McLoughlin Conservation District

7th and Center StreetPlease note: Only homes that are locally designated require a review of exterior alterations. However, all new construction or large additions in the District require review by staff or the Historic Review Board. If you are unsure if your project will require review, please contact the Planning Division at 503-722-3789.

The McLoughlin District is referred to as the "second level," reflecting its topography and relationship to the original town of Oregon City, which lies just below the base of a steep basalt cliff. In the 1850s, few people built homes on the second level but as the downtown area became more crowded, and after the completion of the Oregon and California railroad in late 1869, more residents moved up the hill, to what is now called the McLoughlin neighborhood. Construction continued from the 1870s into the first quarter of the 1900s, and the buildings from this period contribute to McLoughlin's late 19th - early 20th-century ambiance. Churches followed their congregants, and the high school, two elementary schools, and a parochial school are within the district.

The area is a broad, relatively flat bench that begins at the western edge of the bluff above Oregon City, bounded by High Street and the Promenade. The "bowl" then rises gradually 200 feet on the east in a series of undulating terraces to the top of the hill, the "third level." Beyond the top of this bluff, the land stretches east to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

The McLoughlin Conservation District is composed of pockets of development that coalesced over time. Consequently, it contains a "checkerboard" of architectural styles. Except for 7th Street, which remains a commercial and retail corridor, and Center and High Streets south of 7th, which has lost single-family homes to one-story office buildings, the neighborhood is primarily residential, with scattered churches and schools.

There are a few blocks where one architectural style predominates. For example, a Queen Anne-style home may be surrounded by a variety of vernacular homes, bungalows, post-1925 homes, non-historic homes, or apartment buildings. While there are clusters of homes in a related style (often fewer than a half-dozen on facing blocks), there are no large sections of just the most popular "bungalow" or "Queen Anne" houses. The area at the southeast edge of the neighborhood (commonly called "Dutch Camp") contains the largest concentration of old homes but they vary in style. In the 7th Street business corridor (also known as the "Arc Light" area) a few 19th-Century False front stores remain, interspersed with single-story streetcar-era commercial buildings, a 1920's stucco-finished Fire and Police station and a brick IOOF hall. Some of these are constructed of wood, others are concrete or brick. Most of the 7th Street businesses are "one building deep." They are built to the edge of the sidewalk but extend back on either side of 7th Street to the mid-block alleys. A part of "Latourette Canyon" at the northern portion of the district near 12th and Monroe is an area of many bungalows and Four-Square style homes. Near the eastern edge of the commercial area is the city's former Carnegie Library which has been restored and is now a community building. It is situated in a block-square park with a lawn, mature trees, and a plaza/play area. As 7th Street rises to the east the commercial district thins and transitions into a more residential area. At the top of the hill (the third level), 7th Street turns south and changes into a more contemporary strip-mall commercial corridor.

Beginning in 1982 the McLoughlin neighborhood sought designation as an Oregon City Historic Conservation District, which was achieved in 1986. Following a survey of 971 buildings, 305 were identified as architecturally or historically significant properties. In 2002 a resurvey noted approximately 200 more buildings within the district boundaries of lesser significance, but due to their age and form were seen as strengthening the overall historic character of the district. The resurvey found the district eligible for listing as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. At the same time, historic structures beyond the Conservation District boundaries but within the city limits of Oregon City were surveyed and 72 were designated of historic significance. Some of these are close to the McLoughlin district; others are farther from the core area, either isolated in newer subdivisions or still within their larger homestead-era properties. It should be noted that some of the oldest homes have been moved into the district for their preservation, including the Barclay, McLoughlin, and Ermatinger pre-territorial homes. Since the 1970's individual properties have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places (nearly all are also city landmarks), and several have been restored. Interest in the history of the McLoughlin Neighborhood developed in the 1980s through walking tours organized by an individual, as well as by members of the Old House Forum, a group of historic homeowners. In the mid-1980s, concerns about preserving historic buildings mounted during the city's comprehensive plan update. Residents feared that the proposed rezoning to high-density residential would lead to the destruction of its older buildings. In 2004 Oregon City's updated Comprehensive Plan recommended that the McLoughlin Conservation District be changed to a National Register Historic District, like Canemah.

There are approximately 153 blocks in the McLoughlin Conservation District of which 121 are from the original plat of Oregon City. They are approximately 200 by 200 feet square, and generally divided into 50 by 100-foot lots. The exceptions to the square conformance are the blocks between Center and Van Buren, 10th and 11th streets where they are slightly narrower. Many of the blocks were further divided by alleys. Some of these alleys have been vacated and built upon; others, especially in the two blocks which parallel the main business thoroughfare on 7th Street, continue to be used as alleys.

Please note: Click on the links to the left to view information about historic buildings in the Multnomah District.  Explore the area interactively using Oregon City's Maps of Historic Resources.