This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Chrissy Curran: What I did was, I took a handful of listed properties in Oregon, tried to get a geographical representation, but ownership was more difficult. There are only a couple of privately-owned properties here, most of them are public, but I think that does represent the bulk of the landscapes that we have listed in Oregon. They’re mostly public properties. This is one of the great ones, Willamatte Valley. This is Dorris Ranch, and probably people know Eugene more than Springfield because of the University of Oregon. But this is the location, essentially, is where Eugene is, in the Willamatte Valley south of Portland, a couple of hours. This is owned by Willamalane Park District, so it’s a publicly-owned property. It’s got a few buildings, a couple of houses and a barn, but mostly it’s a hazelnut orchard.
One of the issues that have come up with this particular property is, because it’s primarily vegetation, they’ve been having trouble with particular bugs that’s been killing the trees. We had something come up a few years ago where they thought they were going to have to take out almost all of the trees out of this listed property. The vulnerability of vegetation comes up with properties, so that’s one thing that’s different for us about buildings, between buildings and landscapes.
We have several cemeteries listed in the National Register, and increasingly they’re being looked at as a landscape as opposed to simply a site. Meaning that in the nomination the descriptions are addressing the cultural values of the place and the landscape, and how it has defined what the cemetery itself ends up looking like. The Marshfield IOOF Cemetery is very steep. It has a lot of historic terraces and historic retaining walls, and things like that that you may not see in other cemeteries that are just on flat land. This is out by the coast in southern Oregon.
This is a National Park Service property and spectacular ranch in Grant County (Cant Ranch) and the primary issue that we’ve seen with this particular one is that, while the boundaries included the orchards and the hay fields, the initial nomination did not address them as being contributing or being important. The Park Service went back and did a cultural landscape inventory and added a whole bunch of landscape features to the nomination, which made a lot of sense. That’s why they farmed here, that’s why they settled here, these river bottom hay fields and the opportunity to develop those, as it was very rich land.
This is the Halprin Open-Space Sequence in Portland that was just listed in the National Register. It was built in the ’60s, so it was ground-breaking in that regard. Again, it’s owned by the City of Portland, these are public parks right downtown, and they are discontinuous. I guess they are a little bit connected, but when you’re experiencing them you don’t know that they’re connected. Their experience is a discontinuous series of parks, but this was sort of a ground-breaking thing. Halprin properties are being listed all over the country now, and they’re very modern. This was part of an urban development project in Portland in the ’60s that we’re just now starting to look at as historic.
This is a privately-owned property, an unusual outsider art property in central Oregon, the Bend Redmond area, that are [inaudible ] ’30s, Petersen Rock Garden. It’s just one of those quintessential properties that developed. This older man, he retired, he’s very patriotic and sort of religious, and he developed this rock garden all by himself, one piece by one piece. It’s been handed down in the family. It’s open to the public for a fee, and it has been forever. That’s why he did it, as a roadside tourist attraction. It is one of the few privately-owned properties that we have listed as landscapes and certainly an unusual one.
This is Shirk Ranch in Lake County. This is in far southeast Oregon, and it’s owned by the BLM. It is the remnants of a horse ranch. David Shirk was famous in Oregon for the early ranching community that developed out there. Very remote as you can see, and we are happy that BLM was willing to list it. There were some archaeological components to this as well.
Laurelhurst Park in Portland, part of the City Beautiful movement. There’s not much to say about this park. It’s a fantastic park, owned by the City of Portland, obviously. This particular park was developed by John C. Olmsted, and he had different rooms. I actually wrote this nomination when I was a consultant about sixteen years ago, before I came to the SHPO. I remember having a conversation with Susan Roth in Minnesota, the Minnesota National Register Coordinator at the time. She explained to me that each of these are rooms and how to do the contributing features. This is a perfect example of, do you call this a site or a district, and how do you treat these different rooms? They were very deliberate in Olmstead’s design, and so were the plantings, which of course have changed over time, but it was meant to be pretty exotic, an example garden. With the trend toward native vegetation, the city doesn’t want to be putting in what they consider invasive species back into historic parks. That’s an issue that we’ve been struggling with, with them.
