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Guest Author | 02/13/2024 | Downtown Corvallis, History

A Historic Look at Corvallis' Second Street, Part 1

Have you wandered around downtown and wondered about the sights and buildings around you? Corvallis is filled with history, from the Gold Rush days through the Roaring ‘20s to today. Take a stroll on Second Street, a thoroughfare once known as Main Street in the early days of town.

Though this one-mile stretch could technically take you around 15 minutes to walk, take your time to see and learn about the sights along the way. Sometimes, you’ll have to use your imagination to envision buildings from bygone eras, and you can stop to read the historic plaques. At other times, you may want to stop in the store to shop or a restaurant for a bite. Be sure to save some time at the end to go up to the roof garden of Sky High Brewing to see more!

While this is arranged for you to start at the south end of Second Street and walk north, you can go in any direction or start where you want. To get to the south end, look for the big, cement bridge that crosses over 99W and over the park and head that way. If you are at the crosswalks for Second Street and Monroe Avenue, this is the “dividing line” between south and north, so one side is NW Second Street and the other SW Second Street. Another tip: if you know where the river is, or are on the same side as the Waterdance pillars (see #2), you are on the east side of the road.

🗺️ Here's a handy Google Map to help keep you on track.

1. Pepsi Building, 648 SW 2nd Street
Pepsi Building, 648 SW 2nd Street, Corvallis, Oregon, Stacey Newman Weldon

At the beginning of SW 2nd Street, on the corner of SW B Avenue, you’ll see a unique one-story wood frame structure. This is the only commercial edifice included in the Avery-Helm Historic District, and it originally housed the Corvallis Soda Works (c. 1924-1936). Can you guess what came next? (Hint: the sign is still there!) Surprisingly, after Pepsi moved to another location, the building was occupied by two different fish hatcheries and later a meditation center.

2. Waterdance, East side of Western Avenue on SW Second Street
Waterdance by Miles Pepper (2004), Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

Ascend the hill to Western Boulevard to dive into the artistic allure of "Waterdance" by Miles Pepper (2004). Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's drawings, the 4-foot pillar's form gracefully mimics the movement of water, featuring fish and cresting waves. On your exploration of Second Street, you'll encounter 20 of these bronze art pillars adorning opposite sides of cross streets all the way to Tyler Avenue, marking entrances to the Riverfront Commemorative Park, just one block east.

3. Greetings From Corvallis Mural, Back of Common Fields, opposite 521 SW Second Street
Greetings From Corvallis mural, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

A few steps up the block on the same side as the Waterdance pillars, look across the parking lot on the west side and you’ll spot the “Greetings From Corvallis” mural painted in 2020 by Benton County native Eileen Hinckle to celebrate Corvallis’ cultural landmarks and iconic architecture. This lovely postcard-worthy art is one of many of the murals you can find around town.

4. Iron Horse Rings, 442-400 SW Second Street
Iron Horse Rings outside the Toy Factory, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon - Find an iron horse ring still embedded in the concrete outside of the Toy Factory in downtown Corvallis

Continue your stroll, crossing over Washington Street to the pillar on the far side. Cross over Second Street to the west side of the street and look for iron horse rings attached to the curb. Challenge yourself to find the eight rings on the curb leading to Adams Street. Could you imagine the days when the streets were dirt and people pulled up in their horse and buggy to park?

5. The Confluence Building, 400 block of SW Second Street
The Confluence Building, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

Midway along the block stands the newest addition to Second Street, "The Confluence." Crafted by four local environmental organizations, this ultra-sustainable structure serves as a beacon of green design. Noteworthy features include the use of 75% locally sourced materials, with much of the wood coming from salvaged trees that grew in the city; eco-conscious construction practices; and a design that ensures the exterior, with use of corrugated metals, ages naturally, eliminating the need for paint. The building's entrance plans include incorporating beams from the former Van Buren Bridge, adding a touch of history to this modern structure.

6. J.C. Avery Building, 400 SW Second Street
J.C. Avery Building, Corvallis, Oregon, circa 1850s, courtesy the Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Situated immediately north of The Confluence, at the corner of Adams Avenue, is the Joseph C. Avery Building, named after Corvallis’ founder. Erected in 1855, it holds the distinction of being the oldest commercial building in Corvallis. It was originally a supply headquarters for miners en route to gold fields in the 1850s, and its been continuously run as a hardware and implement store ever since. Its been owned by the same family for the past six generations, too - quite a legacy! Although this local landmark’s façade has been altered over the years, the wood-framed warehouse built in 1891 on the south side remains in use.

(Photo circa 1850s, courtesy the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.)

7. Corvallis Museum, 411 SW Second Street
Corvallis Museum, Corvallis, Oregon, Benton County Historical Society

On the opposite side of the street from the sustainably built Confluence and the historic J.C. Avery Building, discover the Corvallis Museum. Opened in 2021 and LEED Silver Certified, the 19,000-square-foot building exhibits a vast collection of local artifacts. Designed by renowned NYC museum architect and Oregon native Brad Cloepfil, the building earned the 2021 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Honor Award. Notable features include four parallel structural bays and façades clad in hand-raked Japanese tile, creating a dynamic appearance with changing light. Be sure to step into the lobby to see “Bruce the Moose,” the museum’s beloved mascot.

(Photo courtesy the Benton County Historical Society.)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Article by Stacey Newman Weldon. Photos by Stacey Newman Weldon unless otherwise noted. Keep up with Corvallis news, events and happenings by signing up for our email newsletter.

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