New granite plaques tell stories of eight notable Old Town buildings

While researching the history of downtown Beaverton buildings, Bev Ecker found a surprise or two, one involving the very place where she volunteers.

“We had thought the Beaverton History Center started as the Thrifty Market,” she said of the building at 12412 S.W. Broadway St. “All the history up to this point indicated it was from 1926. Then we found out it was called the 20th Century Grocery — built in 1925 — that started in the art deco building. Through careful research, we found out we’ve been telling people the wrong thing for years.”

Despite that anecdotal gaffe, Ecker is confident research behind newly installed plaques on the front of eight historic downtown buildings yielded information accurate enough to stand the test of time. Backed by a $2,000 donation from the Beaverton Downtown Association, local artist-historian Ecker worked with a four-person committee to create the decorative and informative additions.

Mayor Dennis Doyle and Lorraine Clarno, president of the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, joined committee members Ecker, Claudia McCarter, Susan Peter and Rita McCormick, along with downtown merchants and history buffs on Friday, Oct. 16, to dedicate the donated plaques.

Marking the spot

Anchored by Ecker’s drawing of the building, each granite rectangle displays the building’s completion date and original name, describes the architectural style and the structure’s original use. Toward the bottom are tidbits of the building’s history and its inhabitants, along with historical accolades from the National Register of Historic Places and local groups like the Beaverton Downtown Historic District.

The buildings, which form the basis of a three-block “Old Town Beaverton Walking Tour,” the History Center offers, were chosen for their overall historical significance and interest related to Beaverton’s 20th century development.

“We had a few others considered, but they didn’t have enough significance and a lower importance to the community,” Ecker said of the buildings erected no later than 1940. “We wanted buildings that had a story about them we could share with schoolchildren and families.”

Original maps and memorabilia stored at the Washington County Historical Society provided a touchstone for research, and the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro yielded deed information. The Beaverton City Library provided microfilm of newspapers printed in Beaverton during the era, including The Owl, published by Earl E. Fisher, which eventually morphed into the Beaverton Valley Times.

Making history

Claudia McCarter, the design committee’s chairwoman, praised the efforts of her fellow committee members Susan Peter, Rita McCormick and Ecker, as well as guidance from Amy Koski from the city of Beaverton’s planning staff.

“Each member brought multiple talents to the project,” McCarter said. “I had it easy once I got the grant application in. I just steered the talent and enthusiasm of these women and did a little historical research on the side.

“I know I drove them all mad with my insistence on ‘a little more research,’” she added, “but I wanted to be sure that every date and name and fact we stated on the plaque was backed up with verifiable data and not hearsay. The entire group had their hands in the editing of the (plaque) text, with one of us correcting it right up to the deadline.”

Building owners were supportive of the project from the start.

“Everyone was excited to have their building be part of the historic walking tour,” Ecker said. “Everybody was really cooperative and wanted to be part of it.”

Ecker and McCarter also had kind words for local vendors Shelley Chen of Best Cabinet and Granite for donating granite for the plaques, as well as Fred Bass of Stone Art, who engraved the etchings and installed the markers.

Past meets future

The plaques and historical tours are part an ongoing series of downtown-revitalization projects the committee is coordinating in the coming year, including interpretive and way-finding signage, as well as workshops on storefront rehabilitation to address window-merchandising techniques and funding for improvements.

“We’re very excited,” Ecker said. “We think this will bring more people downtown to walk around and learn more about the Beaverton Historic District. We’d like people to be proud of the committee and take a sense of ownership and pride in Old Town.

“People should come down and look around,” she added, “and become part of the history — part of the story.”

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