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From Our Vault: Bickner family was among LO area's first shopkeepers

At one point in early 1900s, pioneering clan owned two general stores


PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKE OSWEGO PUBLIC LIBRARY - Joseph W. Bickner Sr. and his wife, Victoria, opened their first store around 1892 in this building, which was located near what is now the intersection of McVey Avenue and Erickson Street. Joseph W. Bickner Sr. and his wife, Victoria, were both born in Prague and came to Oregon from Minnesota in the 1880s. They settled with Victoria’s sister and brother-in-law, Clara and Henry Gans, who owned the general store in “South Town” near what is now the intersection of McVey Avenue and Erickson Street.

The Bickners bought the general store and living quarters — all one building — from the Gans family around 1892. Their five sons and two daughters — Mary A., Joseph Jr., Henry B., William E., John, Lillian and Charles — all helped run the store.

In 1903, Bickner and three of his sons — John, William and Charles — bought an old hotel in “New Town,” which was located on State Street between A and B avenues. The hotel was remodeled into a general merchandise store called J. Bickner and Sons, and for a short time, the Bickner family owned two stores.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKE OSWEGO PUBLIC LIBRARY - The Bickner family opened its second store in 1903 on State Street, between A and B avenues, and ooperated it until Safeway bought the building in 1938. The lower level of the State Street store contained groceries and dry goods; the balcony contained hardware. To the rear was a barn for three horses, two delivery wagons and a hayloft. The front of the building, which was one level, was used to store grain and supplies and housed the refrigerators. Some years later, a walk-in refrigerator was installed so that both Bickner and Sons and Bethke’s Meat Market next door could use it.

Joseph Bickner Sr. died in 1921 at age 78, but the Bickner brothers kept the store going until Safeway purchased it in 1938. In the years that followed, Safeway moved out of the building and Freda Bain opened a dress shop, which was later replaced by another dress shop called Lucille’s.

The Tate family, owners of Tim’s Germs, purchased the building from the proprietor of Lucille’s and operated a jewelry store upstairs in the building. They leased the street-level area to Imperial Flowers and Heads-Up Stylists. According to Tim and Nadeen Tate, the adjoining section of the building housed an auto parts store.

The Bickners — after whom a street just south of McVey Avenue in modern-day Lake Oswego is named — definitely were one of Oswego’s prominent and influential families in the early days.

“From Our Vault” is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council, using materials she’s found in the council’s archives; look for it on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you’d like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..