HIGHWAY 5 OREGON ●AURORA
Aurora is the first organized Christian communal society established west of the Mississippi. The 400 original colony members arrived via the Oregon Trail in 1855. Sharing property and labor with one another, they florished here from 1856 through the mid-1880s. The community became known for simple living and for accumulating a minimum of material things, and it produced fine musicians, craftsmen, and scholars. Though the colony disbanded in the 1880s, many descendents continue to live here.
Aurora opened its first antique store in 1959. Now, with more than 200 antique dealers, it claims to be Oregon’s antique capital. What I like best about antiqueing here--besides the generally good prices made even better by Oregon’s policy of charging no sales tax--is that many of the shops operate within restored historic buildings. But be cautious. On my last visit I purchased an item that I later found in Portland for half the price!
The town was designated Oregon’s first National Historic District in 1974.
Alternate route Highway 99E, it goes right through town, splitting it in half.
Heritage Gardens Located behind one of the larger antique shops, this quiet old-fashioned garden is a delight to walk through and photograph. Ask around town for precise directions. Sponsored by the Portland Garden Club.
Old Aurora Colony Museum 2nd/Liberty. Fee. Five buildings display a collection of kitchen utensils, farm implements, and other artifacts once used in the daily lives of colony members. Informal guided tours begin with a slide show telling how the mostly German colonists settled first in Pennsylvania, then in Missouri, then here. The tour also includes the restored 1870s Steinbach Log Cabin and Kraus House. Browsing the exhibits, we saw some unusual musical instruments--most of which still work--and an elaborate music box sent back to the town by Henry Theophilus Fink, who was the first Oregon student to graduate from Harvard (the whole town helped him with expenses) and who worked at the New York Post as a music critic from 1881 to 1924. As a Bay Area resident, I found it interesting to learn that the town once operated a busy hotel serving travelers on the road between San Francisco and British Columbia.
●Aurora Antiques 21581 Main St. Operates within a stately building.
●Home Again Antiques 21631 Main St. NE, (503) 678-0227. This two-floor shop smells of beeswax furniture polish and purveys a curated selection of, folk art and fine furniture. You’ll see quality pieces—perhaps a primitive wood bowl or a unusual kitchen item from the early 1900s.
●Time After Time 21611 Main St. NE. Antiques and fine gifts are displayed in the repurposed 1874 William Fry House. This snug shop offers an extensive collection of tea paraphernalia in its back room and some unusual handpainted furniture upstairs. Creaky floors add to its charm.
●Scattercreek Junction 21641 Main St. NE. Around back, down a flower-bedecked path, the two-story, circa 1865 Jacob Miley House is stocked with quilting supplies, antiques, and collectibles. Limited food service--panini sandwiches, soup, gelato, coffee--is available on enclosed back porch by kitchen.
Aurora Colony Visitors Association