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North Plains History: Corner of Commercial & Main

From Melvin Van Domelen, Local Historian and 4th General Area Resident

The North Plains Commercial Bank was built in 1911 on the SW corner of Commercial and Main Street. There is speculation that the bricks for the bank building came from the Dicke brickyard that was located east on Commercial Street where it dips down into West Union Road. There was a depression in the hillside where the material for the bricks had been taken out.

The Mays brothers, Marion and Elmer, were the backers of their bank along with several other notable people. In 1921 robbers broke through an outer brick wall and got into the safety deposit vault. The vault was then moved into the center of the building. Historic bank books

I have children’s savings banks in the form of a small book (photo right) that were given out by the Commercial Bank. They kept the keys for these gifts so they could only be opened at the bank. I also have some processed checks from there. In 1931 this bank was merged with the Commercial Bank of Hillsboro.

The building today is called the First or Last Watering Hole, depending on which direction you are going. They can name these taverns in town anything they like. To those of us who have lived here all our lives, they will always be the ‘upper’ and the ‘lower’ taverns.

A hitching rack stood beside the bank, used to tie up horses, wagons and buggies. In the space that Duyck’s Garage now occupies, there was then a novelty shop and bakery.
Going south on Main Street from the bank building on the west side of the street was one of the three furniture stores that were in town. Way out at the edge of the woods is a small, isolated building that was the Powder House, where they stored the explosives far out of town.

Directly north, across Commercial Street from the present Duyck’s Garage, the small City Hall once stood. I can’t remember this City Hall, but I do remember the tiny building that stood next to it. It was about the size of a one-car garage. I watched this building sag and settle and finally disappear. Inside had been store3d a high wooden-wheel fire hose cart with a handle for men to pull it. That hose cart stood out in the weather for years on that corner. It was something that should have been saved.

A little farther, on the west side of Main Street, was a hardware store. Then came the depot station for the United Railroad (photo below). The depot stood some 100 feet west of Main Street along the tracks. My older brother told of riding the train into Portland. This would have been in the early 1920s. He said that the train made two or three trips a day. I have seen train load after train load of logs come down that railroad with three huge logs on each railroad car. Also, a lot of lumber was shipped from the mills on the coast.

Historic Train StationThe station master had a long pole with a slingshot ‘V’ on the end. He would attach a packet of messages on the slingshot and the train engineer would stick his arm out of the engine’s cab and collect the bag as he went by, white steam clouds billowing. 

The depot building was donated by the RR company to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), then auctioned off and part of it was used in a pizza restaurant in Beaverton. Today there is no longer any sign of the North Plains Depot.