timber town about an hour northwest of Portland is preserving an important piece of its history that has survived two devastating floods.

Vernonia’s Greenman Field grandstands represent some of the most important moments of Michael Calhoun’s life. From high school graduation and football games to community and civic events including the annual Friendship Jamboree and Logging Show.

“For me, it was an accumulation of memories and growing up here and I think that was the same reason for all the people that joined this committee to help save them,” Calhoun said.

Vernonia’s 2,000 residents are nothing if not determined and resilient. The town on the Nehalem River was hit by two 500-year floods in 1996 and 2007. The latter led to a new high school built on higher ground. But the Greenman Field grandstands were saved. Calhoun said the stands are “the last remnant of our old school system.”

Help save the Greenman Field grandstands

They’re also among the last vestiges of Vernonia’s rich timber history. They were built in 1960 using old-growth timber from Vernonia’s Oregon-American Lumber Mill, which was a vital source of old-growth before it closed in the late 1950s. The field and grandstands were named after the mill’s manager, Judd Greenman.

The Vernonia Lions Club spearheaded the project and nearly everyone in Vernonia pitched in. No one in the town wants to see the grandstands lost. The field already serves as Vernonia’s central park.

“We can have movies in the park. There’s endless possibilities for the rehabilitated grandstands,” said Calhoun. “I’ve always believed that we can save history, no matter what form it is, and preserve it for future generations.”

The grandstands could use some work and there are also plans to create a historical mural. The community has raised some money but could still use a little help. Click here to donate.

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