Lovers Oak Tree recreated by Crete, Inc located between the Barn Exhibit Hall and the Harlow House Museum.
A Community Enhancement Grant by the City of Troutdale.
Troutdale Historical Society
Realizing that encroaching urbanization would alter their historic town, a few Troutdale citizens founded the Troutdale Historical Society in 1968. The society is a non-profit 501 (C) 3 organization governed by a Board of Directors assisted by an executive director, administrative assistant and volunteer workers. Volunteers host all three museums, plan and make sure all activities are successful and constantly dream up new ideas. A team of volunteer curators take care of the collection of historic photos, documents, and artifacts. We have more than 400 members who receive a quarterly newsletter either through regular mail or email. We also email our newsletter to many area businesses and historical societies.
We like to quip that “All of our business is old business at the Troutdale Historical Society.” If you would like to learn how to become a member click HERE
Preserving The Past
In the last few years we have displayed in pictures and text, the story of the smelt runs in the Sandy River, a time line from the evolution of the Columbia River Gorge to the Troutdale area in the year 2000, and treasures saved when the county was ready to condemn and tear down the Multnomah County Poor Farm. It was the Troutdale Historical Society that stepped in and led the fight to save the county farm as a historical landmark. Eventually it was purchased, restored and developed by the McMenamin brothers who turned the property into a charming destination for travelers, artists, musicians, offering a brewery, distillery, dining, music and events.
Our Logo - Lovers Oak
Lovers Oak replica installed April 2018
Shaped by an 1876 Columbia River flood, the slender oak tree was forced over one log and under another, maturing into the shape of the letter "S" lying on its side. The lowest curve of the tree formed a perfect bench where friends and lovers met on pleasant Sunday afternoons. Local residents soon came to call it the Lovers Oak.
During World War II when the government built the aluminum plant nearby, it was agreed to fence and protect the tree. The publicity resulting from that decision brought the tree to the attention of Ripley's Believe it or Not, a nationally syndicated cartoon featuring unusual items throughout the world.
After the war, the tree was forgotten by most and, with the advent of prosperity and more cars, it was no longer a Sunday afternoon destination. The tree fell in the Columbus Day windstorm of 1962, but is remembered in the logo of the Troutdale Historical Society.
c1950 original Lovers Oak tree located near current Troutdale Airport.
Names: Praying Tree (appears to be kneeling in prayer), Centennial Praying Oak (flood waters receded on July 4, 1876 causing the form), Lovers Oak (a favorite courting site), Lovers Seat, Camelback Tree, Arch Oak, and Arch Tree.
Location: Bank of the Sandy River, north of I-84, east of the Troutdale Airport (once Sun Dial Ranch, owned by Captain James Menzies)
Origins: A sapling in an Oak Savanna, a forested area with Oak, Pine, and Hazel trees.
How it was formed: Its formation was created during a flood in June 1876. As the flood receded July 4, 1876 the oak sapling was bent over a log as another log landed on top of it. Eventually the fallen trees rotted away leaving this living tree formation. It became a rendezvous point for friends and lovers, where they could enjoy the shade of the tree and steal a kiss or two.
Discovery: James & Wilbur Menzies discovered the oak tree in 1879 while building a fence on their father’s land. It was an oak sapling, 4” in diameter, with its serpentine shape and rotting logs under and over it.
Saved from the ax: In 1889 the land was sold, and the timber harvested, except for Lovers Oak. It then stood alone in an empty field. Reynolds Aluminum Plant was built early 1940s. A public outcry to save the tree prompted Reynolds to build a fence around the tree, but the area was off limits during the war.
Claim to fame: Subject of Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the 1930s.
Destruction: 1962 Columbus Day Storm
Remains: Vern & Marty Rathman were among those who discovered the fallen tree after the Columbus Day storm. The remains were there, inside a small fence, when Sharon Nesbit first went looking for it in the 1970s. However, at the time of the construction of the Troutdale Sewer Plant (2001) at the location, no sign of the tree or fence could be found.
Remembrance: Became the Troutdale Historical Society’s logo c1985. Lovers Oak logo appears on the newly renamed Bygone Times newsletter in 1986.
Lovers: George Lumsden & Bertha Wells became engaged at Lovers Oak in 1911 (Homer Lumsden, April 21, 1988)
New Lovers Oak at Harlow House (2001): Bob Strebin saw to the planting of a new Lovers Oak, to be trained into a curve on the south lawn of the Harlow House.
New Lovers Oak Arch (2018): Art installation by artist, Mike Vernelson of Crete, Inc, made possible by a Community Enhancement Project grant through the City of Troutdale.