The Corvallis Riverfront
The banks of the Willamette River were the focus of early town development. The town plat for Marysville was files on February on February 25, 1851, by Joseph C. Avery, using a portion of his land claim of 1845. The town included property from the Willamette River to Fifth Street and from "A" Street (Western Blvd.) to Jackson Avenue. A few months later, William F. Dixon, owner of land north Jackson, extended the town further north along the river. In 1853, the town was renamed Corvallis.
Since the river was a natural transportation route for people and products, entrepreneurs Wayman St. Clair and Eldridge Hartless in 1849 established one of Corvallis' first general stores, facing the river near Jackson Avenue, close to the ferry landing.
With the establishment of steamboat navigation companies in the 1860s, wharves and warehouses sprang up along the river. By the 1870s, according to early resident Henry Gerber, "There were four big warehouses on the river bank, owned by Mr. Avery, Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Cauthorn and Mr. Blair. These were built chiefly for the storing and shipping of wheat."
In 1890, the Benton County Flouring Mills were built on the riverfront between Monroe and Jackson. Flour Mills and grain warehouses remained the principal riverfront businesses until about 1900.
riverbank structures appeared in Corvallis' early industrial zone. The calaboose (city jail) was located on the riverbank just north of Madison Avenue. In 1876, the city sold the jail property to William M. Pittman, who agreed to furnish a tank for the fire department and keep it filled for $50 a year. Pittman and others established a water company there, then moved it to First and Adams, and eventually sold the water works to the city. The tall water tower was the vantage point for many panoramic photos of early Corvallis.
In 1882, John Riley built the Corvallis Brewery near First and Jefferson. North of Van Buren Avenue stood Corvallis' first electricity plant, built in 1890. The Corvallis Creamery Company was established in 1903 on the riverbank just south of Madison Avenue. In 1912, the Corvallis Canning Company was located on the riverbank north of Van Buren Avenue.
The railroads came to Corvallis in the 1880s, and rail spurs serving riverfront properties ran from the Marys River to Tyler Avenue. First Street rail activity ceased in the 1970s, and the last of the rails were removed in 2002, when they were found under the old First Street pavement.
Riverfront sawmills were located at both ends of town. On the riverfront near Polk Avenue, sawmills were in operation between 1854 and 1911. On the south side of town, in 1909, the McCready Brothers founded a
sawmill at the confluence of the Marys and Willamette rivers. It eventually became the Corvallis Lumber Company, a major local employer for many years. The Central Planing Mill, later known as Buxton's, was located where you are standing. For half a century, it manufactured window sashes, doors and custom millwork for homes and college building.
Family homes occupied lots on the town side of First Street (also known as Water Street). An 1893 map shows 20 First Street homes between Tyler Avenue and Western Blvd. These homes gradually gave way to commercial enterprises, and the last First Street homes were removed in 1979.
J.C. Avery platted the town of Marysville in 1851. An Illinois farmer, Avery arrived here in 1845. He had the first store, sawmill and gristmill, and he was one of the incorporators of Corvallis College. Avery's family consisted of his wife, Martha, and eight children. J.C. Avery died in 1876 at the age of 59. Martha lived until 1911 to the age of 87.
William F. Dixon arrived in Oregon in 1845 after making the 6-month journey across the plains with his wife, Julia Ann, and two children. He secured a land claim in 1846 which shared its boundary with J.C. Avery's land claim. Shortly after Avery platted the town of Marysville, Dixon platted an adjacent portion of his land. The two plats were the beginning of the town.
He set up his business here as a cabinet maker.