From Rowe to Rhody: 100 years of the Rhododendron Post Office
The community of Rhododendron has seen a lot of change in the past century. What was once a summer resort colony, has blossomed over the decades into a year-round settlement and home to nearly 2,000 residents.
In 1909, a post office was opened in the mountain community known as Rowe.
The area was named after Portland Mayor Henry S. Rowe, who was a fan of the local scenery and interested in developing the state's scenic attractions. The post office was renamed ZigZag in 1917, but on Jan. 26, 1920, a new post office opened in the small village that became known as Rhododendron, named for the proliferation of rhododendrons growing in the area.
Now, 100 years later, the community plans to celebrate the history of the Rhododendron Post Office with special postage and a party from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Still Creek Inn, 73365 Highway 26. Rhododendron branded merchandise will be available for purchase at the event.
"(The post office) put Rhododendron on the map," said Rhododendron Community Planning Organization President Steve Graeper. "The founding of the post office is a milestone and we want to help celebrate Rhododendron."
Graeper has been a long-time visitor and now volunteers on Mount Hood. His family purchased a Steiner cabin in the 1940s where he still resides part-time today.
"Rhododendron was once a thriving community and a destination location," said a statement from the Centennial Celebration Committee of the Rhody CPO. "Henry Rowe's 'Rhododendron Inn,' built in 1905, attracted many travelers that would embark on a daylong journey from Portland along the Mt. Hood Loop Highway to enjoy the scenic wonders of the area. Development in the '20s, '30s and '40s saw the community grow with many of the homes and summer cabins that still exist today. The community of Rhododendron thrived up through the late 1960s."
After Highway 26 replaced the Mt. Hood Loop Highway in the 1960s, Rhododendron's identity and popularity changed.
"From the 1970s up to today, Rhododendron has become known as the chain-up area for skiers or the wide spot before (Highway) 26 narrows from four lanes to two," the Centennial Celebration Committee noted. "The 40 mph speed limit is largely ignored and pedestrian safety when crossing (Highway) 26 is treacherous at best. Rhododendron is trying to redefine itself. Working with Clackamas County and ODOT, Rhododendron is working to enhance the safety and beauty of the community."
This event is only one step in a greater process of celebrating and enhancing Rhododendron. Additional celebrations are planned for Aug. 8, 2020, to coincide with the annual Steiner Cabin tour, which will be focused in Rhododendron this year.
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