Thursday, July 15, 2010

Corvallis' DaVinci Days July 16-18

This weekend, the college town of Corvallis will be hosting its most creative and regarded special event,  DaVinci Days offering a mash-up of music, art, science, and technology.
Among the state’s oldest towns, Corvallis was platted by Samuel Avery in 1847 at the confluence of the Marys and Willamette Rivers, about 80 miles south of Portland. It grew as a lumber, agricultural and regional trading center, and briefly served as capital of the Oregon Territory until supplanted by Salem. Things changed for the town in 1868, when the Oregon Assembly designated the private college of Corvallis Academy to be the first, state-supported institution for higher education. Known as the Agriculture College of the State of Oregon, it experienced several name changes over the years, and we know it now as Oregon State University.
The campus occupies a large chunk of real estate, almost 400 acres, and with more than 20,000 students, its influence on this small town is immense. The attractive campus features a number of historical structures and an open space designed by famed landscape architect, John Olmsted. Two years ago, the campus was designated a National Historic District, the only college in Oregon to be awarded this distinction.
While the school dominates one side of town, the centerpiece of the downtown area is the Benton County Courthouse. Dating back to 1888, it is the oldest Oregon courthouse still used for its original purpose. With its four stories, 110-foot clock tower, and bright white paint, the building resembles a giant, frosted wedding cake. While in the downtown area, be sure to check out the pleasant walking path along the Willamette River; the Book Bin, crammed with new and used books; and maybe try some homemade sweets at Bursts Chocolates.
Like most college towns, Corvallis offers a wide selection of cultural events. The focal point of the local art scene, The Arts Center, is located in a former Episcopalian church and is known for its exhibitions of local and national artists, and music concert series. In downtown, the Majestic Theater, a restored 1913 vaudeville house, offers live theater and old movies. The university, with its performances, exhibits, and lectures, adds to the vibrant cultural life, and an assortment of fairs and festivals during the year enliven the mix. Corvallis enjoys a reputation for being one of the greenest communities around, even by Oregon standards. Last year, it was voted Best Green City in the nation by Country Home magazine, and according to a recent EPA report, Corvallis buys more power from renewable sources than any other city in the country. There are miles of bike paths and visitors can tour the town in a human-powered pedicab.
Beyond town, there are numerous attractions depending on your interests. In nearby Philomath is the Benton County Historical Society Museum. Located in a 1867 brick building that once housed Philomath College, the museum offers an eclectic collection of items including at 1904 Oregon State College beanie, 1957 Kodak Brownie Starlight camera, a large collection of fluorescent rocks, 1927 Buck Rogers wind-up spaceship, a bright red rotary dial telephone, and much, much more. Also of historical interest are several close-by covered bridges and the Soap Creek Schoolhouse, a cute one-room school in rural Soap Creek Valley.
  Birders will enjoy visiting any of the three local, national wildlife refuges; oenophiles will find several nearby wineries to sample, and sports fans will want to check out OSU’s game schedule.

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