Pamplin Media Group – New Hillsboro Visual History Book Coming Next Spring


Art Sommers published a similar book on Washington County in 2019. Now he has one on “The Hub City.”

A Hillsboro historian is preparing a book that shows a visual history of the Washington County seat.

Art Sommers, who published a similar book on Washington County history in 2019, says he’s completed a photography book that shows images of Hillsboro over the decades.

The book format features vintage photographs provided by the Five Oaks Museum, combined 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 looked like before Hillsboro became the industrial center of the West Side.

The title is “Hillsboro Past and Present,” and it will be published by California-based Arcadia Publishing next spring.

As he did with his previous book on Washington County, Sommers says he’s donating royalties from that book to the Five Oaks Museum.

“Arcadia books don’t really sell in huge numbers, and I wasn’t 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, Calif., where he also studied local history and photography. When he arrived in Oregon, he began volunteering at the museum, which was then called the Washington County Museum.

Sommers says he was intrigued by the more than 30,000 historic images in the museum’s collection. That’s what got him interested in a book about Washington County. But he came across so many images of old Hillsboro that the idea of ​​a follow-up book to “The Hub City” made sense. PHOTO COURTESY: FIVE OAKS MUSEUM - Hillsboro's old city hall building was also the downtown fire station, as these rolling doors let fire trucks exit.  Freemasons and other fraternal groups apparently also used the second floor as a meeting space.  The block now houses an apartment complex.

The images he unearthed depict the old Hillsboro City Hall building sometime after it was built.

The dates of old photographs can be difficult to discern. Sommers says the historical record can be muddy on specifics, and he’s still trying to confirm when most of the old photos were taken.

At that time, City Hall – which has long since been demolished – served as both a fire station, with large rolling 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 historic image, the tracks of the Oregon Electric Railroad can be seen outside the corner, showing precisely where Hillsboro’s historic nickname as a commercial and transit hub comes from.

Now this block contains a sprawling apartment complex called City Center Apartments, directly across from the Hillsboro Civic Center which acts as the de facto center of city administration. PHOTO COURTESY: ART SOMMERS - The downtown apartments are now located where the old Hillsboro City Hall building was.  Today, the Hillsboro Civic Center, just across the street, serves as the administrative headquarters for city business.

Another image depicts workers along Second Avenue, which at that time was just a muddy road lined with a few buildings. Crews were installing wooden planks to help prevent flooding.

The modern street photo shows how far infrastructure has come, with paved roads and drainage that handles all the side effects of Oregon’s humid climate much better than a crew with shovels. PHOTO COURTESY: FIVE OAKS MUSEUM - Workers install wooden planks along Second Avenue in Hillsboro to combat flooding which is scrambling the roads.  Given the power poles and lack of motorized cars, this image was likely taken around the turn of the 20th century.

Sommers says he hopes the book will inspire people’s historical curiosity. The format, with modern images alongside old ones, may appeal to those who are not history buffs.

“The great thing about the past and present format is that you don’t have to care about the story,” Sommers said. “You can see the past and the present right in front of you.”

He added: “Also, I like the photos, so I think they are very beautiful books.”

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