History

Eugene Skinner created the beginnings of our city with a simple trading post in 1846. After founding Eugene in 1862, Skinner ran a ferry service across the Willamette River, right about where the Ferry Street Bridge stands today.

A couple of fires laid claim to Columbia College and challenged local residents’ vision of creating a center for learning; but in 1876 when the University of Oregon first opened its doors, the vision of a center for learning began to materialize and can be seen and felt today in the vibrancy of the campus and the energy of our city. Eugene has grown rapidly and has produced various counter-cultural ideas since the University’s opening.

Preserving cultural history is an important piece in telling the story of generations who came before us. The Lane Historical Society is dedicated to sharing stories of the Oregon Trails, logging and the timber industry and the sports history that has made Eugene Tracktown USA. Below are downtown buildings and landmarks loaded with some of these historical memories.

Willamette & Broadway Area

767 Willamette Street

In 1884 The Baker Building was Eugene’s original place for social gatherings and is also the only intact 19th century building in downtown. The building experienced a few name changes until finally becoming Smeede Hotel in 1914.

795 Willamette Street

Built in 1913, the McMorran & Washburne Dept. Store is also known as the Tiffany Building. Originally a two-story building with the third floor added later.

1010 Willamette Street

The McDonald Theater is on the National Register of Historic Places and a historic landmark. Built in 1925 this building hosted everything from travelling vaudeville shows to major theater productions. When motion pictures were popularized, the McDonald Theater was converted to a movie house and is currently a place where the community enjoys live music, plays, and other exciting gatherings.

222 East Broadway Avenue

A building that is on the National Register of Historic Places and built in the same year as the Historic McDonald Theater (1925), the Eugene Hotel boasts Americanized Spanish architecture and is now home to active senior adults.

Eugene Saturday Market

Located in the Park blocks along 8th Street, Eugene’s Saturday Market was the first Saturday Market in the U.S. Started in 1970, the weekly open-air craft show exhibits hand-made goods, locally grown produce, musicians, and a community culture that piques interest and offers a unique charm.

Ken Kesey Statue

Once a resident of the Eugene area and a University of Oregon graduate, Ken Kesey, author of One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was an influential figure in creating the elements which define Eugene’s vibrant social tapestry that are still seen today. Today the statue of Ken Kesey can be found in a brick plaza at the corner of Broadway & Willamette.

5th Avenue Historic Market District

532 Olive Street

The Lane County Farmers Union Cooperative was built in 1923 to help make farming economically viable in the local area. Today the Farmers Union Cooperative is now to local shops.

520 Willamette Street

Located at the corner of 5th & Willamette Street, the main Post Office for the City of Eugene was built in 1938 with an art-deco façade. Carl Morris is the artist of the interior murals, which depict social realism.

488 Willamette Street

Walk across 5th street from the post office and see the Lane Hotel building. It’s one of the last remaining wooden buildings in downtown. Built in 1903 and originally known as the Gross Hotel, the building now houses local retail shops.

The Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial

Located at Willamette & 6th Avenue at the Hult Center, the Eugene Japanese American Art memorial was built very close to the actual place where Japanese Americans were forced to register and travel to concentration camps in the West. The memorial is part of Lane County’s Teaching American History Grant Program.

27 East 5th Avenue

The Oregon Electric Rail Station once operated as a depot for passengers travelling between Eugene and Portland. The depot was built in 1914 with service running until 1933. The building is now home to a popular restaurant with pieces of area history and sports memorabilia on display.

296 E. 5th Avenue

The 5th Street Public Market building is the cornerstone of the Historic Market District. Originally the building served as a poultry house where residents all over Lane County would come to purchase protein. Today the 5th Street Public Market offers a unique shopping experience.