New visual history book of Hillsboro out next spring
A Hillsboro historian is making a book that shows a visual history of the Washington County seat.
Art Sommers, who published a similar book of Washington County history in 2019, says that he's completed a photography book that shows images of Hillsboro throughout the decades.
The book's format features old photographs courtesy of the Five Oaks Museum, paired with modern photos taken by the author or other local photographers. The effect is to have a side-by-side comparison of what a building or city block used to look like before Hillsboro became the industrial hub of the west side.
The title is "Hillsboro Past and Present," and it will be published through California-based Arcadia Publishing next spring.
As he did with his previous book about Washington County, Sommers says he is donating the royalties from this book to the Five Oaks Museum.
"Arcadia books don't really sell large numbers, and I was not going to get rich," Sommers says. "So donating money to the museum is not really a big thing."
Sommers moved to Hillsboro about seven years ago from Sacramento, California, where he similarly studied local history and photography. When he came to Oregon, he started volunteering at the museum, which at the time was called the Washington County Museum.
Sommers says he was intrigued by the over 30,000 historical images in the museum's collection. That's what got him interested in a book on Washington County. But he came across so many images of old Hillsboro that the idea for a follow-up book on "The Hub City" made sense.
Images he dug up depict the old Hillsboro City Hall building sometime after it was constructed.
The dates of old photographs can be hard to discern. Sommers says the historical record can be muddy on specifics, and he is still trying to confirm when many of the old photos were taken.
In those days, City Hall — which has long since been torn down — served a dual purpose as the fire station, with big roll-up doors that allowed engines in and out. The second floor was also a meeting space for fraternal groups like the Freemasons, Sommers said.
In the corner of the historical image, the Oregon Electric Railroad tracks can be seen peeking out of the corner — demonstrating precisely where Hillsboro's historical nickname as a transit and commercial hub comes from.
Now, that block contains a sprawling apartment complex called the City Center Apartments, right across from the Hillsboro Civic Center that acts as the de facto center of the city's administration.
Another image depicts workers along Second Avenue, which at that point was just a muddy road with few buildings lining it. The crews were installing wooden planking to help prevent flooding.
The modern shot of the street shows how far infrastructure has come, with paved roads and drainage that handles all the side effects of Oregon's moist climate far better than a crew with shovels could.
Sommers says he hopes the book inspires people's historical curiosity. The format, with modern images next to old ones, can appeal to those aren't history buffs.
"The great thing about the past and present format is that you don't need to be interested in history," Sommers said. "You get to see the past and present right in front of you."
He added, "Plus, I enjoy photos, so I think they are quite pretty books."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.