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Two of Bend’s most beloved parks turn 100 years old in 2021. Bend Park and Recreation District is celebrating these important milestones with a look back as well as highlighting how the parks continue to make memories for Bend residents and visitors today.

Central Oregonians today have a lot to thank earlier generations for planning ahead and recognizing the importance of open park spaces. Shevlin Park on the edge of town and Drake Park right in the middle of the hub of the community.

The first people who inhabited these lands before it became “Oregon” were the ancestors of today’s Wasco, Paiute and Warm Springs tribes, known as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, who have lived here since time immemorial (time beyond memory). Relying of the richness of the region’s natural resources, these tribes were hunter gatherers and often moved with the seasons in order to subsist on the land. By 1800, immigrants from the east started crossing the territory and began settling in central Oregon in the mid-1800s.

Shevlin Park

The first known Euro-Americans in the Shevlin Park area were fur trappers searching for beaver in 1834. The land was the site of early explorer camps, logging mill and railroads, fish hatchery and more. Shevlin Park was gifted to the City of Bend in December 1920 and the deed was officially transferred in January 1921. The park was initially 350 acres and has since grown to approximately 1,000 acres.

Drake Park

In 1910, Alexander M. Drake, founder of Bend and owner of the Pilot Butte Development Company, subdivided the land that is now Drake Park Neighborhood Historic District into residential lots.

Led by May Arnold, the Women’s Civic Improvement League gathered 1,500 signatures and a $21,000 bond which would finance the city’s purchase of the riverfront property is put on the ballot. The bond measure passed by 2-to-1 margin. In 1921, 11 acres along the river were sold to the City of Bend to create what would be later named Drake Park.

Conserving, protecting, gathering, recreating, reflecting and working are commonalities of Shevlin Park and Drake Park. To mark the centennial birthdays, we are sharing stories and photographs to bring the history to life. Thank you for joining and learning!

Shevlin Park: 100 Years

By Mike Berry
A version of this article was originally published in Deschutes County Historical Society’s “Homesteader” newsletter in October 2020.

This is where you go to get away from it all. To walk, run and bike. To picnic, read and reflect. To watch birds and deer and lizards and ponderous trees and a quicksilver creek. To listen to the wind, the creek, the voice of your friend, your partner, yourself. To teach your kids to fish, skip stones and explore the wilds, carefree and completely unplugged.

This is Shevlin Park. It’s the crown jewel of the Bend Park and Recreation District and only 4 miles west of the hustle and bustle of downtown Bend. And this coming January, Shevlin Park will be 100 years old. The remarkable story of how it became a public park begins in 1919, but its unique beauty was even acknowledged by one of the first explorers through this region in 1843.

1843 – The 19th century explorer John C. Fremont was impressed with what would become Shevlin Park. The earliest written account of the Shevlin Park locale was made over 176 years ago by Fremont on his second expedition to the west. He had just finished exploring and mapping the Oregon Trail between Missouri and The Dalles. On November 25, 1843, with a party of 25 men, Fremont headed south from The Dalles to explore and map the Great Basin through the interior of Oregon and Nevada, and then on into the Sierra Nevada of California.  Noteworthy members of his party included the prominent frontiersman Kit Carson, mountain man Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, famed Prussian surveyor and cartographer Charles Preuss, and 19 year old Billy Chinook (who would later become a Wasco Chief and the namesake of Lake Billy Chinook).

Shevlin geographical map from 1871

In early December of 1843 the expedition was traveling south through Central Oregon. On December 4, 1843 Fremont made the following journal entry:

Dec. 4, 1843 After passing for several miles over an Artemisia [sage brush] plain, the trail entered a beautiful pine forest through which we traveled for several hours; and about 4 o’clock descended into the valley of another large branch, on the bottom of which were spaces of open pines, with occasional meadows of good grass, in one of which we encamped.   The stream is very swift and deep, and about 40 feet wide, nearly half frozen over.  Among the timber here, are larches 140’ high, and over 3 feet in diameter.  We had tonight the rare sight of a lunar rainbow.

This camp is believed to be in the vicinity of Fremont Meadow in today’s Shevlin Park. Using Preuss’ maps, astronomical observations, and daily distance logs, the location of this 12/4/1843 camp can be approximated to the vicinity of Tumalo Creek, the 40 foot wide “large branch” noted in the journal.  The existence of larches is a dead giveaway that the camp was on Tumalo Creek in the Shevlin Park area. A survey made 28 years later in 1871 (Fig. 1) by the U. S. General Land Office (GLO) shows the location of a trail from the Camp Polk area that, when overlaid on a current map, descends from the north into the Tumalo canyon to Fremont Meadow and then exits the canyon through a draw south of the creek (Fig. 2).

