The “Oregon City Municipal Elevator” located in the city of Oregon is one among the latest entries into the National Register of Historic places (which is maintained by the National Park Service). The recommendation to include this Municipal Elevator in the register of historic places was made by Oregon’s State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation in October 2013.

Recognized as the 29th historic property in Oregon city (to be listed in the national register), this public elevator tower is 130-foot tall rising from an underground tunnel in historic downtown Oregon city that connects with the two neighborhoods in Oregon City – downtown and the historic McLoughlin neighborhood.
Oregon City Municipal Elevator
Soon after Oregon City was founded, the major portion of the city’s population was located along the banks of the Willamette River. As the city grew, more number of residents started occupying areas on an upper level along a bluff and steps were constructed so as to connect the two areas. However, the climb was very long and difficult. Hence, this led to the construction of a wood and steel elevator powered by water and it started service in the year 1915. This device completed the 89-foot journey in 3-5 minutes and on arriving at the top, the passengers had to cross a 35-foot catwalk that connected the two sides of the city above a chasm.

The idea of accessibility device became more dependable in the year 1924 when electricity replaced hydraulic power. These devices were used more frequently and the total journey time was shortened to 30 seconds. However, towards the end of 1950, the device began experiencing serious problems and the residents eventually decided to replace the same.

The “Oregon City Municipal Elevator” was designed in the year 1955 to help people to swiftly move between one level and the other while helping them to cross safely below the railroad tracks. This unique device was a practical response to the city’s spectacular landscape and its intrinsic challenges for pedestrians.

This modern, concrete and steel structure was designed by Gordon E. Trapp and constructed by the Portland engineering firm of James & Yost. The designer broke the entire historic architectural traditions to create a new and sleek design.

Designed in an ultramodern style incorporating minimal ornament, this lift enables people to climb from the lower to the upper part of the city in just 15 seconds. Lightweight concrete materials were used to create the illusion that its observatory is hovering in space, providing sky-high views of the city below.

One of the most impressive features included in this structure is the “viewing platform”. The observational deck was created to gain more public attraction. In addition, it provides an unparalleled 300-degree view of the city below and the Willamette River. A unique series of prints installed on the platform walls provide changing historical images of the downtown area through the years. The device is well integrated with the McLoughlin Promenade and the Grand Staircase extending from the bluff to the downtown.