Bend

By Stephanie Boyle Mays

Photograph by Nate Wyeth

The Deschutes River winds through Drake Park, which hosts fairs, festivals, and concerts all summer. Photograph by Nate Wyeth

Lured to Central Oregon by the Cascade Mountains and Deschutes River, today’s visitors to the area’s biggest city, Bend, are not that much different than the area’s earliest settlers who came here for the same reasons, albeit with a different purpose in mind. Timber rather than scenery and recreation drew the owners of the first saw mill in 1900. The city was incorporated in 1905, and more timber companies quickly arrived on the scene, particularly after the completion of the Oregon Trunk Railroad in 1911. In 1916, the Shevlin-Hixon Mill opened here on the Deschutes River, and then, only a month later, the Brooks-Scanlon Mill started operations on the opposite bank. Given the time period and the town’s main product, it’s not surprising that Craftsman bungalows specific to the Pacific Northwest were the young city’s architectural style of choice.

“At the turn of the century, Craftsman bungalows were inexpensive, easy to build, and the materials were all locally available,” says Heidi Slaybaugh, chair of the Bend Landmarks Commission and an architect with Bend firm BBT. “And that style has stayed popular. One of Bend’s largest, new mixed-use developments, Northwest Crossing, was inspired by Delaware Avenue, one of Bend’s oldest streets.”

Bend has two historic districts, Old Town and Drake Park. Both date to the establishment of Bend and are tied to the timber industry: Old Town was the workingman’s neighborhood, while Drake Park was for managers. “There’s a popular story that the houses in Old Town were built from lunch box wood,” says Vanessa Ivey, museum manager at Des Chutes Historical Center. That means, “Workers took home wood in their lunch boxes to build their homes. That’s just not true; they would have been fired for that. But the mills were very committed to workers having their own homes, so they sold them wood at a greatly reduced cost, and then they were built in the Craftsman style. In Drake Park, there are also Colonial Revival homes, because managers brought house plans with them when they moved here and then built the homes from local materials.”

In the years since, other styles have been introduced as people have moved here from other parts of the country. Downtown’s Tower Theatre on NW Wall Street, which was built in 1940, is an Art Deco structure. In this century, high-desert modern has become popular. Regardless of the style, the buildings reflect the resources that surround the area. “Like Jackson Hole,” Slaybaugh says, “we are committed to preserving the environment and beauty that is around us and using the materials that speak to that.”

One of the area’s oldest mills was repurposed into a shopping center. Photograph by Pete Alport

One of the area’s oldest mills was repurposed into a shopping center. Photograph by Pete Alport

Get Your Architecture On
Vanessa Ivey leads a popular walking tour during the warmer months that starts at the Des Chutes Historical Center. This center, a museum, occupies the former Reid School, which was built in 1914 from pink lava tuff mined just across the river under what is now Columbia Park. Other stops include the Beaux Arts-style Bend High School (now the school district headquarters) and homes in the Drake Park historic district. The latter includes that of George Putnam, who was the editor of Bend’s newspaper, The Bend Bulletin, long before he was the widower of aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

“During the tour, we use the buildings and homes as the characters in a story to tell the history of Bend,” explains Ivey. “Bend has always reflected the city’s vision of itself at any particular time. It’s why the high school was built in a Beaux Arts style, while surrounding towns had a more traditional western theme. Bend had industry and saw itself at the forefront—its buildings reflect that.”

The hour-and-a-half-long tour finishes across the street from the museum, at the Gothic Revival Trinity Episcopal Church, which was recently and painstakingly restored to its former glory after a fire. The museum also has a free app—Heritage Walk—that can be downloaded for a self-guided audio tour of historic downtown Bend. $5 per person for the walking tour; group size is limited and reservations are recommended; Des Chutes Historical Center, 129 NW Idaho Ave.; 541/389-1813; deschuteshistory.org

Old Town, Drake Park, and other areas can also be toured by more unusual means—electric bikes and Segways. Let it Ride Electric Bikes: $100; 25 NW Minnesota Ave., Ste. 6; 541/647-2331; letitridebend.com. The Bend Tour Company: $60; 550 SW Industrial Ways, Ste. 105; 541/480-8477; bendtourcompany.com

