Downtown Historic District brick buildings with 1874 Masonic Lodge, Jacksonville, Oregon. Image credit Underawesternsky via Shutterstock

These 7 Towns in Oregon Have Beautiful Architecture

Oregon is a state full of natural beauty, with the wild Pacific Coast, thick green forests, and tall volcanic mountains in the Cascade Range.

The state also sets itself apart with its distinctive architectural landscape. Oregon contains a blend of the traditional and the contemporary, where historic timber-framed structures meet stone and steel facades.

You will not have to visit big cities like Portland or Eugene to see it either. You can find it in many small towns that dot Oregon's landscape. Read on to learn about seven towns in Oregon that contain beautiful architecture to see and explore.

Baker City

Main Street in the historic district of Baker City, Oregon.
Main Street in the historic district of Baker City, Oregon.

One of the things that makes Baker City so interesting to visit is the variety of its architecture. Here in Baker City, you will see Victorian-style buildings all the way to Art Deco.

One of those buildings, the Geiser Grand Hotel, is well known for its lavish style, built back in 1889. People once called it the "Queen of the Mines." Now, the hotel has been carefully brought back to its old glory, showing off its stained-glass ceiling, crystal chandeliers, and detailed wood designs.

Located in the gorgeous brick facade of the 1920 Natatorium, the Baker Heritage Museum is a wonder in its own right. It was first built as an indoor swimming pool and has since been transformed to display items that share the history of Baker City and the nearby area.

Baker City also boasts a variety of churches, each showcasing different designs and denominations, mirroring the town’s wide-ranging culture.

One standout is the St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, famous for its Gothic Revival design and its two piercing towers.


A view looking down the main street in downtown Sisters.
A view looking down the main street in downtown Sisters. Editorial credit: Bob Pool /

Not far from town, three peaks cut into the crisp Oregon sky. The three mountains are called the Three Sisters, a defining feature of the landscape in a region already known for its natural beauty.

The town developed at the crossing of McKenzie and Santiam wagon roads, and became an important place for sheep farmers and, later on, the lumber business.

The Sisters' old train station, built in 1910, helps us remember this time. Now, inside is the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, and it acts as a welcome center.

The town is famous for its Old West vibe and buildings that look straight out of the 1880s. Look for the Sisters Saloon Ranch & Grill, which used to be called Bronco Billy's Ranch Grill and Saloon when it was built back in 1912.

Then, there is the Sisters Bakery, which was once the Leithauser General Store, built in 1925. You can buy delicious donuts and other baked treats inside its doors.

Cottage Grove

East Main Street in Cottage Grove Historic District, Oregon.
East Main Street in Cottage Grove Historic District, Oregon.

Cottage Grove is one of those "I think I've seen this town" kind of places, used as the backdrop for scores of movies. It has appeared in Stand by Me, Animal House, and more.

Its Main Street has been an important place in town for more than 100 years, full of beautifully aged buildings from a bygone era, and is now recognized as a National Historic District.

It has a unique architectural nickname, called the "Covered Bridge Capital of The West." The town has six covered bridges either in or around town, the most in any county west of Mississippi.

Cottage Grove is another town whose roots point back to a mining past. This history is taught at the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum.

It is housed in vintage building full of tools and treasures used for gold mining from the nearby Bohemia Mountain. Gold was discovered there in 1863, drastically changing the course of the town and region.


Main Street in downtown Jacksonville, Oregon.
Main Street in downtown Jacksonville, Oregon.

When you come to Jacksonville, you are greeted by the echoes of the Gold Rush, visible in every historic building and street.

You can see it in the heritage buildings, made with perfectly aged wood and brick, popular building materials back in the 19th century.

Some towns do away with their old buildings and the history that comes with them, but not here. Take the old Jacksonville Courthouse from 1883 as an example, with its two-story brick and stone Italianate outside.

The Beekman House, dating back to 1873, stands out for its Victorian-style design. It was the home of Cornelius C. Beekman, a leading banker and a key figure in the town of Jacksonville.

There is also the Britt Gardens, which hold the oldest buildings still standing in Jacksonville, like the 1852 Peter Britt House. These gardens surround what is left of the historic house owned by Peter Britt, a pioneer of early photography and an astute gardener.


Aerial view of McMinnville, Oregon
Aerial view of McMinnville, Oregon, via M.O. Stevens - Wikimedia Commons

McMinnville is well-known in the region for its attractive buildings, cute stores, and places to eat right in the heart of its downtown.

People love Third Street, with some calling it the best "Main Street" in the state because it is full of great shops, art spots, and restaurants that make this small town so welcoming.

The Masonic Lodge Building is a big part of McMinnville's history and how its look was formed. It lies right in the middle of downtown, easy to find because of its visible Masonic symbols.

Not far from there is the Hotel Oregon, a standout amongst McMinnville's architecture. The hotel takes you back to the early 1900s, full of vintage photos inside its old framework.

Feel like some high quality wine? All around town is the Willamette Valley, famous for its wine. Once you have explored the town's historic sites, take a short trip to the vineyards to try some of wares.

Mount Angel

Mt. Angel Abbey buildings and gallery in twilight.
Mt. Angel Abbey buildings and gallery in twilight, via Victoria Ditkovsky /

Mount Angel is a special town, known for its unforgettable mix of nature and history.

The town was started in the late 1800s thanks to German settlers. You can still see their influence today in the buildings, local events, and their giant annual Oktoberfest party.

This town is home to the Mount Angel Abbey, amazing for both its spiritual and architectural elements. The Abbey's library, created by well-known Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, houses rare religious artifacts and natural history specimens.

The town is sprinkled with buildings showing off its German heritage, like the Queen of Angels Monastery where a group of Benedictine Sisters still live.

There is also the old Glockenspiel Restaurant and Pub building. This stop has a big clock tower with mechanical figures moving at set times. It brings a fun, German feel to the town.


Riverwalk in Siuslaw River in Florence, Oregon.
Riverwalk in Siuslaw River in Florence, Oregon.

Right outside Florence, you have both the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon Dunes to play in. In town, the Old Town district is a great place to stroll through to soak in that old rustic port town feel.

The Siuslaw River Bridge is a Florence icon, both a connection to the town and surrounding nature but also a symbol of the region's coastal heritage. During the holiday times, the bridge gets dressed up with Christmas lights for the Bridge Lighting Festival.

The Pacific Northwest's coastal charm and artistic feel shine brightly at the Heceta Head Lighthouse.The spot is a testament to the coastal landscape and the cultural importance of the sea to the locals.

For something a bit different, you can visit the Exploding Whale Memorial Park. Located on the Siuslaw River, this park commemorates a peculiar event from 1970 when engineers used explosives to remove a deceased sperm whale. The result was less than ideal.

The peaceful park has picnic areas, river views, and a giant chair overlooking the river.

In Conclusion

Oregon's journey through architectural and natural landmarks reaches far past the boundaries of its well-known cities.

In places like Baker City and Mount Angel, the past and present come together, creating environments where history is not just preserved, but celebrated.

These towns, along with others, stand as examples of Oregon's broader story—a state where nature and human design combine in harmony.

So, get out there and explore, whether it is dipping your feet into the Pacific or walking through the many historic streets of Oregon.

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