Our Love Is Carved in Stone

April 2, 2019

By Molly Cochran

While we know that bricks are not actually made from stone, what could be a more fitting way to document the countless stories of Oregonians than on an etched pathway leading to the Oregon Historical Society’s new permanent exhibit, “Experience Oregon?”

Sometimes a donation to the Oregon Historical Society connects us to the past as powerfully as looking at a black-and-white photograph of a familiar place or holding a handwritten love letter. Those connections now welcome visitors on their way to our new exhibit, Experience Oregon. It has been our privilege as the OHS development staff to hear touching stories from the many generous donors who purchased bricks to support the FORWARD! Campaign — OHS’ effort to financially sustain its mission of preserving our state’s history and making it accessible to everyone. We’ve been inspired by who you are and why you give.

Here are a few of our favorite stories:

“My friends asked me why I donate to the Oregon Historical Society when I live in Multnomah County and could come visit for free. I tell them my mother believed that if you have the ability, then it is your responsibility to give, to support arts and culture in your city, and to make this world a better place. So, I bought a brick in honor of my mom, Ida.”

– Paul Hamilton

Engraved bricks at the entrance to Experience Oregon

The brick path leading to OHS’ new exhibit, “Experience Oregon” is now etched with names and remembrances of and by those who are a part of Oregon’s story.

Arleen Barnett’s granddaughters, Laealin and Elowen, pose with their bricks after seeing them for the first time.

Arleen Barnett’s granddaughters, Laealin and Elowen, pose with their bricks after seeing them for the first time.

“As a history lover, I want my family to share my interest. The brick campaign intrigued me. What a way to attract my grandchildren to first come to OHS — and then hopefully make it one of their favorite places. OHS always offers engaging ways to learn and be involved in history, thereby allowing us to become more responsible citizens. And selfishly, it is a way my children and grandchildren will remember me!”

– Arleen Barnett

Many donors saw this as an opportunity to name grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren. Several partial family trees are engraved in brick. One donor let us know at the Experience Oregon opening celebration that their first grandson had been born — so now they need one more brick!

There are dates when families arrived in Oregon, when ancestors were born and died, when OHS supporters served on the board of trustees, and more. There are dates whose significance we do not know, but we know these numbers are meaningful to those who asked us to etch them as a remembrance.

Engraved bricks closeup

Names, dates, and phrases (such as “Peace” and “May The Force Be With You”) are engraved in the hundreds of bricks that line the pathway to “Experience Oregon.” Some families even chose to document their family tree in brick!

Names, dates, and phrases (such as “Peace” and “May The Force Be With You”) are engraved in the hundreds of bricks that line the pathway to “Experience Oregon.” Some families even chose to document their family tree in brick!

Whether or not we know the story behind the numbers, the words, or names engraved on the bricks, it is clear that there are many memories and much love embedded in each letter. These are just a few of the people, places, and events that have shaped Oregon’s history. What’s your Oregon story? Come visit Experience Oregon and explore themes across time that connect our history with the present.

It’s also not too late to engrave your own brick with a message that is meaningful to you! Learn more about the FORWARD! Campaign initiatives and how you can add one more story inside the walls of the Oregon Historical Society.

Categories: Staff ReflectionsAudience(s): Visitors

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