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

A Historic Look at Corvallis' Second Street, Part 2

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.

The first part of this tour led you from SW B Avenue to SW Adams Avenue, showing you some of the historic old buildings in downtown Corvallis, including the Pepsi Building, old iron horse rings still embedded in today's sidewalks, and more. This guide will lead you further along Second Street to see more treasures from the past.

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, you are on the east side of the road.

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

1. Oregon Territorial Capitol, 344 SW Second Street
Oregon Territorial Capitol, 344 SW 2nd Street, by Stacey Newman Weldon

While standing on the corner of Adams Avenue, either by the J.C. Avery Building or the Corvallis Museum, gaze to the big red building on the other corner. For ten months in 1855, Corvallis was Oregon’s first state capital, where the legislators met in a wood-frame general store built where you now see the Crawford and Farra two-story brick building, constructed around 1880-1882. Extensively remodeled in 1948, this structure has seen diverse roles as a bakery, a grocer, to Henderson’s Business Machines, and now a bicycle store. On the corner of the building are two brass plaques honoring the building and the site’s history.

2. Old World Center, 341 SW Second Street
Old World Center, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

At the northeast corner of Second Street and Adams Avenue, the Old World Center stands out with its faux-medieval white and brown trim façade, comprising two properties initially built in 1911 and 1912. Renovated into Corvallis' first mall, this historic complex became home to Oregon Trail Brewery in 1987, marking one of Oregon's earliest craft breweries post-Prohibition. Formerly known as Hathaway's Garage, it has a special place in history as the location where Corvallis’ first cars, Overland autos, were once sold. Don't miss the sidewalk marker "Concrete Const. Co. 1912" on the corner, and then step inside to discover an antique electrical panel from the 1800s that ran an elevator, a relic of the site's historic past. If you have time, walk around to the rear to check out more fun murals.

3. U.S. Post Office, 311 SW Second Street
U.S. Post Office, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

Continuing north on the same side of the street as the Old World Center, you may feel the eyes of the Post Office’s gargoyles on you. Erected in 1931, it is one of the area's finest commercial examples of “Half Modern” buildings. Post offices constructed in this era represent a stage in the evolution from the Beaux-Arts Classicism, Renaissance Revival, and Classical Revival designs of the first two decades of the century and the International Style, which began to influence American design in the 1920s. Notable of this style, aside from the watching gargoyles, are the buff-colored brick, the doorway between two columns of green marble and bronze lanterns.

4. Burnett Brick Building, 310 SW Second Street
Burnett Brick Building, 310 SW 2nd Street, by Stacey Newman Weldon

With the Post Office at your back, look across the street at the painted red structure, called the Burnett Brick building, which was built in 1882 by John Burnett. He was a pioneer who, after being injured in the gold mines, taught himself law and went on to become a county judge, state senator, and justice of the State Supreme Court. Though clad in stucco in recent years, glimpses of surviving details include the columns around the second-story windows and the facade at the roofline. Businesses in 1884 included a drug store, book store, stationery shop, and jewelry store. Over time, the building housed a variety of establishments, from a millinery and grocery to a dry goods store, photo lab, and music store.

5. Kline's Department Store, 215-223 SW Second Street
Kline Department Store, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

Pass by another set of the Waterdance pillars, and halfway up that block look up. Dominating the middle part of the east side between Jefferson and Madison is the former “Kline's Department Store and Pure Food Department.” Built in 1908, it was considered Corvallis' largest and most up-to-date store. It sold clothing -including a dressmaking parlor - dry goods, boots, shoes, hardware, crockery, hats, trunks, valises, wool, cascara bark, mohair, and furnishings. You may notice different architectural styles along the second story, which is partly a result of a third generation Kline expanding the business by taking over the southside building owned by E.W. Fisher. These two families were also neighbors in buildings built the previous century closer to Monroe. Before these two-story brick buildings were erected, Lewis and his son Simon first built in 1890 a general merchandise store with fancy Queen Anne and Italianate detailed iron front nicknamed “The White House.” In 1956, the Independent Order of the Odd Fellow, Corvallis’ second oldest fraternal lodge, purchased the buildings. In their remodel, they retained two of the 16 bowling lanes from the former Bowling Gardens upstairs while leasing out the street level stores. See if you can find cast iron columns, popular in construction in the early 1900s, inside one store and outside another.

6. American Dream Pizza, 214 SW Second Street
American Dream Pizza, Downtown Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

The American Dream Pizza building, which you can see across the street when standing in front of the building once known as Kline’s Department Store, catches the eye with the distinctive pair of cartouches on either side of a mascaron, popular Beaux Arts and Art Nouveau decorative elements added when the building was updated in 1925. Built in c.1884-1888, this one-story brick structure’s history includes varied uses such as the offices for the Corvallis Gazette (1893), confectionery, an oyster shop, paint and wallpaper store, a barber shop, and now a pizza place. This spot gained a touch of presidential history when former President Obama stopped by for a slice during his 2008 campaign trip.

7. Hotel Corvallis, 205 SW Second Street
Hotel Corvallis, House of Cheer, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

Walk to the next Waterdance pillar at Madison Avenue and check out the building north of Kline’s. Up on the corner of the red rug brick, Italian Renaissance-style edifice on southeast Madison Avenue and Second Street, you’ll see a prominent crest proclaiming “Hotel Corvallis, House of Cheer.” Not to be confused with the current retro-boutique Hotel Corvallis on Fourth Street, this spot housed the original wood hotel, the Occidental, in 1880. Renamed Hotel Corvallis in 1918, the current brick structure replaced the wooden predecessor in 1927. To see architectural details from that era, gaze up at the roofline to see a wide frieze board with relief ornamentation, Fleur-de-lis, arches, along with more Hotel Corvallis crests.

Notably, on February 9th, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy made a memorable visit, flying into Corvallis airport and addressing a "Coffee Hour" at Hotel Corvallis held by the Corvallis Democratic Central Committee and the Young Women’s Democratic Club, whose headquarters were in the basement of the hotel. The next day, his sister, Mrs. Peter Lawford (Patricia Kennedy), attended a reception at the hotel. Although the campaigning senator never spent the night, the rooms he rented on the third floor were reportedly preserved for many years. Later transformed into apartments, the building now carries on its legacy as "Corvallis Arms."

8. First National Bank Building, 204 SW Madison Avenue, SW Corner of Second Street
The Clothes Tree, Corvallis, Oregon, by Stacey Newman Weldon

Leaving the Hotel Corvallis corner, cross over Second Street to the Clothes Tree, the store spanning that corner. Established in 1962, this business resides in a building with a storied past of banks. Before the banks, in the late 1850s was a stage coach station, or rather Corvallis' inaugural hotel, the City Hotel, which met its fiery end in 1873. Rising from the ashes was Corvallis’ very first bank, the Hamilton and Job Bank, established in 1886. Then, in 1893, Corvallis' second bank moved into the location, renamed from Benton County Bank to First National Bank of Corvallis. In 1940, the United States National Bank of Portland bought them and stayed until moving to Fourth Street and Monroe Avenue in 1962. As an ode to the past, the new owners had a replica of the original bank clock mounted on the corner. Beyond its retail history, the building harbors a unique secret - the former bank vault once served as part of the county's fallout shelter program in 1968, with enough room to hold 410 persons and stocked with enough food for 12 days.

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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