History of Springfield
The site now known as the city of Springfield was first settled by Elias Briggs with a donation land claim in 1852. A portion of the Briggs family’s land was fenced off, which included a natural spring which later served as the community’s water source for over 25 years and provided the city its name. The Briggs family was instrumental in establishing saw and grist mills in 1853 and 1854 and also ran a ferry across the Willamette River near the present railroad bridge. Members of the Washburne family from Junction City, Byron J. Pengra (Surveyor General of Oregon in 1862), and the stockholders of the Springfield Manufacturing Company were all involved in land transactions which formed the community of Springfield.
Springfield was platted in 1856, was incorporated as a city in 1885, and a town blacksmith named Albert Walker served as the first mayor. Springfield continued to grow, and in 1891 welcomed the Portland, Eugene and Electric Railroad streetcar. By this time Springfield also had a general merchandise store, two grocery stores, two cigar stores, a drug store, two dress shops, two blacksmiths, a variety store, a meat market, a saloon, a barber shop, a shoe store, three hotels, two schools, and three churches. Springfield received its charter on March 17, 1893.
The Booth-Kelly Lumber Mill was established in Springfield in 1902. It provided the town with jobs, and the lumber with which many of the historic properties were built. The company assisted mill workers in the purchase of homes by deducting house payments from paychecks.
Springfield’s small town ways were maintained until after World War II, with Main Street still acting as the retail center. Industries were located northwest of the railroad tracks and residences were found to the north. In 1940, the City’s area was only 1.5 square miles and the population only 3,805. By 1998, the City had seen substantial growth, with apartments covering the spring, the origin of the City’s name. As of 2009, Springfield has expanded to more than 14 square miles and the population has grown to 58,085.
A historic context statement is a document used in planning for a community's historic resources. It identifies the broad patterns of historic development of the community and identifies historic property types, such as buildings, sites, structures, objects or districts, which may represent these patterns of development. In addition, a historic context statement provides direction for evaluating and protecting significant historic resources.
The original historic context statement for the City of Springfield was completed in 1991 by Lynda Sekora of Koler/Morrison Planning Consultants. It included an overview of the history of Springfield and its historic resources from the city’s beginnings through 1940, the year that corresponded with both the 50-year criterion established by the National Park Service for eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and the end of the “Motor Age” as defined by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Oregon.
This original document was updated and revised in 1999 by Michelle L. Dennis, Historic Preservation Consultant of Eugene, Oregon. This revised version has been formatted to meet the current standards for historic context documents. In addition, the revised version expands the original historic overview of Springfield to include the years between 1940 and 1955, which includes the World War II Era and a portion of the Post-War Era as defined by SHPO. A copy of this context statement can be found here.
For more information regarding the history of Springfield, please visit the Springfield Museum, located at the corner of 5th and Main Streets in downtown Springfield.