Oregon City neighborhood restores historic Elyville name
A proposed renaming of a neighborhood at what was once the southern end of Oregon City demonstrates an effort to restore civic pride for an area that lost much of its identity as it became surrounded by shopping malls and subdivisions.
Members of the Barclay Hills Neighborhood Association recently voted to rename their group after Elyville. Neighborhood Association Chair Karla Laws received a call from neighbors to restore their identity and sense of place through the Elyville name.
"I want to make sure that the residents were heard," Laws said.
Known as "Elyville" for nearly a century, "Barclay Hills" first showed up in 1973 on a plat map for the subdivision built out in 1975 by Parrott Development. A surgeon at the Fort Vancouver depot 1840-50, Dr. Forbes Barclay eventually moved to downtown OC but had nothing to do with the neighborhood up the hill. Elyville was founded by Fred Ely and expanded by his two sons George and Duane Ely.
Commercialization along Molalla Avenue has destroyed most of the buildings originally constructed in Elyville. Remaining structures built in Elyville include the 1898 W.B. Stafford House. Two blocks from what became the center of Elyville, the 1848 Holmes House is owned by the McLoughlin Memorial Association as a museum at the Rose Farm, site for the inaugural ceremonies for the first Oregon Territory governor.
William Livingston Holmes, a native of Tennessee and his South Carolina-born wife, Mary, arrived in Oregon in 1843 to settle on the area's Donation Land Claim of 640 acres. The Ely family ended up buying much of this land.
Pronounced "Ee-lee-vil," Elyville was known as a small working-class community annexed into the city in 1893 and the site of the original city reservoir. By 1900, Elyville had more than a dozen houses, a fire department, general store, post office and carpenter shop.
George C. Ely served as postmaster of the Ely Post Office, established Jan. 7, 1891 and closed Dec. 31, 1904, when mail began to be forwarded to Oregon City Post Office. The heart of Elyville was at Duane Street (now Barclay Hills Drive) and Holmes Lane, which is close to Stafford Park and Singer Creek Park, along with Mountain View and St. John the Apostle cemeteries.
By the 1890s, Oregon City newspapers show that the area was popularly known as Elyville. Referring to the area within a few blocks of what is now the intersection of Molalla Avenue and Holmes Lane, newspapers would provide gossip about out-of-towners visiting the city's Elyville neighborhood, and ads in the newspaper gave Elyville as the location of businesses.
Among the historians contributing research into Elyville are Leesa Gratreak, City Commissioner Denyse McGriff, Steve Dietz, Johna Heintz and descendant Karen Ely Ellis. Citizen Involvement Committee members are expected to consider the Barclay Hills Neighborhood's request for a name change and forward their recommendation to City Commission for final approval.
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