Oral History Project
Choosing to restore a historic building is certainly an undaunting task to pursue. To invest one’s passion to also ensure its history and culture are preserved, elevates the endeavor to yet another level.
Ron Hogeland attended high school in Philadelphia. Despite an early interest in wood working, he instead pursued an academic career on the advice of a school counselor. His teaching career as a history professor at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point spanned more than 10 years. During that time, he was an active member of a crisis intervention center providing young adults with alternatives to incarceration and drug education seminars. Never having developed a fondness for Wisconsin winters, he resigned from his tenured University position when the opportunity arose. He initially spent time in northern California’s Mendocino area. Looking for an alternate place to settle, he passed through several towns while driving North,. The year was 1975 and he recalled hearing others speak of a town called Florence on the Oregon coast. It was said to capture one’s attention while driving across its overlooking bridge. Like the others, he crossed the Siuslaw bridge, drove through Florence, but continued on. By the time he reached Lincoln City, he knew he had gone too far. He returned to Florence and settled into a building on Bay Street.
With a business acumen and a chance to renew his wood working skills, he opened the town’s first picture framing shop on Bay Street. He lived above his Bay Windows shop which specialized in picture framing, antiques and tobacco. The shop endured ‘lean’ years at first, but eventually he developed a clientele, and remained in business for over 15 years. In that time, he also provided accommodations for the first travel company in Florence. He fondly speaks of ‘regulars’ who frequented Bay Street, and described them in his book, Joshua’s Mermaid. Many of the characters he came to know and befriend, possessed ‘peculiar habits’, but were as much a part of Bay Street as the shops themselves.
Ron was an active member of Old Town Association. The group was instrumental in establishing the building plaques, parks and street lamps visible throughout town today. In addition, Ron and an informal group of Bay Street denizens, facilitated the renovation of buildings on and around Old Town. The group’s primary focus was on the aesthetics of each building, regarding it as the essential element for a restoration done well. He confesses to having had a particularly keen interest in establishing red rooftops for the buildings, Today, those rooftops continue to provide an impressive first glance experience while crossing the bridge. The aesthetics reflect the cultural and historical character of our community, providing us with a direct connection to the earlier days of Florence.
The Kyle Building
The restoration of the Kyle Building began in the latter part of the 1970’s. In 1980 it was recognized and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building served as the heartbeat of commercial activity for generations and remains the primary historical landmark for the town.
A Village Concept
When asked about the changes he’s witnessed, Ron recalls that by the mid-1980’s Bay Street had become “Old Town”. In prior years, it was simply referred to as Bay Street. Some businesses were boarded up, others relocated to Highway 101. A transitional period for the street occurred over the years moving away from a ‘village lifestyle’. It left behind a time, when folks traditionally lived and worked within their buildings. It had been typical for a shop to be downstairs and living quarters upstairs or around the back.
Philosophical in describing the changes of every generation, Ron states “we outlive our time”. He nonetheless acknowledges it’s been rewarding to live in Florence. With different people sharing their ideas, the transition continues. He admits that in some cases, historic value may outweigh the economic value, as it’s the architecture that connects the on-looker to its history. He suggests that perhaps a more appropriate name for Florence would be Siuslaw Village. This would bring honor and recognition to the Native American tribe who were prior settlers in the area.
As of this writing, Ron is currently assisting in the production of a book by Robert Serra entitled Stuart Henderson Retrospective. The book is a collection of stories, signage, logos, and posters from many former Florence businesses. Mr. Henderson is a longtime Florence resident and artist. Ron’s prior book, Joshua’s Mermaid is available for sale at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum.
Florence is fortunate Ron Hogeland has chosen to make his home here. His work clearly shows he sees and writes about things with a passionate eye. His contribution and involvement in landmark building projects are evidence of this. The buildings have gone beyond restoration, incorporating historical value within the preservation. The impact of his efforts have had and will continue to be invaluable for future generations. It was a privilege to sit with Ron and hear his thoughts of days gone by.