Built in 1940, downtown’s Tower Theatre is Art Deco. Nate Wyeth

Built in 1940, downtown’s Tower Theatre is Art Deco. Nate Wyeth

Bring It Home
Bend’s newest shopping district, the Old Mill, occupies one of its oldest sites, the Brooks-Scanlon Mill. While some buildings are new and built in the Bend vernacular of mill shed, two original structures—the Little Red Shed and the powerhouse—have been repurposed into commercial spaces. Find the perfect piece of stained glass or have it created to your specifications at DeWilde Art Glass in the Little Red Shed. 321 SW Powerhouse Dr.; 541/419-3337; dewildeartglass.com. Head to REI in the electrical station for any of the outdoor gear you forgot. 380 SW Powerhouse Dr.; 541/385-0594; rei.com/stores/bend. With its three smokestacks topped by an American flag, the brick powerhouse has become one of Bend’s most iconic images.

In historic downtown, visit Lark Mountain Modern in the E.M. Thompson Building—built in 1916—for practical and stylish homeware that is suitable for Craftsman, lodge, high-desert modern, and even Scandinavian interiors and exteriors. Ascent Architecture & Interiors revamped the building in 2015 and won best commercial remodel from the High Desert Design Council for it. 831 NW Wall St.; 541/797-2099; larkmountainmodern.com

Several doors down, the Liberty Theater now houses Jenny Green Gallery, a contemporary fine arts gallery that features Oregon artists. While the gallery is innocuous, the building itself has a checkered past. Opened as Bend’s first movie theater in 1917, it lost its glamorous edge when the Tower opened next door in 1940. During the 1990s, the Liberty was bought and renovation begun when the FBI swooped in and arrested the owner for laundering drug money through the project. After a short stint with the federal government as its owner, the building was again sold and the remodel finally finished. Spy the remains of the original stair supports to the balcony in the brick walls and walk uphill from the old orchestra pit to the front door.

Sections of the Deschutes are flat, but there are also whitewater sections. Trails for hiking and biking, some of them paved, parallel much of the river in and around the town. Pete Alport

Sections of the Deschutes are flat, but there are also whitewater sections. Trails for hiking and biking, some of them paved, parallel much of the river in and around the town. Pete Alport

Play
Like Jackson Hole, Bend is a mecca for all things outdoors and looks out on one of the West’s great mountain ranges, the Oregon Cascades.
Also like Jackson, there is hiking, mountain and road biking, and canoeing/kayaking in or near town. Rather than a national park, it is national forest—the 2,495-square-mile Deschutes National Forest—that protects most of Bend’s peaks and forests.

High elevations are accessible after Memorial Day, when the Cascade Lakes Highway opens for the season. Twenty minutes outside of town, the Wanoga Trail Complex provides a network of trails for mountain biking and trail running. fs.usda.gov/main/deschutes/home
Wanderlust Tours provides guided trips to area caves and, for canoeists and kayakers, to the high lakes. Starting at $75; 541/389-8359; wanderlusttours.com

Between the high lakes and Wanoga is Mount Bachelor. While known for its downhill and cross-country skiing, during the summer the resort’s chairlifts carry mountain bikes and their riders up the mountain. mtbachelor.com

Stand-up paddleboarding on the Deschutes River. Pete Alport

Stand-up paddleboarding on the Deschutes River. Pete Alport

In town, the Deschutes River divides Bend’s east and west sides, and draws everyone from everywhere. Stand-up paddleboard, canoe or kayak, or float the one and a half miles from the Old Mill to Drake Park. Be sure to take advantage of the shuttle that runs from Drake Park back to the Old Mill. Rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. $3 for an all-day shuttle pass; 805 SW Industrial Way; 541/317-9407; tumalocreek.com

Bend has more than two dozen golf courses, three of which made it into Golf Digest’s most recent top 100 in the U.S. list. Northeast of the city, Pronghorn is No. 33; fifteen miles south of town, Crosswater is 51; and in town, Tetherow is 54. pronghornresort.com; crosswater.com; tetherow.com

Oregon Spirit Distillers is only one of the town’s distilleries. Greg Kleinert

Oregon Spirit Distillers is only one of the town’s distilleries. Greg Kleinert

Eat Well
It will quickly become apparent there’s no need to go thirsty in Bend. With twenty-two breweries and a population of 80,000, Bend has the highest number of craft breweries per capita in the country and proudly proclaims itself as Beer City, U.S.A. It also has several distilleries and cideries.

