Many travelers drive by the exit marked “Oakland” on I-5 joking that maybe they made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in California. But the curious who venture a few miles off the interstate to explore this National Historic Landmark discover that this Oakland is an interesting voyage into Oregon ’s past.
Established in the 1850s, the hamlet today gives little indication of the caprices of fate and fortune it has experienced in its 150-year history. Oakland is noteworthy for leftover touches of refinement from its golden age, which seem almost incongruous against its present-day small-town facade.
Oakland was a stopover point for the main stagecoach line linking Portland and Sacramento until the Oregon and California Railroad came to town in 1872. With these two transportation linkages, Oakland thrived as a trading center for outlying hop fields and prune orchards. In the early 1900s, millions of pounds of dried prunes were shipped all over the world from Oakland.
In the 1920s and 1930s, raising turkeys became the prominent industry in the area, and Oakland became the leading turkey-shipping center in the western United States. From the 1940s through the 1960s, the lumber industry dominated the local economy. Today, livestock ranching, farming, and tourism are the economic mainstays.
While not as commercialized as Jacksonville , its counterpart farther south, Oakland still provides a good place to pull off the interstate and reflect on the passage of years in a one-time boomtown turned rural hamlet.
Old Town Oakland is a good place to start your tour because this is where it all began. An excellent free history and walking-tour pamphlet is available at the city hall (117 3rd St.). The original wooden buildings were destroyed by fires in the 1890s, and most of the brick and stone structures in the historical district date back to this era of reconstruction.
The Oakland Museum (136 Locust St.) is worth visiting. The exhibit in the back re-creates Oakland during its boom times. There are many antique stores, art galleries, and curio shops to browse through as well.
Tolly’s (115 Locust St., 541/459-3796, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Wed.–Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $20–42), is a beautifully preserved restaurant and a great place to stop by for a meal. Be sure to save some room for the homemade desserts, or perhaps something old-fashioned from the soda fountain.
Oakland is located about 17 miles north of Roseburg . Take exit 138 from I-5.