This is one segment of the Oregon Trail you can actually see the ruts. The National Park Service Intermountain Trails office in Salt Lake and Santa Fe hired us to nominate three segments of the Oregon Trail in Oregon, under a multiple-property document, which was prepared by Stephen Lissandrello who’s on the screen there, and that’s Ian Johnson of our staff. This was a pretty ground-breaking thing as well. We decided to just pick off the easy fruit with these and do publicly-owned segments, although much of the Oregon Trail in Oregon is privately owned. There are certainly some important segments that are privately owned. We decided not to fight that battle at this point, but it is an issue when you get into these very conservative eastern Oregon landscapes. Private properties don’t really want to have much to do with the National Register, so because of that, these segments are always going to be discontinuously listed. Even if they have a lot of integrity, we can’t quite capture them.
Oregon State University campus is another example of a historical district landscape, designed historic landscape. That’s the other thing about these. I’ve tried to have a good example of the designed historic landscapes and the historic rural historic landscapes, so this is one of a very designed campus project. It is the only public university listed in the National Register in Oregon of the district, lot of landscape features here.
Another ranch in far southeast Oregon, is owned by United States Fish and Wildlife. Peter French was our first big cattle baron out there, and there’s not a lot left. There was a house that burned down in the ’50s. You can barely see the chimney left on the right-hand top picture, but there are a whole bunch of features left in this property, including the barn but not exclusive of a barn. There’s some cattle wheels and all kinds of stuff out there. This is right in the middle of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It’s right in the middle of it, and it borders it, actually, and it borders state park property as well. This is the kind of property that won’t be threatened by development, ever, so the biggest threat out here is forest fires and flooding and that kind of thing. A really early landscape listed in the National Register in Oregon.
Here are our major issues that we’re always struggling with, with the design. We look at them very separately, the design versus the rural historic landscape. We have different issues with each type, with the historic landscapes, the parks, and things like that, the other side of our district, contributing features. How do you treat those within the property? And then the vegetation issue, which has come up before. How do you evaluate integrity when vegetation is constantly changing? With the rural historic landscapes boundary issues, obviously, natural features, viewshed are very important, and the bigger they are, the more the viewshed, especially with the Oregon Trail out here, those have been an issue.
Probably our biggest issue right now, in the real or perceived obstacle for listing rural historic landscapes, is the cultural value, spiritual/religious aspect of it, because it throws it right out of our realm of expertise. In Oregon, we have nine federally-recognized tribes; seven of them are THPOs. They’re very active. This is just something that really doesn’t feel like it fits very well in the National Register of Historic Places, that capturing of sacred sites and cultural value. Once it gets into that ceremonial religious realm it becomes pretty complicated for us out here. Those are our major issues.
Barbara Wyatt: Thank you, Chrissy. Thanks very much. You gave us a nice range of sites, and you showcased a lot of different issues and priorities and practices that we all need to consider. I glad you touched on the need to describe or inventory vegetation and landscape features, which came up in a couple of your sites. Does anybody have any questions for Chrissie? I’ll throw out one, Chrissie, to get things going. I’m curious about the Petersen Rock Art Garden. What criteria was that listed under?
Chrissy: It was listed under Criterion C, for its method of construction. Then it was, I believe it was also listed under Criterion A, for its role as a roadside, an early roadside tourist attraction in Central Oregon.
Barbara: Okay. That’s interesting. As we all know, sometimes when we’re dealing with a significant landscape, the word landscape doesn’t necessarily appear in the areas of significance, or may not be evident. But a landscape, when you’re nominating it, you kind of know it. I’m going to go on with questions, but if anyone needs to butt in at any time, please. On the Shirk Ranch, you mentioned that it was also nominated for archaeology. Now, was that historic or prehistoric?
Chrissy: It was historic and it was that fuzzy middle ground between, when is this building, this collapsed piece, eligible under only Criterion D? Essentially, while there was a grave site, as well, but it was mostly that there were some collapsed features that really were not … There was not enough integrity to tell the story under A. I can’t remember if that was A, only, and C. That was recommended to us by the National Register staff there years ago to do it that way, and it made sense. But that’s always a fuzzy line, too. When does a building become an archaeological feature, as opposed to a historic one?
Barbara: That’s right, yeah. Are you talking about the Shirk Ranch, or the P Ranch?
Chrissy: The Shirk Ranch.
