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Placards in downtown will tell of town's rich history, going back more than 100 years

The Newberg Area Historical Society is considering starting a signage program in downtown Newberg. The goal is to label sites and buildings with photographs and descriptions that will explain what was there in the past, what happened there and what is important about those places.

"The signs would help make downtown Newberg into a more walking tourist-friendly destination," Rachael Thomas, historical society president said. "We think that this would be a beautiful way of honoring our town. Our first goal is to install five or six signs. They will look very nice."

Funding is needed to begin the project, but everything else is in place, including the research, photographs and the proposed types of signs.

"We are starting to apply for grants and to raise funds," Thomas said. "Each sign will be 16 by 16 inches, laser engraved, stainless steel plaques. They can be mounted on podiums, like on the sidewalk or the side of a building. We are looking at both options right now. They cost about $405 each and the cost of mounting them, if it is a podium style, is another few hundred dollars."

The historical society sent a contingent of members to downtown Silverton to tour its historical signs to understand how the city went about its program. Silverton has podium-style signs that feature historical images. From that viewpoint, a person can see how the photograph lines up with the current view. Silverton has 10 signs and is set up in a way to guide people through the downtown.

If signs are posted outside of privately owned buildings in Newberg, then the historical society would first need to get permission from the business owner. If the signage is posted on city sidewalks, then the society would need approval from the city to install them.

"We have most of the locations," Thomas said. "It should come together if we can get the funds lined up. It is a kind of cute thing when you are walking around the town and are visiting for the first time you can look at the signs and see that and say, 'Oh, this is the old candy shop! This was a hardware store.' It means something.

"I also believe that it is important to know the history of the place that you are in. Because, when you know that history, you can relate to it and connect to the town."

Thomases' love of history and the history of Newberg in particular is obvious as she has acquired a wealth of knowledge of historical facts of the area.

"Newberg has a fascinating history, we have a lot of really unique inventors," the history instructor at George Fox University said. "We have a woman who invented the first self-cleaning house here in Newberg. It was never quite successful, but it was close. Almost every room was almost like a dishwasher. In the process she created dozens of patents of fabric that was water resistant, and book cases that would close, so she could basically turn on the sprinkler system in the ceiling so she could wash her whole room."

Thomas continued with another fun historical fact: "We have the inventor of the signs that go on top of pizza delivery (vehicles) and taxis -- the lighted signs. We also have the first artificial heart valve, (which) were created by Miles Edwards, who was a Fox student and a local guy. So we have some amazing things that came right out of Newberg."

The historical society is dedicated to the preservation of photographs, communications, letters, stories, buildings, artifacts and anything else historical. Thomases' passion is to celebrate these things and share stories of historical everyday people.

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