TREASURE HUNTING

We live in the area north of Eugene, Oregon, just a house or two off River Road, the original Highway 99 route between Eugene and Junction City.  For me, it’s a wonderful place to live.  I’m close enough to the Willamette River to walk the path along its banks.  

I can sit to watch the water when my soul needs soothing or see the sun shining on the riffles when my spirits need lifting. 

Life along the old highway offers more.  It’s an area where the home you create can be related back to the settlers who took out the original claim with the homestead act.  It still has ties to the people who came before.  Those native Americans who sought the Camas and berries, who fished and hunted  here.

Now, when I drive that old way north to shop for produce at family farms that have been part of the valley culture for generations, I’m reminded of the schools that were along the road and later the small stores that served the little clusters of neighbors.  A few remnants of the early highway development remain– maybe serving a different purpose now but still, with a link to the past.

One of my favorites is the beautiful Normandy style structure, built as a Richfield gas station in the early 1930’s, before the Highway 99 designation was moved to Sixth Street to avoid the occasional flooding of the Willamette.   The gas station was one of a string of luxurious and well- built structures that included a tower with a lighted beacon on top to light the flyway, extending north through California and Oregon.  That part of the Richfield Company  went bankrupt in 1939 so the station on River Road assumed a new life.  First as a speakeasy and then as a private home.  Through time it transitioned again and is now a location for special events.  Weddings in the beautiful gardens are frequent.  The tower and beacon are long gone but the reminder is there in the name of the cross street, Beacon Drive and in the name of the place, Beacon House.

On the River Road drive north, some of the farm land has been turned into subdivisions, individual housing,  a mobile home park, and a golf course but much remains:  in Christmas tree farms, in nursery stock, and produce stands.  It’s a good place to touch base with a slower, earlier time.

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