Exhibit offers rare look at Lake Oswego, past and present
Almost a year and a half ago, Oswego Heritage Council board members and volunteer Mark Browne began piecing together an idea for a "Then & Now" exhibit. Their goal: create photographic pairings that would showcase Lake Oswego's evolution from its days as an industrial hub to the residential and recreational community it is today.
Browne tabled the project while he finished work on other tasks, including the creation of an archive and research room to house the council's voluminous collection of historical documents, photos and other memorabilia. He took the lead in cataloguing the items and making sure they would continue to survive, and the resulting Barrett Family Archive Room was officially unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month.
With much of that work out of the way, Browne and other volunteers were free to pour over old photos, catalogue images and strategize. And on April 12, the council opened the doors to "Oswego Streets Then & Now: A photographic trip through time" — a fascinating look at how different life really was in historic Oswego.
"I'd never done anything like this. Choosing the images was the difficult part, because we had literally thousands to choose from," Brown says. "('Then & Now') is not at all a new concept, but I've never seen anything like this in Lake Oswego."
Having studied different "Then & Now" exhibits from around the world — including works by French and British curators — Browne says he was excited to pour through photos, choose famous or well-known landmarks and then photograph the locations as they look today with the help of OHC docents Caroline Glad and Sam Shatsky.
One of the hardest parts of choosing locations for the show was figuring out whether angles similar to those used in the historical images could be duplicated, Browne says. In the end, a few of the photo pairings were forced to be shot from different angles because of new construction or because access to a building wasn't allowed.
That forced Browne and crew to get creative with how they shot the new photos, he says.
"We had a very short amount of time to do this, and most exhibits like this would have had the ability to match the weather. We didn't have that, so we did the best we could," he says.
Some of the photos included in the exhibit depict relatively well-known events, such as the July 7, 1949 fire that destroyed the old City Hall at the site of what is now Lake View Village, or the funeral procession for Dena Prosser in 1895 that took place near the intersection of Durham and Church streets.
Some offer a glimpse into how vastly different life was in historical Oswego. For example, one photo depicting the iron works in 1911 at what is now Foothills Park shows a toxic, uninhabitable landscape where a beautifully preserved park sits today.
Others, such as a 1920 photo of sunbathers and swimmers at Oswego Beach near present-day George Rogers Park, show that a few things haven't changed at all.
"I love seeing people's delight. We've had a few people come in before it was completed and I love the recognition, the moment of realizing they know where that is," says Nancy Niland, Oswego Heritage Council's executive director. "I think it makes you care a little more about that particular building or the location."
The new exhibit, featuring 22 past-and-present photo pairings, will run through September. It is the featured exhibit in the Oswego Heritage House museum, which is located at 398 10th St.
The museum is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. or by appointment. There is no admission charge. For more information, go to www.oswegoheritage.org.