2012 articles About Offbeat Oregon 2012 articles 2011 articles 2010 articles 2008-2009 articles About me Store (the Finn J.D. John Centre for Crass Commercialism and Filthy Lucre)
Links to Offbeat Oregon History podcast page on iTunes Daily RSS feed (text/images) info Offbeat Oregon History page on Facebook. New historic photographs are frequently posted. Offbeat Oregon on Twitter. This is where you'll find most of the "pop history" community. Daily RSS audio edition (podcast) and iTunes feed Links to Offbeat Oregon History podcast page on iTunes
z

EXHIBITS:

The Benton County Historical Museum has an excellent and thorough on-line exhibit dedicated to Camp Adair and especially to the Army units that trained there.

THE BOOK:

John H. Baker's book is the definitive source of historical information about Camp Adair.

IN THE NEWS:

In March 2010, the city of Adair Village moved two of the old barracks buildings for restoration. Here's a link to the Corvallis Gazette-Times' article about the planned move, and here's one to the Albany Democrat-Herald's article about the move itself.

ADAIR TODAY:

Camp Adair today is known for several things:

Radio-controlled airplanes. A nearby 120-acre park includes an aerodrome and little airstrips. Here's a link to the Benton County Radio Control Club, which uses the park as its base of operations.

Geocaching. The old foundation walls, chimneys and slabs of the camp provide millions of great places for stashing and finding treasures using GPS coordinates.

Did you know?

The City of Adair Village, population under 1,000, still has Camp Adair's water rights -- it can draw about 53 million gallons a day from the Willamette. That's more than 50 times as much as it needs.

you just might ALSO
enjoy ...

z

Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...

z

Far-out guru "enlightens" Central Oregon.

What happens when a colony of acolytes of an East Indian guru move in, then try to take over Wasco County? Check out the four-part story of the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram ...

z

this oregon youth went on to save half a billion lives...guess who?

A local Willamette Valley teen-ager named Bert Hoover, an orphan sent from Iowa to live with his uncle, went on to save millions of lives and become a singularly ill-starred U.S. president.

z

oregon's most spectacular shipwreck ever.

The steam schooner J. Marhoffer was almost brand-new when, burning fiercely from stem to stern, it piled onto the rocks near Depoe Bay. It's the remains of this fiery shipwreck that gave Boiler Bay its name ...

z

the gallant rescue of portland's floating brothel.

Maritime madam Nancy Boggs kept her bordello on a barge floating in the river, until a police raid cut it loose. But the captain and crew of a sternwheeler came to save the day. Here's the story.

z

take off to the province of oregon, eh?

Few people know how close Oregon came to officially becoming a British possession under the treaty that ended the War of 1812. Only the presence of a handful of scattered, starving survivors from Astor's fur enterprise prevented it. Here's how.

z

timberline lodge could have been a glass skyscraper

Calling the plan a "profit-making eyesore," a Forest Service manager nixed 1920s plan for a modern steel-and-glass structure with an aerial tramway. You can read about it right here.

z

pixieland: an edgy, vanished amusement park

Built in the late 1960s as a "fairy-tale history of Oregon," the amusement park lasted just a few years before slipping into receivership. Today, all that's left of this odd and uniquely Oregonian story is a dilapidated guardshack.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Camp Adair, Oregon's second-largest city, built in six months

Bustling metropolis of 40,000 lasted just six years before being turned, by order of the U.S. Government, into a ghost town and cut up for salvage.

Postcard image from Camp Adair
A postcard from Camp Adair, designed to be sent
home by soldiers stationed there.

In 1942, Oregon’s second-largest city sprang into being. In six months, a big patch of the mid-Willamette Valley became a massive Army training camp: Camp Adair.

Six years after that, Camp Adair was the state’s biggest salvage operation. And today, it’s the state’s biggest ghost town.

Here’s the story — the short version, anyway:

Getting ready for war

In about 1940, people in Washington, D.C., pretty much knew war was coming, and started looking around for a 65,000-acre piece of ground, mostly nice and flat but with some hilly, wooded terrain on it — a place that would seem like a little piece of Germany, where they expected to be doing the fighting. By 1941, it was down to two sites: one near Eugene and one just north of Corvallis.