1915 – Fast forward to 1915 and Bend is on the cusp of becoming a booming mill town. Two big Minnesota lumber companies, Shevlin-Hixon and Brooks-Scanlon, are about to begin the construction of competing lumber mills on opposite banks of the Deschutes River just south of Bend. However, the groundwork for the establishment of these mills had started many years before, when both companies sent representatives to Bend to inventory the surrounding forests and acquire prime timber lands.

Geographical Trail Map

One of the agents exploring the prospects around Bend for the Shevlin-Hixon interests in 1906 was 23 year old Thomas “Tom” L. Shevlin, recent Yale University graduate and son of Thomas H. Shevlin, the owner of the Shevlin Lumber Company. Young Tom Shevlin wasn’t just your ordinary son of a lumber tycoon starting to cut his teeth in the family business; he was a nationally acclaimed athlete and socialite whose athletic and extracurricular activities were front page news across the United States.

Tom Shevlin grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and attended Yale from 1902 to 1906, where he lettered in football, baseball, and track and field, and was nationally acclaimed as Yale’s premier athlete. He played on the varsity football team all four years of college and was a four-time All-American selection. During the 4 years he played, Yale had a 42-2-1 record, and as team captain his senior year he led Yale to an undefeated season and a co-national championship with the University of Chicago. Yale tallied 9 shutouts and outscored their opponents 227-4. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.

In track and field Shevlin was a hammer thrower, and set a world record for the 12 pound hammer in the course of winning the 1903 collegiate competition. He also took up boxing and had a three-round exhibition bout in 1904 with the recently retired former heavyweight champion “Gentlemen Jim” Corbett. Corbett prevailed, but praised Shevlin’s power and footwork.

While in college Shevlin’s off-the-field extracurricular activities also garnered newsworthy attention, and he developed a reputation as a big spender and playboy. He took a shine to the new sport of automobile racing and in 1905 purchased a snappy French speedster for $15,000, the equivalent of $443,000 in 2020 dollars. He was a natty dresser, bon vivant, and man about town. Reportedly he also had a benevolent side and, according to a 1915 article in the New Haven Register, helped “many a poor fellow, struggling to get an education, sometimes anonymously leaving $1,000 on the desk of a classmate in need”.

After his 6 month stint cruising Central Oregon timber, in 1907 Tom Shevlin returned to Minneapolis to learn the lumber business. In 1909 he married Elizabeth Sherley, the daughter of a wealthy Louisville, Kentucky family. In short order they had a daughter, Betty, and a son, Thomas Jr.

Tom Shevlin in college days

In 1910 Tom Shevlin’s mother, Alice, died and two years later his father died. At the age of 29 Tom took over the reins of the family business. The former captain of the Yale football team became a captain of industry. He was president of 13 separate lumber companies and a director of two Minneapolis Banks. 

In 1915 Tom Shevlin was overseeing the planning and construction of the big Shevlin-Hixon pine mill in Bend. Despite the demands of his work, he had periodically returned to Yale through the years to coach his old team before big games, sometimes relieving the current coach of his duties in the middle of the season. This was the case in the fall of 1915, when Shevlin was called on to coach the last two Yale games of the season. The team beat Princeton on November 13 but were defeated by rival Harvard on November 20.  Shevlin caught a cold during this coaching stint which then turned into pneumonia and on December 29, 1915, he died at the age of 32 in Minneapolis. The Bend Bulletin headline that day proclaimed “Pneumonia Takes Man Looked Upon as Cause of Bend’s Present Prosperity.” Shevlin’s estate was valued at 3.5 million dollars, the equivalent of over 90 million dollars in 2020.

By 1915 Shevlin-Hixon owned over 200,000 acres (312 square miles) of timberland in Central Oregon, including most of the land that comprises today’s Shevlin Park.

Also in 1915, a fish hatchery was built on the east bank of the Deschutes River at what is now the east end of the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge at Farewell Bend Park. By August of 1918 it was determined that, due to the creation of the recent mill log pond on the Deschutes affecting the operation of the present hatchery, a better hatchery on Tumalo Creek, north of today’s Shevlin Park Road, could replace the Deschutes hatchery. The existing hatchery infrastructure would be dismantled and moved, but the rest of the costs needed to be raised by local donations.

