Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde this month began its third and largest phase of demolition at its 23-acre Tumwata Village property in Oregon City.
This round of demolition will raze 10 buildings and is expected to take four or five months to complete. Phase one of the demolition took place in 2021, with a second round following in 2022.
“We could not be more grateful or excited about this next phase of work kicking off to bring us that much closer to realizing our vision for Willamette Falls,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, chairwoman of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council. “We’ve already come so far. To see the progress and the work continue just makes us feel so hopeful for our site at the falls.”
Among the 10 buildings being razed are two that housed paper machines, Mill D and one that had been known as the Butler Building.
The former paper machine buildings being demolished cover the foundation of the 1866 pioneer flour mill, one of five structures identified for historic preservation in a master plan adopted by the Willamette Falls Legacy Project in 2018. The master plan identified four buildings and the foundation (of the 50-plus structures on the site) as highest priority for preservation, considering their historical value and potential for reuse.
Sara Thompson, deputy press secretary at the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, said the new property owners are putting "a great deal of effort" into the protection and preservation of historical sites and historical features such as the flour mill foundation.
“This includes direct cooperation with demolition crews to identify and clearly mark which sites are of historical significance, the construction of temporary barriers around the historically significant structures to protect them and on-site monitoring by archeologists to ensure that no damage is done,” Thompson said.
Blue Heron closed in 2011, and in 2019 the Grand Ronde acquired the property, in part to reclaim a section of its ancestral homelands. The tribe’s vision for Tumwata Village includes “healing, connection and public access to Willamette Falls.”
The 10 structures being demolished this year are located on the northwestern section of the tribe’s property close to downtown Oregon City. The tribe anticipates that additional phases of demolition will be necessary to achieve Grand Ronde’s vision, of environmental and cultural restoration alongside new mixed-use development.
Since purchasing the property, the tribe secured $800,000 in federal environmental cleanup support from the EPA (May 2021) as well as $2 million for infrastructure improvements from Congress (October 2021). More information about the site and Grand Ronde’s vision for it is available at tumwatavillage.org.