Before meeting Timothy Bishop of the Baker Ciby Tourism Bureau for an early morning breakfast at the Lone Pine cafe I took a stroll through this picturesque downtown. Plated in 1865 and incorporated in 1874 the town is along the Oregon Trail and surrounded by the Wallowa-Whitman Forest.
Named after Edward D. Baker, the only sitting US Senator to be killed in military engagement, Baker died in 1861 while leading a charge for the Union Army at Ball’s Bluff Virginia during the Civil War.
Timothy told me that the city has been selected as one of six Most Beautiful Towns by USA Today and Rand McNally. “We are experienceing a renaissance now,” Timothy said with some Generation X entrepreneurs and artists opening new businesses downtown.
Noting the buildings are all full and open Timothy credits that to the fact that with Boise, Idaho the closest big town that “A lot of the day to day business is done here. We have a hardware store,a Sears and amenities that make a great mix. We have the right retail to include with the younger entertainment infusion.”
The beautiful bones of the city came from the 1890’s gold rush. “In the late 19th century, this was epicenter of the Gold Rush Some of the wealthiest mines were here.”
That meant that some of the great buildings like the Gieser Hotel which Timothy called, “the grandest hotel between Seattle andSalt Lake” was built. After the mining dried up timber, then agriculture and cattle moved in. Over time the town went though a bit of a decline.”After World War II, they made it more modern adding new facades,”Timothy said.
They also changed the name of the town from Baker City to Baker. Baker City MainStreet began in 1983 and by 1991 they had staff. “As they were working toward the sesquicentennial they started renovations.”
With a grant, renovation began starting with the Geiser Hotel. Downtown the old facades were removed and the building outsides were restored to their original glory. “We have seem a lot of amazing restoration,” Timothy said. “For a town of 10,000 the downtown is really grandiose. The founding fathers thought this would be the Capitol of Oregon.”
The wide Main Street also adds to the grandeur of downtown. “When developing they made a 100’wide street so that when they brought ore out of the mines with a 30-mule team the street had to accommodate them,” Timothy added.
I strolled and admired some of the architectural high points, then hightailed it back to the Lone Pine where I had a great egg and avocado concoction for breakfast. While there I enjoyed the sounds of their vinyl selection as Waylon and then Bob Seger crooned some songs on from my day.
Later the next day, as I sat on the veranda at Wisdom House I could see the sun coming up on Baker City and must say, USA Today was right, it is a lovely view!