The oldest incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains, Oregon City (population 31,086) was founded in 1829. The city's unique topography includes three basalt terraces, which rise above the Willamette River just below Willamette Falls. Prior to Euro-American settlement, the area was a major gathering place for fishing and trade among Native Americans. As the "end of the Oregon Trail," the city became the final destination for many early emigrants.
Oregon City was originally established because of its location on the river just downstream from Willamette Falls, and for many years existed primarily as a manufacturing town based on the falls' productive power. The city has since evolved into a more economically diverse community, and is building on its heritage with a program called Blue Collar Creative to reinvent the city as a home for creative entrepreneurs.
In 1915, in order to overcome the difficulties inherent in the city's three terraces, the first Municipal Elevator was built to transport manufacturing and mill employees between their work, located on the waterfront, and their homes, located on two terraces some 250 feet above the downtown. The "Elevator Street" replaced the existing 722-step staircase, built in 1867, which in turn had replaced earlier Indian trails up the bluff. In 2007 the City completed a rehabilitation of the 1950s elevator, which helped to revive the isolated downtown area. Interpretive displays now educate riders about the city's development and the Municipal Elevator's history. It remains one of only four municipal elevators in the world.
Today, Oregon City, a Main Street Community, preserves and celebrates its history through several museums and tours of its historic downtown. These include the Oregon City Historic Trolleys, which link various historic sites with the downtown area while exploring local history and culture. The city government also created a Historic Review Board, which reviews public and private building projects in order to preserve the historic qualities of the district.
Designated a Preserve America Community in February 2010.