1919 – In January of 1919 Shevlin-Hixon donated 13.5 acres of land for the hatchery site north of the bridge crossing Tumalo Creek. This is the parcel that present day Aspen Hall is located on. By May of 1919 the new hatchery was in operation and became a draw to locals, owing to the beauty of the hatchery grounds and surrounding area. A new cause was embraced by the citizens of Bend – obtaining land to create a public park next to the pristine hatchery.  At first a 5 acre parcel was contemplated and soon the idea of a 160 acre “natural park” began to get traction. The City of Bend negotiated with Shevlin-Hixon manager Tom McCann, but the fair market value of the land and timber was too high for the city. McCann was a big advocate for the establishment of the park. In the Midwest he had seen entire forests mowed down without a trace left of their former glory and didn’t want to see this happen again in Bend.

Original Hatchery building

Since the city of Bend could not afford to purchase the land for a park, N.G. Jackson, the supervisor of the Deschutes National Forest, proposed a land swap of national forest land to Shevlin-Hixon in exchange for the desired parkland. Then on November 18, 1919, like a bolt out of the blue, F.P. Hixon, president of the Shevlin-Hixon Company, announced that the company would donate their land in the canyon to the public as a memorial to the late Tom Shevlin.

The day after this announcement, Bend Bulletin editor Robert Sawyer wrote:

The proposed gift of Tumalo Canyon to the city of Bend as a memorial to T. L. Shevlin is one of the finest things that has ever been known here. The logging of the canyon would be a crime: the destruction of the natural beauty of a spot that is unique in this vicinity; and yet, in the ordinary course of events, in an ordinary business and commercial world, the logging would have proceeded and the damage been done. The community is fortunate in having connected with it men who see a higher value in the canyon undisturbed than in the saw logs that can be taken from it and who are able and willing to preserve the greater thing for the general use.

Shevlin-Hixon owned the majority of land in the canyon, but a patchwork of four other timber owners’ land was within the proposed park. Shevlin-Hixon acquired the other properties to complete the park.

1921 – The boundaries of the new park were monumented and mapped by Robert Gould, a deed describing the park’s boundaries was drawn up, and on January 14, 1921 the Shevlin-Hixon Company recorded the deed that conveyed the park to the city of Bend.

The deed contained three conditions:

  1. The park shall be always known and designated as “Shevlin Park”.
  2. The park “shall always be used and maintained as a public park open to the general public for recreation and amusements of a lawful character and for no other purpose”.
  3. Shevlin-Hixon or its assigns (appointees) shall have the right to cross the park with a logging railroad at any time in the future (This condition became a reality in 1941 when Brooks-Scanlon, as an assignee of Shevlin-Hixon, built a logging railroad trestle over the park. By 1941 Brooks had vast timber holdings to the north and west of Tumalo Creek that needed to be accessed across the park, whereas Shevlin-Hixon’s logging operations were to the east and south of Bend).

Shevlin-Hixon was sold to Brooks-Scanlon in 1950. Fortunately, the foresight of those involved with creating Shevlin Park – local community members, Shevlin-Hixon management, the U. S. Forest Service and the Bend city council – is absolutely remarkable and the gift by Shevlin-Hixon is timeless. In 1919 most of the surrounding timberland was still virgin forests of old growth Ponderosa Pine. From a layperson’s viewpoint it probably seemed it would last forever. It didn’t, but with proper management Shevlin Park will; to the benefit and enjoyment of the public in perpetuity.

To cap the history of Shevlin Park’s last 100 years, the following timeline recounts subsequent significant events in the park’s history:

1929 – The Tumalo Hatchery closes due to continual freezing problems on Tumalo Creek. In accordance with the 1919 deed’s restrictions of the hatchery parcel, the 13.5 acre property reverted to Shevlin Hixon which in turn deeded it to the City of Bend to be added to the park. This brought the Park’s total acreage to 388.

1930 – The Skyliners Ski Club builds a 225’ X 125’ skating rink at the hatchery.

1941 – Brooks-Scanlon builds a railroad trestle over the park to access their timberlands to the west and north.

1950 – Brooks-Scanlon buys out Shevlin-Hixon. The Shevlin-Hixon sawmill was closed at the end of 1950.

1950’s – The Hatchery building has fallen into disrepair, filled with junk like deer hides and old washing machines. In the late 1950s Vince Genna, the city’s assistant recreation manager, expresses a desire to restore the building for use as a community center. It would be 15 years before this dream was fulfilled.

skating on pond at hatchery

1956 – December. The last load of logs goes over the railroad trestle to the mill. Log trucks are becoming the primary mode of moving logs from the woods to the mills.

