This bridge dates to 1916. It has been restored several times and is the sole remaining original covered bridge in Marion County. It features one of the more interesting histories of Oregon’s covered bridges. The name ‘Gallon House’ was given since the north approach used to be a ‘pigeon drop’ – a place where whiskey was sold by the gallon. At the time, the town of Silverton to the south was dry – no alcohol – while Mt Angel to the north – being a good Catholic town – was wet. The hinged portals have been removed and taller loads can pass through now as a result of renovations done in the mid-1980’s. Notice the difference between the older photo of the bridge and the bridge today.
City ordinances dictate building styles to include some form of ‘Germanic’ flavor and the result is a American version to be sure. On several buildings, beautifully painted murals can be found, here the history of the town and its development can be taken in at a glance, from the monks, the sisters, the coming of the train and the Oktoberfest festival.
The arrival of the monks and sisters and the establishment of schools and monasteries led to Mount Angel becoming a local center for Catholic culture. Many local Catholics came and the town slowly grew. The present parish church was built between 1910 and 1912 with a lot of work being done by local parishioners themselves. It is a massive church built in a Revival Gothic fashion with a soaring 200 foot bell tower that can be seen throughout the local countryside. The church is very similar to what you would find in a German or Swiss local rural town. When the church was dedicated, there were 280 families in the parish and that number has gone up to over 850 today.
During the May 1993 earthquake, major damage was caused to the church which took two years to restore - the rededication taking place in 1995.
For those not trying to come during the Oktoberfest celebration during the third weekend of September, a little taste can be had at this popular brewpub. Several varieties of beer are brewed - though truth be told, for my taste, their root beer is a better choice. Local varieties of Teutonic foods can be sampled - the owners of the brewpub also own a company that makes pellet barbeques (Traeger), so barbequing is de rigeur here. The restaurant is very popular on the weekends and outside seating is possible in the warmer months. Lots of old photographs are up documenting the history of the community.
Not quite as big as the event in Munich, the Oktoberfest celebration here takes part on the third weekend in September. It started out as a Flax Festival, but Oktoberfests seem to attract more people. The celebration has grown into the largest folk festival in the western United States and the crowds - like in Munich - can be truly daunting. The advantage in Munich is that you usually are going by commuter train/subway to the festivities, whereas here, you have to use your car meaning someone has to stay sober.
The whole town transforms itself into a bit of a kitsch Teutonic village with the festival tents located on the south side of town. Out of season you can find bits and pieces of the town’s Germanic roots in the buildings and the tall Maibaum outside of the City Hall. Germanness has given way to a latin flavor in recent years as many Mexican families now call Mount Angel home.
The region of the Willamette Valley north of Salem, east of the Willamette River and south of Oregon City is an area of plains known as the French Prairie - after the original French Canadian trappers who settled in the area after retiring from the Hudson Bay Company. The area was the heart of Oregon agriculture and was a magnet for early settlers to come out over the Oregon Trail in the mid19th century. The area has seen many things grown - recently, more nursery stock, hazelnuts and vineyards could be found. Hops were brought out and have thrived in the local climate leading to the Willamette Valley being the single leading area of hop production in the US. Several varieties of hops are grown - Cascade, Willamette, Mt Hood, etc - and they have gone a ways into the renaissance of the local brewing industry. There are many large hop fields north of Mount Angel and the area extends north to the small town of Hubbard - where there is an annual Hop Festival - and west towards the Willamette River. The hop fields are readily identifiable by the tall trellis structures needed to provide the vines to grow upon. The vines grow up small ropes that extend high into the air - hops grow exceedingly fast to over twenty feet in the spring.