Linn City

Robert Moore was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1781. In 1805 he married Margaret Clark and together they later moved to Illinois. In 1839 they headed west on the Oregon Trail with the Peoria party and arrived in Oregon City in 1840. He negotiated the purchase of a 1,000 acre site from Chief Wanaxha of the Wallamut Indians. The site was on the west bank of the Willamette River, directly across from Oregon City, the territorial capital at the time.

In 1843 he established a community on his land and called it Robin’s Nest. According to Oregon Geographic Names,

On December 20, 1945, Ernest E. East of the Illinois State Historical Society wrote Miss Nellie B. Pipes of the Oregon Historical Society as follows: “It is not impossible that Robert Moore got the poetic inspiration for ‘Robin’s Nest’ from the name of the log house in which lived Philander Chase, first bishop of the diocese of Illinois, Protestant Episcopal Church. Chase bought land in the valley of Kickapoo Creek about 12 miles west of Peoria and established Jubilee College. His first house was called ‘Robin’s Nest,’ because, as he said, it was ‘built of mud and sticks, and filled with young ones.’”

The photo below was taken from the bluffs on the east side of the river and shows Oregon City in the foreground and Linn City in the background.

Lorenzo Lorain photograph of early Oregon City
Oregon City and Linn City, 1857 (Oregon State Historic Preservation Office)

By 1845 the town had two log houses and a large number of tents occupied by settlers who had arrived the previous autumn. On December 22, 1845 Robin’s Nest was renamed Linn City in honor of Senator Lewis F. Linn of Missouri. (Linn was a friend of Moore’s and and later authored the Donation Land Act of 1850.)

Lewis Fields Linn
Lewis F. Linn (Wikipedia)

In 1846, about 15 houses were occupied by mechanics, men employed in Moore’s flour and lumber mills, and men worked on the ferry that Moore had established as a connection to Oregon City. Linn City was home to the Oregon Milling and Transportation Company, which built a sawmill, gristmill, a warehouse, and wharves. There was a breakwater to allow boats to load and unload cargo, making Linn City a major transportation center on the river. By 1850 Linn City had a post office, hotel, and two general stores.

Linn City and Oregon City in 1858
This 1858 drawing shows Linn City in the foreground and Oregon City in the background (The Centennial history of Oregon, 1811-1912)

On September 2, 1857, Robert Moore died before he could fulfill his dream of making Linn City a thriving and prosperous town. According to the 1860 census, the population of  Linn City was just 225 people. Disaster struck twice in 1861. On April 23 a disastrous fire destroyed the mills, warehouse, and the steamer James Clinton. An Oregonian article on April 25 described the blaze:

Business owners in the community refused to give up, however, and men started rebuilding what had been lost. Then in December a catastrophic flood swept through. Here’s how the flood was described in the Oregon Historical Quarterly:

The flood of December 1861 washed clean the rocky banks of both sides of the Willamette just above and below the falls and inundated the entire Willamette Valley. It swept the flouring mills of Daniel Harvey and James Guthrie, the machine shop of Moore & Marshall, the Linn City warehouse and basin owned by Colonel James K. Kelly and Robert Pentland, Abernethy’s pioneer brick store and two hotels on the Oregon City rock bank of the river, and carried away to destruction every structure and building in the neighborhood of the falls. On December 5, the steam flatboat St. Clair, Captain S. R. Smith and Engineer Alonzo Vickers, passed over the falls, close to the Oregon City side, the river having swelled to the condition of navigable rapids. It was estimated at the time that below the falls the river had risen 75 feet. The trip of Smith and Vickers is notable, as they were the only persons who ever came over the falls of the Willamette in a boat under steam.

Only two houses and a warehouse still stood after the flood waters had receded. Linn City had been wiped clear off the earth. Residents admitted defeat and the town was not rebuilt. The photo below shows Willamette Falls, the Oregon City Paper Mill, and the west bank of the river where Linn City once stood.

Willamette Falls area, 1867 (Clackamas County Historical Society)

Over time people started trickling back. The Willamette Falls Locks were built at the former site of Linn City in the 1870s, and the Crown-Zellerbach Pulp and Paper Company established its mill near the locks in 1889. Houses started appearing on the west bank of the river, albeit on high ground this time. In 1913 West Linn was incorporated as a city.

Former location of Linn City:

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West Linn City Hall

Prior to 1936, West Linn’s city offices were housed in one room of the train station for the Willamette Falls Railway.

