jvhillegas

James V. Hillegas lives in Portland, Oregon, and is an historian of the 20th century urban environment in North America. He is currently an

Homepage: http://historicalthreads.wordpress.com

Field trip to the former Boise Cascade Mill in Salem, OR

To investigate and understand better historical landscapes, in September 2017 I took a field trip to Salem, Oregon, to discover what visible evidence might remain of the pulp and paper mill that used to exist in downtown Salem.

Oregon Pulp and Paper Mill, 1949, 2012.049.0115

Aerial view (from the southwest) of the Oregon Pulp and Paper (later Boise Cascade) mill in Salem, 1949. Pringle Creek runs under the mill and railroad bridge at center, carrying untreated effluents into Willamette Slough, and then left (north) into the Willamette River. By the early 1970s, effluents were retained in ponds on Minto Island, west of the mill just beyond the frame at the bottom of the image. Willamette Heritage Center, P 2012.049.0115.

The mill began operations in 1920 as the Oregon Pulp and Paper Company, under the holding company Columbia River Paper Company. In 1962 the Boise Cascade Corporation took over. The mill ceased operations in 2007. In 2015, the South Block Apartments opened on the former mill site.

Read the rest of the entry to see my photos and learn a bit more . . .

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“A City’s Lifeblood”

Julia Rosen wrote an interesting article for the Oregon Humanities website on the topic of Willamette River cleanup titled “A City’s Lifeblood”  (Aug. 22, 2017). She focuses on an important topic to investigate and document: racial/ethnic issues related to Willamette River and Columbia Slough pollution, including current clean-up and environmental enhancement plans. She had spoken with me a few months prior to publication to learn about the early days of pollution and pollution abatement.

As readers of my book will find, I don’t have much to say regarding the involvement of Native Americans, African Americans, or other non-white individuals or communities in cleanup efforts from the 1920s into the 1970s. This is because my research didn’t uncover anything explicitly on this topic. There are a few reasons why . . .

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The book is ready!

Good news: At long last, my book is available! A journey that began almost a decade ago has come to fruition! For those who are interested in purchasing a copy, see the attached flier for a promotion code for 30% off the retail price, valid for preorders placed through the OSU Press website (http://osupress.oregonstate.edu) before March 31, 2018.

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“what we’re doing to it on its way to the sea . . .”

Thanks to a chance introduction to Anne Richardson of the Oregon Cartoon Institute during the Western History Association conference this past Thursday, I learned about a fun 1974 film by Homer Groening (yes, Matt’s dad), The New Willamette. I’ve viewed the ~26-minute film a couple of times today, and, in the spirit of my analyses of other Willamette River films (such as here and here), below the jump are some of my initial thoughts . . .

Groening, New Willamette, 1974 - Portland Harbor still

Portland Harbor, 1974. Still from Homer Groening, The New Willamette, 1974.

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Portland harbor wall, then-and-now

Aerial of completed harbor wall, 1929 (City of Portland, Series 8402-01)

A few days ago, the Oregonian ran a “then-and-now” article on Portland’s harbor wall. In it, author John Killen referenced one of my posts, “Construction of Portland Harbor wall, 1927-1929.”

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Portland Harbor Death Zone: V. 2, with a bonus!

Hillegas-Elting Final Project Map

My final project for the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course I took during the Fall 2013 quarter offered me the opportunity to build upon an earlier project and posit a qualitative and somewhat whimsical question: Where could I have lived in Portland in the 1930s and have been far enough from the river not to smell the stench (say, five blocks) yet close enough to walk to it (say, up to 1.25 miles) during the rest of the year when it didn’t stink? The darker green areas in the map to the right generally show where this would have been possible.

Read the rest of this post for more information about how I created this map and to see the full map with accompanying images and text. Read the rest of this entry »

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My view of the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group meeting, April 14, 2010

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on April 5, 2010. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary.]

In a previous post, I reported on a meeting I attended of the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group in December 2009. The present post provides some of my thoughts after attending the April 14, 2010, CAG meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

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Some thoughts on the recent EPA critique of contaminant report from the Lower Willamette Group

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on Feb. 10, 2010. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary. There are three comments at the original post.]

The information cited below is somewhat reminiscent of the conflict between the City of Portland (CoP) and the Oregon State Sanitary Authority (OSSA) in the late 1950s regarding the city’s inadequate treatment of its sewage. The OSSA (and other abatement advocates such as the local chapters of the Izaak Walton League and the City Club of Portland) were pushing the CoP to implement secondary sewage treatment, because the city’s then-current primary treatment regime was insufficient to ensure adequate dissolved oxygen in and north of city limits. However, CoP leaders (Mayor Schrunk, et al.), balked at making these costly upgrades. So, the OSSA took the city to court and by 1961 forced the city to propose a tax levy and expand their sewage treatment infrastructure.

At least one place where this general pattern breaks down, however, is that pollution related to sewage is significantly less complex to deal with than the current issues with persistent, toxic, and bio-accumulative chemicals.

Ah, makes me wistful for the good ol’ days of floating feces and toilet paper . . .

—-

Scott Learn, “Milestone report on Portland Harbor pollution lowballs risk, EPA says,” Oregonian Jan. 22, 2010, p. B8.

Key excerpts:

“EPA officials say the October report from the Lower Willamette Group prematurely rules out some harbor contaminants as threats to wildlife and overstates uncertainties about the pollution’s risk to human health.”

“The dispute is important: The lower the risks of harbor pollution in Willamette River sediment, the less cleanup work the group’s members and other harbor landowners will have to do.”

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Portland’s Zidell Marine site on the South Waterfront

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on Jan. 3, 2010. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary.]

The Oregonian recently ran two articles (here and here) about the Zidell Marine site in Portland’s South Waterfront area. The site is on the west side of the Willamette, bisected by the Ross Island Bridge and abutting the north edge of all those new towers down there.

The issues raised in this and this article involve at least two complex and longstanding themes that reflect society’s changing values. One theme is the conflict that often arises as land uses change over time, pitting long-established uses with more economically lucrative development opportunities. The other is the need to clean up environmental hazards based on previous land uses. It’s here at the pivotal moments of these changes & conflicts that we historians like to poke around a bit, write up some things, and, thereby, try to make some sense of.

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Healing Portland Harbor after the clean-up

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on Dec. 10, 2009. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary. There is one comment at the original post.]

I went to a Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group meeting last night at which was discussed the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process. Tonight there will be a forum for public commentary on the NRDA that was presented last night; I won’t be able to attend this meeting due to prior commitments.

First, an overview of what I learned at this meeting; second, some thoughts spurred by what I learned.

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