1957 – May.  Brooks-Scanlon begins the demolition of the railroad trestle. Timbers from the trestle are used to build an addition to the public library on Wall Street.

1971 – A falling tree from a windstorm further damages the Hatchery building.

1973 – Restoration is started on the Hatchery building, with the stipulation that no public funds are to be spent.  Brooks-Scanlon donated lumber. Volunteers started working on the project but progress eventually came to a standstill.

1974 – The Duke to the rescue (sort of)! Filming of the movie Rooster Cogburn, starring John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn, starts in Shevlin Park.  Parks director Vince Genna strikes a deal that in lieu of rental fees for filming in the park the movie company uses its idle film construction crew to finish restoration of the Hatchery. A crew of 15 works for 2 weeks repairing the building.

1975 – Hatchery building is dedicated on Thanksgiving of 1975. It becomes a popular community center for weddings, reunions, scout meetings and other such gatherings.

1987 – August. The hatchery building is destroyed by an early morning fire. The cause was determined to be an electrical short in a ceiling fan. Ironically, the last event at the building was a reunion of the Vince Genna family.

Train on trestle in Shevlin Park

1988 – Construction begins on the hatchery replacement building, Aspen Hall.

1990 – The Awbrey Hall fire starts near the northeast corner of Shevlin Park, burning 3,500 acres and 22 homes in 10 hours. The fire burns the bench lands above the park along the eastern rim of Tumalo canyon but does not descend into the canyon.

2002 – A 44 acre conservation easement is created on the east rim of the canyon for a public trail and as a buffer from new residential properties in the Shevlin Commons subdivision.

2002-2020 – Additional lands are deeded to the park, bringing the current area to 981 acres (1.5 square miles), 50 acres of which are developed.

Aspen Hall front exterior

Drake Park

Shevlin Park

Drake Park: 100 Years

Look for more information, articles and highlights about Drake Park to come in the days ahead.

Timeline:

19th Century – Beginning of the “Parks Movement.”

1862 – Completion of Central Park in NYC. Design by Olmsted.

Late 1800s – Log cabin which served as schoolhouse constructed of east bank of the Deschutes River.

1900 – A.M. Drake hunting lodge built overlooking what would soon become Mirror Pond.

1903 – Log cabin becomes the home of the Bend Bulletin.

1909 – Mirror Pond formed by completion of power dam on Deschutes River.

1910 – A.M. Drake lodge sold to Hunter Realty Co. Log cabin abandoned.

Early 1920s – Log cabin razed.

1921 – Led by May Arnold, the Women’s Civic Improvement League gathers 1,500 signatures and $21,000 bond which would finance the city’s purchase of the riverfront property is put on the ballot. Bond measure passed by 2 to 1 margin and the park land was purchased from the Bend Company. A carousel-like bandstand erected in the park.

1923 – Hard-packed surface tennis courts added.

1927 – Stabilizing wall constructed along the river’s edge.

1928 – Park named “Drake Park” after the founder of Bend, A.M. Drake.  Tragedy strikes when presidential candidate drowns in Deschutes River while attempting to save a young boy.

drake park and mirror pond in winter

1929 – Grass planted in park. Riverside Boulevard paved and street trees planted.

Mid-1930s – Footbridge connecting Drake Park to the west bank constructed.

July 4, 1933 – Bend’s first Water Pageant held on Mirror Pond and in Drake Park.

July 4, 1944 – Introduction of the 48-foot illuminated arch at the Water Pageant.

1947 – Tennis courts removed.

1953 – Footbridge replaced.

1956 – Lodge believed to have “no apparent utility” and demolished.

1966 – Water Pageant discontinued due to financial problems and insufficient help.

1973 – Bandstand condemned and razed by the city.

1974 – Voters pass Bend Park & Recreation District to be established as special tax district. Drake Park and other parks change ownership and management to the new district.

Looking across the river from Drake Park - 1950's

1977 – Bend’s first annual Pole Pedal Paddle is held with the finish line and post-race festivities are held in the park.

1980 – Restrooms and outdoor stage built.

1995 – Satre Associates develop Comprehensive Management and Development Plan for the park district.

1996 – Nine Drake Park neighbors register complaints against the two most popular events held in the park, Munch & Music and Cascade Festival of Music, citing the negative effects the festivals have had on the park and the community. The legal fight was dropped in December 1996.

1997 – Footbridge replaced again.

Music on the Drake Park stage - 1983

Drake Park: Here & Now

Shevlin Park: Here & Now

Stay tuned as we share content about Drake and Shevlin Parks’ history, interesting facts, adventures and upcoming events for you to enjoy.

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