Crux Fermentation Project is housed in a remodeled AAMCO transmission shop. Food here ranges from only-a-salad-please (try the Aamco, named for the previous tenant) to starving-after-mountain-biking (try the Optimus Prime prime rib). The more adventurous can order Gator Done, which features alligator tenderloin made into meatballs. When the weather is nice, sit outdoors and enjoy stunning views of the Cascades. Beers are often wild-fermented. Some are barrel-aged. Open daily for lunch and dinner; 50 SW Division St.; 541/385-3333; cruxfermentationproject.com

Oregon Spirit Distillers recently renovated and moved into the space formerly occupied by the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The original complex was built in the 1940s and was a successful feed store for more than fifty years. Within Oregon Spirit Distillers’ 7,200-square-foot space is a distillery, tasting room, barrel area, and the Barrel Lounge. Sip vodka, gin, whiskey, or one of their other spirits, and have a light meal in the lounge. This distillery prides itself on using local grains and fruits. Tasting room is open daily from noon to 7 p.m.; lounge is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 740 NE First St.; 541/382-0002; oregonspiritdistillers.com

The Pine Tavern is known as much for its downtown, riverside location (watch otters play) and the tree growing through its dining room as it is for a menu starring Oregon favorites, such as hazelnut-encrusted salmon, Dungeness crab cakes, and locally sourced prime rib. It’s worth the trip for the hot scones and honey butter. Celebrating its eightieth anniversary (in the same location) this summer, Pine Tavern plans on serving a commemorative IPA brewed especially for the occasion. Open daily for lunch and dinner; 967 NW Brooks St.; 541/382-5581; pinetavern.com

Built in 1920, the original Bend Firehouse served the city until 2000 when the fire department moved into a new building. The building was then remodeled into retail, residential, office, and restaurant spaces, one of which is the Brickhouse Restaurant. Diners here favor the steak and, curiously given the high-desert location, the lobster. Brickhouse has an extensive cellar of award-winning Oregon and Washington wines. Open daily from 4 to 9:30 p.m.; 5 NW Minnesota Ave.; 541/728-0334; brickhousesteakhouse.com

Wall Street Suites was redone in 2012.

Wall Street Suites was redone in 2012.

Rest Up
A short walk from downtown, and an even shorter walk from the river, is Wall Street Suites. Built in the 1950s as the Plaza, in 2012 the property was redone with an industrial lodge vibe. Bike rentals are available, and you can bring your dogs (but please, no more than two). There’s no restaurant, but rooms have full kitchens, and you are in walking distance of downtown’s eateries. From $176; 1430 Wall St.; 541/706-9006; wallstreetsuitesbend.com

Famous in Oregon and Washington for their repurposing of historic structures, brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin renovated the 1936 Old St. Francis School in Bend. In addition to rooms and suites, the property has several restaurants, a bakery, a brewery, a movie theater, and an open-roofed soaking pool with a tile mural of St. Francis. Rooms from $155; McMenamins Old St. Francis School; 700 NW Bond St.; 541/382-5174; mcmenamins.com

Lara House Bed and Breakfast is in the Drake Park Historic District. Built in 1910 by the Lara family, who ran a farm equipment and mercantile store, the property was a boarding house during the Depression and a home for Army families during World War II. For the past thirty-four years, it has operated as a B&B. Expect comfortable rooms with an eclectic selection of furnishings that could have been inherited from your grandmother. Generous breakfasts are served in the sunroom or in your room. From $159; 640 NW Congress St.; 541/388-4064; larahouse.com

The Lara House Bed and Breakfast is in the city’s Drake Park Historic District.

The Lara House Bed and Breakfast is in the city’s Drake Park Historic District.

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