Albany is the 11th-largest city in the state of Oregon. Nicknamed the “Hub of the Valley”, it is 69 miles (111 km) south of Portland and 44 miles (71 km) north of Eugene. The town sits at the confluence of the Willamette River and Calapooia River. Albany’s streets are lined with historic homes and a carousel museum. Its location in the Willamette Valley, known for its wine, allows the town to offer locally made wine, as well as cider and beer.
Historically, Albany was populated by the Kalapuya people. Albany was called Takenah by the Kalapuya, which describes a deep pool at the confluence of the Calapoola and Willamette rivers. The population, which totaled upwards of 20,000 before European contact, suffered the effects of smallpox brought by the Europeans in 1782-83. Additional damage was done to the community by malaria, which arrived in the area between 1830-33. The majority of the populations of the Kalapuya was killed in the epidemics. By the 1850s, treaties opened the door for Europeans to have complete control of the land that would become Albany.
Abner Hackleman was the first European to settle in the area, in 1845. Eventually, more Europeans came to the area via the Oregon Trail, including the Monteith Brothers. These two families, the Monteith and Hackleman’s would develop two opposing communities in the area. For example, the Hackleman’s identified as Democrats, when the Monteith’s were Republicans. The community came at odds during the American Civil War, with the Hacklemans supporting the Confederacy and the Monteiths, the Union. Historic homes today represent the memory of these families. Albany is split into two sides, East and West, represented by the legacy of these families. The Monteiths are identified as the founding family of Albany, however.
In the 1850s the California Gold Rush brought economic prosperity to the area, and in 1852 the first steamboat arrived at Albany. The town was named Albany in the late 1840s, then New Albany in 1850, and back to Albany in 1853. Trains passed through Albany starting in 1871, and the world’s largest wooden railroad drawbridge was built in Albany in 1888. A canal, which still exists, runs 18 miles through the south side of Albany, it was built in 1872. Albany used to host the Albany World Championship Timber Carnival, but alas, small crowds and the failing timber economy had it end in 2001.
Today, Albany is called the “rare metals capital of the world,” producing lots of metals with a specific focus on zirconium. The area also produces fruit and is also known for it’s grass seed production. Oregon Freeze Dry is the main employer in the region, launching the green tech industry in the area. Albany hosts the annual Northwest Air and Art Festival, wine walks, and other local celebrations. The town is also known for its historic architecture, representing periods ranging from Second Empire to Colonial Revival. The area has been featured on the program This Old House and has one of the oldest Carnegie Libraries still in use in the country. Albany’s sister city is Albany, Australia.