Tour the town's historic district

January 11, 2002 12:00 am
Signs like this one offer information about the buildings in the historic district. ().
Signs like this one offer information about the buildings in the historic district. ().

A century of growth and evolution is preserved in more than 100 Baker City buildings, and many are on display on a self-guided walking tour. A brochure that includes history of nine prominent historical buildings may be found at City Hall, 1655 First Street; the Visitor and Convention Bureau, 490 Campbell Street; and other locations.

The citys unofficial historian, Pearl Jones, says she starts her walking tours at one of three sites: Geiser Pollman Park on Campbell Street; the Oregon Trail Regional Museum, site of a Natatorium built in 1918, at the corner of Campbell and Grove streets; or the Public Library, now housed at 2400 Resort Street but formerly next to City Hall.

I begin with the history of this area and, depending on our destination, lead off from there, Jones said. For two summers I was also the narrator on the horse-drawn Trolley Tour. We could do a more extensive route this way but, for me, it wasnt as enjoyable as a leisurely walking tour with an appreciative audience.

If youre on your own, start at the corner of Valley Avenue and West Main Street. The 1800 block of West Main provided a bustling street scene in the late 1800s. Look right to view the Neuberger and Heilner Building, 1901 Main Street.

Continue north on Main Street to the Palmer Brothers Building and Bowen & Bamberger buildings on the left to the Mint and Fox buildings on the right, at 1828 and 1830 Main Street. In fact, if the mood strikes you, stop by some of the businesses now operating in the historic district and chat with the merchants. Most are very knowledgeable about the history of their buildings.

The Geiser Grand Hotel, built in 1889 as the Warshauer House, was a gathering place for travelers from around the nation and the world, many of whom had interests in area gold mines. Mine owner Al Geiser purchased the hotel and extensively remodeled it at the turn of the century. The hotel was closed for almost 30 years before being restored and reopened in 1997.

Look right at the corner of Resort and Washington at the stately Luther B. Ison Home, 1790 Washington Avenue, built in 1887 of the finest materials from Portland, Holland and Alaska.

Cross the Powder River on Washington to the Bowen Home at 1701 Washington Avenue. The Bowens were pioneers in Baker County, Ira arriving in 1862 with his parents. Later, he was publisher and editor of Baker Citys Bedrock Democrat newspaper for many years.

Cross back over the river and take Washington Avenue to First Street and turn right. On the left at Church Street youll find the majestic St. Francis Cathedral, constructed in 1908 of volcanic tuff stone quarried about 12 miles east of Baker City. The Catholic Diocese of Eastern Oregon, established by the Pope in 1903, included all of Oregon east of the Cascade Mountains.

Take Church street back to Main to the final stop, the Baer Home, at 2333 Main Street. The Baer Home is the Italianate-style twin of the Adler Home on the opposite end of the block. In addition to occupying identical houses, the Baer and Adler families were related by marriage and were closely linked for many years.