Where to Live Now

Neighborhood Guide: Oregon City

One iconic elevator, plenty of Oregon history, and river views for days

By Conner Reed

Overlooking Oregon City from the municipal elevator

In America’s ongoing roast of the suburbs—endemic to most of our cities and all of our films directed by white men in the ’90s—Oregon City has it especially rough. There’s the fact that some locals call it “the OC” as an irony-drenched nod to sunnier shores down south; there’s the line about how the last interesting thing to come to Oregon City was the Oregon Trail. 

There’s also (it turns out) lots to love. Ingrid’s Scandinavian Foodformerly a cherished food cart on Division, serves up soul-mending lefse and bright, sub-10-dollar Scandi cocktails at its brick-and-mortar. Back near the river are Naive Melody, a vintage shop that rivals many a storefront on Hawthorne and Alberta, and the Canemah Bluff Nature Park, with an easy mile-ish walking trail, gorgeous views of the Willamette, and a play area for anyone with kids in tow. 

For even more views, ride the Oregon City Municipal Elevator, the only city-owned-and-operated outdoor lift in the United States (and one of only a handful in the world), which takes you 130 feet up a basalt cliff to the top of a bluff. The ride takes just 15 seconds, but since it’s free, it doesn’t take long for the ROI to outpace a single trip on the Tower of Terror. 

The 2020 median home value for sales in the OC was a healthy $474,700—up 9 percent from the year before and forecast to climb again in the coming year. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s still significantly lower than other nearby burbs West Linn and Lake Oswego, making Oregon City a lot more than the reward you get for surviving dysentery during a round of Oregon Trail.