By Renee Lamoreaux Rhododendron at a crossroads as it turns 100 posted on 01/01/2020
Steve Graeper, President of the Rhododendron Community
Planning Organization (CPO), first came to Rhododendron in 1953, the year of
his birth. His family bought a Steiner cabin (built in 1932) in the community
in 1942, and it’s been in the family ever since.
“Rhododendron has been in my blood my entire 66 years,”
Graeper said, noting his summers were spent on the mountain.
This month, Graeper and the whole community will celebrate
the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Postal Service commissioning the Rhododendron
Post Office, 11 years after the unincorporated community of Rhododendron first
formed as Rowe (named for Portland Mayor Henry S. Rowe). The centennial
celebration will be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Still Creek
Inn, 73365 E. Hwy. 26 in Rhododendron. Renee Lamoreaux created a special
postmark cancellation for the event.
Out of its humble beginnings, Rhododendron became a thriving
community of homes and summer cabins, then saw the construction of Hwy. 26 and
its impact as drivers sped through or stop only to put chains on their tires
during winter weather.
Graeper noted a number of moments that helped define the
community, including some not for the positive, such as the flood of 1964, the
widening of the highway, the closing of Gadwoods Market and the liquor store
moving to Welches. But he also has an eye to the future, with the CPO’s Rhody
Rising subcommittee, which formed in 2016 and hopes to spur redevelopment of
the community into more of a destination.
“The vision for the future is that maybe we can redevelop
that sense of community that Rhododendron once had,” Graeper said. “There was a
little village atmosphere in Rhododendron. Right now we don't have that village
Among the possibilities that the Rhody Rising subcommittee
is looking into for the community are a sign to identify Rhododendron and
welcome visitors; sidewalks on both sides of Hwy. 26; pedestrian safety
islands; street lighting; bike paths; and parks and paths leading to the Zigzag
River and on the north side of the “Swinging Bridge.”
“It’s the future that I’m looking at,” Graeper said. “What
is Rhododendron going to look like 10, 20, 30 years from now. But it’s not my
vision; it’s a community vision.”
The group also developed a logo in 2018 as part of a
contest, which appears on t-shirts and hats to help raise funds. The t-shirts
will be available for sale at the Jan. 25 celebration, which will also include
presentations on the history of the community and the post office,
refreshments, cake and sheets of stamps with the Rhododendron logo, postcards
and envelopes for sale.
A second celebration is also expected to take place on
Saturday, Aug. 8, in concert with the annual Steiner Cabin Tour, which will
feature 12 cabins along a 2.5-mile loop in Rhododendron this year. Graeper
hopes to have different vendors and organizations stationed throughout the
loop, offering food and information on the community.
The Rhododendron CPO will also hold a business meeting at
10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Mt. Hood RV Village Resort, 65000 E. Hwy.
26 in Welches. Agenda items including the Centennial Celebration and a follow
up on the Zigzag Integrated Resource Project, consisting of two timber harvests
in the Mount Hood National Forest (MHNF) expected to take place in 2020.
By Garth Guibord/MT