West Linn Trolley Station and City Hall
Willamette Falls Railway station, c1909 (Historic Photo Archive)

The interurban line was shut down in 1930 and the station torn down in 1936 to make way for a new building that would become the City Hall. It was a Works Progress Administration project. When the new building was dedicated by Mayor Frank A. Hammerle in 1936, the city’s population was just 2,000.

West Linn City Hall, c1936 (Old Oregon Photos)

The ground floor housed a grocery store run by Bud Heath and a post office. Municipal offices were upstairs, as well as the library when it opened in 1939.

West Linn City Hall
West Linn City Hall, c1983 (Oregon State Historic Preservation Office)

The post office got its own building and moved out in 1956, and the police department took over the entire ground floor. In 1979 the library moved into bigger quarters at the Bolton Fire Station. In 1999 the building was decommission as City Hall and turned wholly over to the police department. The various city offices that had been scattered amongst various buildings moved into the new City Hall on Salamo Road.

New West Linn City Hall
Current City Hall on Salamo Road

The West Linn Police Department still occupies the old brick building, although a new police station is in the process of being built and is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014.

Old West Linn City Hall
The old City Hall in 2012, still occupied by the police department

Location of the old West Linn City Hall and current police department:

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West Linn Inn

The West Linn Inn was built in 1918 by the Crown Zellerbach Corporation. Stories differ about the original purpose of the place. One story says that it was built to provide homes for the mill employees as well as other workers in West Linn. Another story says it was built to house strikebreakers that were brought in when mill employees tried to unionize.

This postcard shows the inn from Oregon City, probably around 1950 (

As the town grew and the workers found homes in the area, the building’s 85 rooms were opened to the public as hotel rooms. The large lobby had terrazzo marble floors and a huge stone fireplace, and there was a bowling alley in the basement. A long veranda overlooked the river with views of Willamette Falls, the mills, and Oregon City.

West Linn Inn as seen from Oregon City, date unknown (Bolton Walking Tour)

The hotel shut down in July 1972, although dining and banquet service continued to be offered for another few years. But eventually the owners realized they could either spend a lot of money renovating the old building or shut the place down. The West Linn Inn closed its doors in the early 1980s and was soon demolished.

The photo below shows the intersection of 5th and Main in Oregon City with the West Linn Inn in the background at right. This photo was probably taken from the railroad tracks above the tunnel on McLoughlin Blvd.

Oregon City and the West Linn Inn, c1939 (Oregon State Archives)

The next photo shows the same scene about 20 years later. This one appears to have been taken from the bluff behind High Street in Oregon City.

Oregon City and the West Linn Inn, c1960 (This Week in OC blog)

Compare the photo above with the photo below, taken in 2012. The hotel has been gone for 30 years and many of the buildings in Oregon City are gone or significantly altered from the 1960 photograph.

View of West Linn from Oregon City in 2012

Former location of West Linn Inn:

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Fields Bridge

In 1850 Joseph Fields filed a donation land claim along the Tualatin River in what is now the West Linn area. He owned the land on both sides of the river and in 1853 purchased a $5 license to operate a ferry at this spot, which he did until the first bridge was built. A covered bridge was built across the river around 1862, possibly by Joseph Fields himself. According to Bosky Dell, another bridge was built in 1866, but destroyed in the flood of 1890. In 1891 a windowless covered bridge was built. A fourth covered bridge, this one with windows, was built around 1923. The photo below was taken around 1925.

Fields Bridge
Fields Bridge, c1925 (ODOT)

Fields Bridge
Fields Bridge, 1946 (Salem Public Library Historic Photograph Collections)

This final covered bridge was removed around 1953 when a new concrete span was constructed on Borland Road. In 2010 that bridge – which had become structurally deficient – was replaced with a new $6.4 million, 300-foot-long, 52-foot-wide bridge. In 2005 the City of West Linn developed the new Fields Bridge Park south of the road near the bridge.

Fields Bridge
Fields Bridge in 2012

Where Dollar Street dead-ends at the Tualatin River, just a few feet from the bridge, there’s an old stone memorial to someone named Klaus Beckman.

Klaus Beckman killed 3PM May 6 1875 Explosion Str. Senator Buried 133 ft. N. May 25, 1875 Wife Kate son Fred survived 7 crewmen died 12 mi. N Willamette R.
Klaus Beckman memorial, 2012

On May 6, 1875, Klaus Beckman was traveling on the steamboat Senator as it docked along the Willamette River near SW Alder Street in Portland. The boiler on the boat exploded, scattering debris and people up and down the river. Beckman was one of six men who were missing and presumed dead. His body was finally found on May 23, and it is presumed that he was buried in a small Fields family cemetery near Fields Bridge on May 25, hence this stone marker.

Location of Fields Bridge in West Linn:

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