Barbara: Okay. I didn’t catch the collapsed part of that.
Chrissy: Well, yeah. There wasn’t, I didn’t show a picture of it. That ranch is pretty far flung. The pictures, the color ones I could find, really only focus on those really iconic-looking abandoned houses, house features. But there are quite a lot of other features there. There was a water tower that literally collapsed during the process of the nomination being written.
Barbara: I have another question. That is, are the landscape features pretty well described in that?
Chrissy: No. There isn’t much to speak about the … The setting is well described, but it is so … Once you sort of give a lay of the land, there’s not much more to say about that. They didn’t really manipulate the landscape that much, beyond building on it.
Speaker 1: There weren’t fences, there’s no circulation system?
Chrissy: There is no real circulation system. There were fences and corrals, and those were talked about for sure. Hard to date, you know? But those were definitely talked about. But they didn’t do much beyond that out there. It’s so remote.
Speaker 2: I wondering what the acreage was for this ranch? Also, for some of these other large agricultural properties?
Chrissy: That’s good question that I don’t have an answer to right away. I can get you that information, though. I just don’t have it off the top of my head. I could guess, but that wouldn’t be very helpful for you.
Speaker 3: Maybe address the relationship of what’s been nominated in these cases to what the typical ranch or farm would have been in that part of Oregon, if you know?
Chrissy: Yeah. Well, that actually brings up a good point, that a lot of these ranches were … This is a BLM-owned ranch. It’s probably pretty big, acreage wise. I’m going to see if I can find out while we’re talking. We had, of course, the donation land claim that a lot of these ranches, especially in the Willamette Valley, a lot of these landscapes started out at 600 plus acres, and then got whittled down over time, 320, 160. Now you’ve got 4, say. That’s particularly true on the west side of Oregon, where the population is much higher. When you look at a property and you think, wow, this originally had 160 acres, and now we’ve got 4. Is that diminishment of integrity important enough to the story to call it ineligible? That’s an issue on the west side.
Out on the east side, they too have been sort of shrunk. The P Ranch that I showed is one of three of Pete French Ranches that is on the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve. Pete owns several of them, in addition to a very famous round barn that’s also out there. Those are, the refuge has really sort of absorbed a lot of that original acreage with thousands and thousands of acres, each one of those ranches. You don’t see that kind of acreage being included in the boundaries of these properties.
Jill Cowley: This is Jill Cowley. I just have a comment to add. The remaining acreage for ranch properties is an issue. There is an example, actually in Arizona, of a nomination done for a very extensive ranch property that included a lot of the original acreage. If folks are interested, I can find out and provide you reference to that.
Linda McClellan: I wondered if the one you’re thinking about is in the Arizona Strip region?
Jill: Yeah, that’s the one.
Linda: It includes not only the area where the ranching was, but a lot of research was done on the water rights and the assignment of those rights. You almost have a checkerboard, in some areas. This is one that was determined eligible, I think, through the consensus process with the state.
Chrissy: That would be a hard sell in Oregon.
Linda: Well, I think it was not without a struggle in Arizona.
Chrissy: Yeah, I’m sure.
Linda: The research was so convincing, because here was an actual federal record that said this ranch had these water rights in this particular region. There were a number of feature areas outlying places where there were water tanks, and things like that. There actually were features on the land. I wonder, if we knew more about the ranching, say in Lake County, if we wouldn’t find some comparable types of research, resources that were outlying the main complex.
Chrissy: I’m certain that they’re out there. We sort of have to take what we can get out there, in terms of listable properties or private property owners who are willing to list their properties out here. We feel like it’s a lot to ask to expect that those discontinuous pieces or far flung acreage be included. If all we get is the farmstead, then we’re going to make a case for that, just because some of these are just so, so huge.
Barbara: All right. Well, thanks. I think we’ll go back to that point a little bit with this Pennsylvania presentation. Just one thing I want to mention is I was glad on two of your design spaces, on Laurelhurst Park and also at the Halprin Site, you mentioned the approach of describing rooms. That is a very effective tool that can be used with design spaces, and sort of a corollary with rural spaces. But we wouldn’t necessarily call them rooms, but I think it’s an approach to compartmentalizing the landscape, or making a huge landscape sort of comprehensible and describable at a level we can understand.