'Electric' presentation precedes opening of 'Made in Milwaukie' -

History buffs are in for a couple of treats this week with a new exhibit at the Milwaukie Museum and a presentation on how inventors at Willamette Falls rocked the nation by sending electricity over a dozen miles to illuminate Portland in 1889.

Photo Credit: PHOTO COURTESY: ROBERT STEELE/PGE - PGEs 1893 Sullivan Plant at Willamette Falls, today. One turbine-generator dates to 1924. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, the Clackamas County Historical Society holds its quarterly public meeting with Robert Steele presenting "A (Short) Electrical History of Willamette Falls.” Then join new curators for the opening of "Made in Milwaukie" from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Milwaukie Museum, 3737 S.E. Adams St.

At the Museum of the Oregon Territory, 211 Tumwater Drive, Oregon City, Steele will outline how an epic flood, inventions by Westinghouse and Edison, and a partnership of enterprising minds synthesized at Willamette Falls to spark both the first D/C and A/C long-distance transmissions of bulk power in the United States — even before Niagara Falls. 

Attendees will be able to sign up with PGE retiree Terry Judkins for small, guided tours of Portland General Electric’s historic Station B, built in 1893. Later renamed The Sullivan Plant, after Irish hydraulic engineer T.W. Sullivan, the plant still operates today, employing hardy turbine-generators, some dating back to the early 1920s.

'Made in Milwaukie'

Photo Credit: PHOTO COURTESY: MILWAUKIE HISTORICAL SOCIETY - In the 20th century, Milwaukie became an agricultural center, and companies like Binn Bros. shipped their products across the country.With a seed grant from the city, Alder LLC began working as the curators for the Milwaukie Historical Society in March. The team of three consultants hope "Made in Milwaukie" is the first in what is a series of changing exhibits exploring the history of Milwaukie and its environs.

While assessing the museum's collections, consulting historian Morgen Young found particularly interesting a large collection of documents and artifacts related to P & C Tool, one of many artifacts related to local manufacturing, from companies like Fischer Pottery and Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing (now Blount). She and the Milwaukie Historical Society settled on "Made in Milwaukie" since it allowed them to tell both a chronological and thematic history of Milwaukie through the agricultural products, manufactured goods and ideas that originated in the city. It also highlights artifacts from the museum's collections in a different context.

“When the museum opened in 1975, it was interpreted as a house museum with a recreated parlor, living room, bedroom and kitchen on the first floor,” Young said. “Many museums across the country are moving away from the house museum model. We wanted to demonstrate to the historical society a different approach to interpretation.”

Visitors to "Made in Milwaukie" will learn about early settlers Lot Whitcomb, Henderson Luelling and Seth Lewelling, and the goods they began producing from the area, such as Red Cross brand flour and Bing cherries. They will learn about William S. U'Ren's and others' efforts to get the initiative and referendum amendment passed in 1898. Recent history in the exhibit includes Dark Horse Comics, Dave's Killer Bread and Bob's Red Mill.

Two permanent exhibits include a text panel that tells the history of the historical society's facility — an 1865 farmhouse built by George Wise and moved from Lake Road to its current location in 1973 — and "Milestones in Milwaukie History," a timeline of landmark events. Some of the entries include: the Clackamas Indians; Lot Whitcomb and establishment of the first permanent white settlement; first school in the area; construction of McLoughlin Boulevard; John F. Kennedy's visit to Milwaukie; and the Willamette River flood of 1964.

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