How fast did La Grande grow after railroad arrived?

By Dick Mason, The Observer July 22, 2013 10:04 am

The growth was explosive.

La Grande had about 400 residents when the railroad began operating here in July of 1884. Six years later it had a population of about 2,600. The growth spurt created a housing boom. A total of 35 new homes were built in 1889, while 152 were constructed in 1890 and 183 were built in 1891.

“Within two or three years after the completion of the railroad, La Grande had the appearance of a growing and prosperous town,” according to a story in the June 22, 1932, edition of The Oregonian. 

La Grande was based in the “A,” “B” and “C” street area when the railroad arrived in 1884. La Grande’s commercial district was about a mile south of the new railroad depot. This caused many residents and businesses to move north to the new center of commerce.

“And La Grande, finding itself a mile off the line, reestablished itself and created a ‘new town’ beside the railroad … ,” The Oregonian reported.

The original part of La Grande became known as Old Town, a reference which is still heard today.

Did the City of La Grande once flip a coin to determine which company would receive its business?

On Jan. 4, 1956, the city council did flip a coin to determine which oil distributor would receive the city’s business for regular gasoline. 

The coin flip was conducted after two companies submitted identical bids to the city. Standard Oil Company won the coin flip, according to a story in the Jan. 5, 1956, Observer. Standard had bid 22.43 cents per gallon. The name of the other company that bid the same amount was not listed in The Observer.


When did La Grande have a Park Avenue?

Park Avenue existed in the late 1800s and possibly into the early 1900s. It started at Fourth Street and Washington Avenue and ran east. Today all of what was Park Avenue is Washington Avenue, according to the booklet “Jack Evans: An Oral History.” The Union County Oregon History Project published the oral history in 2004. Evans, a La Grande resident who died in 2006 at age 78, was regarded as one of this region’s premier historians.

Evans said the street running directly west of Park Avenue was known as Washington Avenue just as it is today. Evans believed that Park Avenue’s name was changed to Washington Avenue to clear up confusion.