There is nothing like getting out for a walk and enjoying nature while getting a peak into the past. Clark County’s Ridgefield Historic Walking Tour is a great way to get some exercise and connect with history and current happenings. Ridgefield’s rolling hills, tranquil setting, and one-of-a-kind downtown offer vibrancy, charm and inspiration. The tour invites awareness of many early business sites and landmarks that are still the heart of the community.
“These walking tours provide an opportunity to discover downtown,” says Marykay Lamoureaux, executive director for Ridgefield Main Street. There are more than 15 historical sites on the City of Ridgefield’s walking tour to enjoy.
You can trek via a self-guided tour or schedule a guided tour with Clark County Historical Museum’s Wander Clark County walking tours, which are conducted seasonally. “We like to have engagement on our live tours,” says Brad Richardson, executive director for the Clark County Historical Museum. Richardson helped to develop the walking tours. “And you get to talk and chat, and we build in time for relaxation.”
Historical walking tours let you dive deep into the past, present, and future on all things Clark County. “These places have intact historical structures and elements that help you tell the story,” says Richardson. “Groups can embrace that history, and it creates community identity.”
The community places value in Clark County’s historical districts. People attending the guided tours will often bring their own experiences to the conversations around the founding of Clark County cities, historic Main streets (There are three in Clark County), the Barracks, tales from Clark County’s most famous residents, and more, including the strong connection with indigenous people. “It’s a unique experience,” says Lamoureaux, who is also on the Board of Trustees for the Clark County Historical Museum. “And it is what makes the tours special.”
The 1.15-mile Ridgefield Historic Walking Tour begins at Overlook Park located at 131 S. Main Avenue, at the intersection of Pioneer and Main, by the beautiful art sculpture Wings of the World. “We set the stage here in this idyllic setting,” explains Richardson. “This is the living room of nature,” he says of the views overlooking the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. “This is a soft, lush place.”
Ridgefield developed in two pieces. “This is important to talk about,” says Richardson, “because Ridgefield was first called Union Ridge.”
According to historical notes, in 1840, James Carty, a young Irish immigrant filed the first Land Donation Claim in the area, a portion of which is the present-day northern part of downtown Ridgefield. History indicates that Carty was the only settler until 1853, when Frederick Shobert arrived and homesteaded 320 acres, which included the southern portion of the current downtown area. The original name of the community was Union Ridge due to the number of residents originating from the Union Ranks of the Civil War. The name was changed to Ridgefield in 1890 after S. P. Mackay successfully circulated a petition to rename the area and a meeting was called to order to decide the fate of the city name.
The Union Ridge Presbyterian Church located at 113 S. Main Avenue by Overlook Park was built by Henry and Stephen Shobert in 1884, this building was the first church in Ridgefield. First known as the Union Ridge Presbyterian Church, the congregation was established in 1882. The site for the new church was donated by Frederick and Catherine Shobert, and the church built by their sons Henry and Stephen and dedicated on August 31, 1884. The church was known under several different names, including Union Ridge Presbyterian, The Community Church of Ridgefield, and Ridgefield First Presbyterian.
Other interesting historical sites on the Ridgefield walking tour include the Ridgefield Jail located at 116 N. Main Avenue. One of the historical jail tales tells of the first arrest for speeding in Ridgefield. “This is one of my favorites,” laughs Richardson. Apparently, in August 1916, Dr. F.R. Schoenborn, manager of a dental parlor in Portland, was arrested for speeding and driving under the influence. “He was fined $5 and costs, which totaled $7,” says Richardson with amusement. The jail is currently used for storage.
Ridgefield Hardware (which also doubled as a bank) on 104 N. Main Avenue, is believed to be the oldest still operating hardware store in the Pacific Northwest. “Criminals broke into the hardware store shortly after it opened and used tools to break into the bank,” shares Richardson, chuckling again good-naturedly.
The Red and White store (now Ridgefield Pioneer Marketplace), Schroeder’s Sweets Shop (now Delicious Dishes Catering), Ridgefield State Bank (now Ridgefield City Hall), the Reflector Newspaper (now El Rancho Viejo), Ridgefield Pharmacy (now Lily Wiggans Antiques), Old Liberty Theatre, and more are sure to please with historical happenings and origins.
To enjoy a self-guided walking tour, visit the City of Ridgefield website for a guide. Register online for seasonal Wander Clark County Tours at the Clark County Historical Museum.