R.I.P.: Town of Wells, Oregon

Business leaders in Corvallis and Monmouth, with an eye on the retail trade, actually visited Washington to lobby for the more northerly site. To the dismay of about 750 people living in the area around and in the tiny town of Wells, who were subsequently displaced by the base, they were successful. Many had to leave crops in the ground, and weren’t compensated for them — although the government did pay for their land.

But there were few complaints. After all, there was a war on. A few weeks later, Wells was razed and the area was, as they say today, shovel-ready.

A new building every 32 minutes

Then the crews moved in — four big construction companies that, during peacetime, were fierce regional competitors. During the construction season of 1942 — mid-spring to late fall — they built about 1,800 buildings. According to historian John H. Baker, these included “a field house with three full-size basketball courts, a bakery which had a capacity to produce 45,000 loaves of bread every day, a wastewater treatment plant, a fresh water treatment plant … a heating plant, 500 barracks, 11 chapels, five movie theaters, 13 post exchanges, two service clubs, a hospital … a bank, post office, phone exchange, warehouses, coal yards, headquarters building, a gas house, firing ranges, a (model) German village, electrical substation and service, airfield, day and orderly rooms, rail yards and the major improvements of Highway 99W.”

To do this, 8,000 people worked all summer. At their peak, they were finishing a building every 32 minutes. Electricians learned to wear stilts to save the time it usually took to move a ladder around. The hospital, Baker said, broke a national record for construction speed. And it was all done on time, and under budget.

By mid-September the instant city was ready to welcome its 40,000-odd inhabitants. This, at a time when Salem had just 31,000 residents and Eugene about 20,000. (Portland, at 305,000, was the runaway leader in population.)

Units trained at Adair for service in the war included the 91st Infantry “Powder River” division, the 70th Infantry “Trailblazers” division, the 104th Infantry “Timberwolf” division and the 96th Infantry “Deadeye” division.

After the war: Ghost town

The camp was decommissioned after the war, although little bits of it lingered on into the 1960s — including an array of anti-aircraft missiles installed in 1959. Buildings were dismantled in panels and trucked away, or floated across the Willamette River, to be used to build new homes; hundreds of these, characterized by sash windows of uniform size and two-inch-thick exterior walls, still shelter families all over the mid-valley (although many have been upgraded to give them better insulation).

Today: Birdwatching in the ruins

Today, the northeastern corner of Camp Adair is a wildlife refuge, the E.E. Wilson. It’s been restored to the seasonal wetland that it once was, so mosquitos are not unknown there, although — thanks to the plentiful bug-eating wildlife — not as common as you might expect. The long, straight, broad stretches of abandoned blacktop make for a pleasant bicycling spot, and the plentiful ruins and foundation walls are great for geocaching. It’s an especially rewarding place to visit with a copy of Baker’s book to use as a “ghost town guide.”

Nearby, the city of Adair Village — incorporated in the 1970s on a corner of the old site — still has several of the original buildings, including the camp’s old fire station, which is now a restaurant.

(Sources: Baker, John H. Camp Adair. Newport, Ore.: John Baker, 2004; Benton County Historical Museum, ODFW Visitor’s Guide, www.cityofadairvillage.org; U.S. Census Bureau)

-30-

Personal note:

I actually live in a house that was built, in the early 1950s, out of salvaged material from Camp Adair. Before we moved in, I gutted the old house and retro-fitted it with studwalls.

The construction technique was fascinating. Each panel was built by laying out tongue-and-groove 1x4 planks on a flat surface, probably a concrete floor, laying out an X-shaped pattern of bracing 1x4s on top of that, and nailing it together with ribbon nails. Then 3/8-inch sheetrock (Kaiser brand) was attached to that, and voila! Wallboard, studwall, sheathing and siding, all in one neat little two-inch-thick package!

Of course, the insulation value was very low, and the walls looked weird. The walls also carry the load of the roof, all by themselves — a system I've heard called "structural sheathing." And in our case, the weight of the whole house was transfered to the mud sill on the foundation by nothing more than a row of nails.

The floor wasn't a structural part of the house, either. In fact, I ripped the whole thing out, including beams and girders, and for a little while our home was nothing but a 60-year-old shell nailed to the mud sill of the foundation wall, with a dirt floor.

It wasn't pretty. But it worked. And it's a lot nicer now that I've fitted studwalls up behind the shell and insulated it all.

--Finn