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Tigard's history explained at library lecture

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Local historian and librarian Sean Garvey talked about the city's street names, landmark buildings and origins.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Cars drive through Tigard's city limits on Highway 99W, which cuts through the city in between Portland and Sherwood.What do you know about the place where you live?

Tigard has only been an incorporated city since 1961, but its roots stretch back a century earlier. In fact, local historian and librarian Sean Garvey noted in a recent presentation on Tigard's history, it used to be known by a different name — three different names, as a matter of fact.

"When the pioneer Wilson Tigard first arrived here in 1852, the area wasn't known as 'Tigard' or 'Tigardville.' Folks actually called this area 'Butte,'" Garvey said.

The name was both a reference to the Tigard area's rugged landscape and a simple appropriation of the name of the Washington County election precinct that covered the area, Garvey said. When that precinct was divided, the community was briefly known as "East Butte."

In 1884, the Tigardville General Store opened near the corner of Gaarde Street and what is now Highway 99W in Tigard. Charles F. Tigard, son of Wilson Tigard, was the store's proprietor.

"When Charles Tigard first established the store, within a couple of years, he was able to get a license to open a post office from the U.S. Postal Service," Garvey said. "So since the store was known as the Tigardville General Store, that's how people were addressing their letters, 'to the Tigardville Store.' And eventually, the name 'Tigardville' came to be known and replaced the old names of 'Butte' and 'East Butte,' which just had that election precinct designation."

The name of "Tigardville" was ultimately shortened once a train station was built in the town, becoming simply "Tigard," after the pioneer family.

"When the train came through and business moved down to Main Street here, this was kind of the cutting-off point between 'Old Tigardville' and new Tigard," Garvey said of the general store.

The store passed into the hands of the McDonald family in 1909. The McDonalds operated it until 1955, when it was torn down following the death of proprietor Herb McDonald.

Their name lives in on Tigard as the namesake of McDonald Street, which runs from the intersection of Highway 99W and Gaarde Street east to Hall Boulevard, Garvey said.

Gaarde Street is also named for a businessman who featured prominently in the early history of Tigard, according to Garvey.

Jørgen Gaarde, better known locally as "John," emigrated from Denmark and settled in what is now Tigard in the latter part of the 19th century. A blacksmith, he established a shop in town near the Tigardville General Store. His family ultimately lent its name not just to Gaarde Street, but also to Gaarde Christian School, a private K-8 school and preschool on the north side of the road.

Many of the early settlers who lent their names to Tigard's streets came from Europe, just like Jørgen Gaarde. One of them was Rudolph Hunziker, a Swiss immigrant and dairy farmer who actually worked on the construction of what has been known since that time as Hunziker Street, according to Garvey.

"I've read that the construction of Hunziker Street was overseen by their neighbor … who was a road foreman and superintendent for the Washington County Roads Department," Garvey said. "And so Rudolph and his son Ed helped deliver crushed rock during construction of this road. And they likely built it just to get better access to their land there."

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Frewings, immigrants from England, were one of Tigard's influential families of the late 19th century, and some of their descendants still live in the area today.The Frewing family came to the Tigard area from England in 1879, Garvey said, and some of their descendants still live nearby.

"The Frewings have been around in Tigard for quite a long time," he remarked.

They lent their name to Frewing Street, which runs diagonally between Highway 99W and Omara Street.

The case of Omara Street is a more curious one. It was originally named after the family of James O'Mara, settlers from Minnesota, according to Garvey. Loyola O'Mara, scion of the family, was the longtime roads superintendent for all of Washington County, he added.

Somewhere along the line, the apostrophe was dropped from the street's name and it is now signed as "Omara Street," obscuring its original heritage.

Another Scandinavian immigrant, Emil Johnson, is the namesake of Johnson Street. Garvey said Johnson's business, Tigard Lumber Co., was regarded as one of the largest lumber companies on the West Coast at its peak.

"Emil Johnson was quite a builder himself. He actually singlehandedly built the north side of Main Street, from the railroad tracks going up. If you're standing at those railroad tracks looking north on Main Street, (that) row of buildings on the left side of the building where there's (Yen's) Chinese Restaurant and going up, all of those buildings were built by Emil Johnson, beginning in the late '20s," Garvey said. "So he really had a significant part in building up Main Street."

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Joy Cinema and Pub is one of Tigard's oldest and most recognizable businesses.For his contributions to Tigard's landscape and business achievements, Johnson was named Tigard's "First Citizen" in 1941.

Right around that time, a local landmark that is still in business today was becoming a popular attraction in town: Joy Theater, known today as the Joy Cinema & Pub, at the corner of Highway 99W and Hall Boulevard.

"I just love this Art Deco building," Garvey said.

The theater was built in 1939. Its first owner was John Jay Taggart, who named it for his wife, Joy Taggart, Garvey said.

"The reason he did that is because Joy's mother also had owned and operated a theater in Vernonia," he explained.

The first movie shown at Joy Theater was "Gone with the Wind," Garvey said.

Garvey also covered the names of some local parks, which are generally named for more recent figures in Tigard's history, in his presentation on March 12.

Three of those parks — Woodard Park, Cook Park and Dirksen Nature Park — are named for prominent former mayors of Tigard, respectively Edward Woodard (mayor from 1962 to 1965), John E. Cook (mayor from 1984 to 1986) and Craig Dirksen (mayor from 2004 to 2012).

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
503-906-7901
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