Book Review: Bend in Central Oregon

Bend in Central Oregon by Raymond HattonThe next book I’m reviewing here is also by Raymond Hatton: Bend in Central Oregon. Like his previous book, this is a fairly short read (134 pages) yet fairly comprehensive.

The first thing to notice on the book is the publication date; originally published in 1978 and revised in 1986, there is an obvious 20-year gap for anyone looking for a more recent history of Bend, and at the same time, reading about "modern" Bend up until about 1980 is charmingly anachronistic and surprisingly relevant.

For example, Wall Street in downtown Bend used to be the main Highway 97 thoroughfare through the area, but:

Late in 1962, the Highway 97 by-pass was opened, rerouting through traffic one mile east of downtown Bend [on to Third Street]. Landscape changes resulting from the establishment of the "by-pass" have been profound. In many respects the character of Third Street, as it is commonly known, reflects a typical commercial strip highway, found in "Anytown, U.S.A."

The theme that the by-pass "drained some of the vitality from the heart of the city" immediately sounds familiar to anyone who remembers the Parkway debate of the ’90s, and the "stripmall" criticism of Third Street (from 45 years ago!) resonates surprisingly with the article that appeared in the Bulletin last week:

Ripe for redevelopment is the Third Street corridor, where buildings popped up decades ago when the road was still the major highway through Bend.

"The development that emerged out there was almost entirely auto-orientated – fast foods, convenience uses, gas stations – low density uses that service high volumes," Shetterly said.

Of course, the function of Third Street changed when the Parkway was built in the 1990s.

"The days of serving as a classic strip (mall) corridor are nearing an end," he said. "We see that in the site by site changes in land use."

To help create a better Third Street, one of the suggestions is to add trees and other landscaping, build sidewalks, construct buildings along the edge of the street and put in bike lanes.

Anyway, back to the book. Like his other, this one is well-supplemented with black and white photos of Bend from various eras and stages, and Hatton pulls quotes from various sources (though the text is not as quote-heavy as High Desert). The main section of the book looks at the history and growth of Bend as a city, and is the most interesting as a result. Other sections look at the geography of the area, downtown, landmarks, and parks.

It’s a good book, and one of the things most striking to me was the fact that the issues over growth, tourism, and "outsiders" moving into the area have been an source of discussion and contention since at least the 1930s—despite the common perception (mine included) that it has really only been an issue since the 1990s.

I highly recommend it. It can be found at the library and (used starting at $2.34); being out of print since 1986, I haven’t seen it at the Book Barn but I’m sure they could order copies for you if you asked.