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Guest Author | 09/14/2021 | Arts and Culture, Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries, History, Restaurants

Stops Along the Marys Peak to Pacific Coast Scenic Byway: Philomath, Oregon

On the horizon, as you enter the town of Philomath, you can see the long ridge of Marys Peak, the tallest peak in the Oregon Coast Range and the namesake of the Scenic Byway.

Philomath took its name from Philomath College, founded in 1867 by the United Brethren Church. The name comes from two Greek words meaning "lover of learning." While Philomath College closed during the Great Depression, its building remains. Beside the Philomath Fire Department, look for the Philomath Museum, which once housed Philomath College. It's a three-story brick building set back from the highway. It has white trim and was built from red bricks that came from clay dug and fired onsite. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by the Benton County Historical Society, a leading nonprofit cultural institution in the Willamette Valley. Stop by to see both historic themed exhibits and those featuring contemporary artists and artisans.

Philomath Museum, Philomath, Oregon, operated by the Benton County Historical Society. Formerly the Philomath College, this historic building is now home to a museum.Philomath Museum, Philomath, Oregon, by Reed Lane Photography    

Philomath was incorporated in 1882. It began as a thriving farming and ranching center, shipping agricultural products and wool to nearby Corvallis and, eventually, to larger urban markets.

Philomath’s evolution during the 20th century mirrors that of many timber towns in Oregon. In particular, Philomath residents Rex and Ethel Clemens' lives and legacies illustrate the changes that this region has seen. In the early twentieth century, Philomath was a major logging and lumber commercial center. Lumber production in Washington and Oregon soared after World War II and dozens of sawmills provided good-paying jobs for town residents. The Clemens not only benefited from the timber industry but prospered. In 1958 Rex and his wife Ethel established a multi-million-dollar foundation to support the local schools, including providing a four-year scholarship to all Philomath High School graduates.

The economy of Philomath began to change in the early 1980s as mills closed and unemployment soared. The industry made a slow recovery in the mid-1980s, but only with a small number of highly automated mills, which require fewer workers. During the 1990s, the emergence of the tech industry in Corvallis mitigated the job losses from the timber industry. Philomath saw dramatic growth into the 2000s due to changing industries in Corvallis and Portland. With these changes brought new demographics and cultural clashes to the community.

Philomath High School, Philomath, OregonPhilomath High School, Philomath, Oregon, by Reed Lane Photography    

The Clemens Foundation continues to support the local Philomath students, now with an emphasis toward promoting trades and values that some associate with Oregon’s timber industry past. The Foundation’s pivot stimulated local and national discussions around the changing face of America’s small towns. Philomath, like many small towns, continues to navigate the evolving employment landscape and the divisions and unions that emerge from it.

Philomath’s cultural and economic history is on proud display each summer for the Philomath Frolic and Rodeo, held the second weekend of July.

Harris Bridge Vineyard, Philomath, Oregon, by Reed Lane PhotographyHarris Bridge Vineyard, Philomath, Oregon, by Reed Lane Photography

As you explore Philomath, be sure to add a few of these stops to your visit.

If you're hungry, Philomath has several great restaurants including Eats & Treats Cafe, which is known for their BBQ and is 100% gluten-free; the Dizzy Hen, which offers a menu of seasonal and local delights that changes regularly; the Vinwood Taphouse, which offers family-style pub fare; the Woodsman, an excellent Thai restaurant; or Gathering Together Farm, a lovely little restaurant that's also a working farm where they grow almost everything that'll show up on your plate when you order.

There are several wineries in the Philomath area, like Compton Family Wines, Lumos Wine Co., Harris Bridge Vineyard, and Cardwell Hill Cellars. For craft beer fans, there's Dirt Road Brewing, and if you're looking for something you won't find anywhere else, there's Marcotte Distilling, which has a great little tasting room where you can sample their flavored moonshines.

Be sure to stop in to the Philomath Museum to see this historic building and the history and art exhibits on display. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, and donations are gratefully accepted.

Marys Peak to Pacific Coast Scenic Byway Driving Tour App

A Driving Tour from City to Sea: Willamette Valley, Alsea River Valley & More

Come with us on a driving tour of one of Oregon’s newest scenic and historic byways. From the highest point in the Coast Range to the broad, sandy beaches of the Central Coast, follow the Alsea River on a delightfully meandering 72-mile driving tour from Corvallis to Waldport.

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Article via TravelStorys.com. Featured Photo: Philomath City Hall, by Reed Lane Photography. Keep up with Corvallis news, events and happening by signing up for our email newsletter.

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