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Oswego Iron Furnace gets national historic award

Six leaders of restoration project recognized by National Trust


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The National Preservation Award is presented to Lake Oswego City Councilor Jeff Gudman. Also participating are, from left, Jorge Hernandez, vice chair of the National Trust Board of Trustees; Gary Vonada (Pioneer Waterproofing Company), construction supervisor; Tom Fowler (Miller Consulting Engineers, Inc.), project engineer; Councilor Jeff Gudman; Rick Minor (Heritage Research Associates), project archaeologist; Susanna Kuo (Furnace Restoration Task Force), historical consultant; Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Once a derelict furnace sitting behind a chain link fence, the Oswego Iron Furnace is now a vital symbol of Lake Oswego.

Because of this, six of the people who made it possible were honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the National Preservation Award on Friday night at the Fox Theater in Spokane.

The six recipients were:

•Jerry Knippel, city of Lake Oswego, project manager.

•Thomas E. Fowler, P.E., Miller Consulting Engineers, Inc.

•Gary Vonada, Pioneer Waterproofing Co., Inc., construction supervisor.

•Rick Minor, Ph.D, Heritage Research Associates, project archaeologist.

•Susanna Campbell Kuo, Ph.D, Furnace Restoration Task Force, consulting historian.

•Judie Hammerstad, former mayor of Lake Oswego.

Fowler, Vonada, Minor and Kuo were present at the gala ceremony. Knippel and Hammerstad were unable to attend. Lake Oswego City Councilor Jeff Gudman was on hand to accept the award on behalf of Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman, who was unable to attend.

The Oswego Iron Furnace played a key part of Lake Oswego's history. Built in 1866, it began the famed "Iron Age" in Lake Oswego as the centerpiece of an industry that was instrumental in building the infrastructure for much of Portland. It was the first iron furnace on the Pacific Coast and is the only Civil War-era iron furnace still standing west of the Rocky Mountains.

Unfortunately, Lake Oswego's dream of being the Pittsburgh of the West faded away, and so the Iron Furnace's identity as a dynamic symbol of the community also faded away. It was a mere relic for more than 100 years.

That changed in 2003 when Kuo and former LO mayor Bill Gerber petitioned the city to preserve the furnace as part of the major renovation of George Rogers Park. The city council responded by creating two citizen task forces to push the project forward by gathering data, studying other furnace restorations and consulting experts in historic preservation of industrial archaeology. After much effort, including 660 hours of volunteer work by task force members, the city council voted to fund the project with a $918,000 grant.

It was on July 24, 2010 that the furnace was dedicated at a community celebration at George Rogers Park. It included a kiosk with eight interpretive panels that was designed by Kuo and her sister Corinna Campbell-Sack.

The furnace project sparked other major historical preservation efforts that now enrich Lake Oswego, including the purchase of the Iron Workers Cottage in 2003 and the establishment of the Oswego Iron Heritage Trail in 2012, a route with seven stops at sites of great importance to the iron industry that was the making of Lake Oswego.



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