A Daytrip in Central Oregon: Albany, Lebanon, and Brownsville
I have family who live in Lebanon, Oregon, located in the Willamette Valley in west central Oregon. While on a recent visit, my Aunt showed us around some of her favorite parts of the area for a day. We didn’t see a lot, but there are definitely a few things worth a stop on a road trip or if you are in the area. There isn’t much to see in Lebanon, so we spent most of the day in Albany, OR and Brownsville.
Our first stop on our day tour ended up being the highlight of the day for me. My Aunt mentioned an old historic carousel in Albany, so we went to check it out. What we found wasn’t a carousel, but a Carousel Museum and a work of art in progress.
In 2002, Albany resident Wendy Kirby was inspired by a community carousel created in Missoula, Montana, and brought the idea back to Albany. Since 2003, volunteers have been working on carving, painting, and bringing to life the 52 unique carousel animals for the future Albany Carousel. It appeared that they were a little less than halfway done when we visited, with quite a few finished animals on display, and the rest in the works. Each animal takes years to complete, and the paint takes 6 months alone to cure.
All the animals are created by volunteers, many without any prior wood carving experience. Anyone who wants to help can be given a job. The animals are so intricately carved and detailed, and you can see all the love that goes into each one. I was more excited to see this process than I was a finished carousel. I think that the process is the best part–something creative and exciting that brings the community together and will give them something to be proud of for years to come.
I didn’t see her in the making yet, but when I went to their website I saw that they are also making a walrus, “Walltha,” I must go back and visit the walrus someday. I LOVE walruses.
Also at the Carousel Museum are pieces of old carousels on loan from the Dentzel family, the first family to bring carousels to America in 1870. The pieces are well preserved and date from 1885 to 1905.
The Carousel Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Wednesday evenings until 9:00 PM. Closed on Sundays. Address: 503 1st Avenue West, Albany, OR 97321.
After the Carousel Museum we decided it was time for lunch, so my Aunt took us to one of her favorite restaurants in Albany, The House of Noodle. It was a very reasonably priced Thai restaurant with many noodle and soup options as well as other traditional Thai dishes. My Aunt’s favorite is the “Spicy Drunken Noodles.” Entrees come with a small salad or cup of soup. I ordered the Tom Kha Chicken Noodle Soup, which was very good, and only $9.50 for a giant bowl of soup, veggies, chicken, and noodles.
We made dinner and breakfast at my Grandma’s house during our trip, so I don’t have any other restaurants to report. However, more dining options in Albany are listed here: http://www.albany.com/guide/guide_dining.cfm
After lunch my Aunt took us to her favorite thrift store in Albany, St. Vincent De Paul.
The store was huge, and had a large section of plus/women’s sizes as well as misses sizes. They also had quite a bit of furniture and a large used book section in the back. I found an awesome dress for $5.00, a shirt, and a pair of new-looking gold sparkly flats. My Aunt told us that St. Vinnie’s is a little less “picked-over” than other thrift stores in the area.
My Mom and Grandma were ready for a nap at this point, so we took them home and then my Aunt and I continued to Brownsville. The drive to Brownsville from Lebanon is very scenic, with sweeping views of Willamette Valley and farms in the area. Brownsville is a very well-preserved historic pioneer town with buildings and houses dating back to the 1850’s through the 1920’s. It is very cute and has lots of little shops and cafes to poke around in.
We arrived too late for a tour, but the Moyer House was still an interesting landmark to see. Built in 1881, restoration is on-going and nearly complete on the historic Italian-style villa. Tours are offered Saturdays from Noon to 4:00 PM and Sundays from 2:00 to 5:00 PM.
My Aunt’s favorite part of the house is the old 100+ year old wisteria tree in the front yard:
Our last stop in Brownsville was Kirks Ferry Trading Post (217 Bishop Way, Brownsville, Oregon, 97327). Kirks Ferry Trading Post is a restaurant, bar, and event space built around an old historical log cabin built in 1846 by Alexander and Sarah Kirk. It is one of the oldest buildings in the state of Oregon, and the first settlement in Linn County. It is now owned by the great grandson of Alexander Kirk.
Alexander and Sarah Kirk were some of the early Oregon Trail pioneers who settled in the area . The 640 acre property borders the Calapooia River, and the Kirks set up a small flat-bottom ferry to transport horses and wagons across the river. It operated for 6 years until the county put in the first bridge across the river. The trading post was also a stop along the Oregon Trail for pioneer travelers. It was the first settlement in the area, and paved the way for other buildings and settlers. Eventually the town name changed from Kirks Ferry to Brownsville.
Inside the Trading Post building you can tour the outside and inside of the old cabin. We were there in January on a rainy day, and the Trading Post was warm and smelled of a wood stove. It was very welcoming.
My Aunt had recently been there for her office holiday party. She said it was a very nice event space and there were appetizers laid out for guests on the bar inside the old cabin. Behind the cabin the event space and seating area continues, and there is a bar as well. We sat at the bar and talked to the owner for a little bit. He is very proud of his family’s heritage and is looking to book more events at the Trading Post. Next time I’m in the area I’d like to come back and try the food.
There is definitely some great history preserved in the Willamette Valley, and some great history in the making at the Carousel Museum in Albany. This was the first time I’d taken some time to sight-see other than just visit with family, and I’m happy that I was able to do both on this trip. I am looking forward to coming back to see the progress on the Carousel, having dinner at Kirks Ferry, and seeing what else the area has to offer.