College Hill Neighborhood and History
From the College Hill Cultural Resources Survey
Planning Department, City of Eugene and Land and Community Associates - March 1988
College Hill is part of the Friendly Area Neighborhood which lies to the south of downtown Eugene. College Hill rises over 200 feet above the surrounding level plains which drain into Amazon Creek. The College Hill neighborhood is primarily residential, flanked by commercial development along its eastern and northern boundaries. Its boundaries run from Willamette to Monroe and West 18th to West 25th. College Hill is considered a prime residential area because of its proximity to downtown Eugene and also for the breathtaking views which the hillside residents enjoy. College Hill represents a unique mixture of residential styles not found anywhere else in Eugene.

The first map of the area is from the US Governmentís original land survey of the South Willamette Valley in 1859-61. This map shows the whole area as prairie land, except for some trees along Amazon Creek and mixed oak and fir woodland on the slop of college Hillís southwest corner. In the survey of 1884, the vegetation appears unchanged. Heavy clay soils cover most of the area, making farming unprofitable. Early settlers found the land suitable for grazing and settlement.

Despite the lack of good farm land, the College Hill area was claimed early by Charnel Mulligan, Daniel Christian, and William Breeding, whose Donation Land Claim divided College Hill and the South Amazon Creek Basin. James Huddleston claimed land just to the north of these early settlers, adjacent to Amazon Creek. The boundaries of these early donation Land Claims are evident even today in the street configuration, subdivisions, and house location patters of College Hill. Later Donation Land Claims claimed after the Government Land Survey conform to the Township and Range section grid pattern. These later survey lines also left their mark on the contemporary landscape. Many College Hill streets follow section lines in a true E-W or N-S course until they meet the boundary of an earlier Donation Land Claim, at which point they must job slightly off their true course. This accounts for many of the abrupt directional changes of College Hill streets.

The earliest road through College Hill was the route from Skinnerís Ferry toward the southwest, passing along the west side of College Hill. Another route connected the ferry to the southwest and passed just to the east of College Hill. The first major route, however, went from the downtown area directly south and became Willamette Street. Willamette Streetís direct access to downtown Eugene spurred Daniel Christian to begin dividing his Donation Land Claim into parcels for sale. In 1891, Henry Holden and his sons installed a trolley track from downtown to College Hill for a mule-drawn streetcar system. This system lasted only until 1900; it was later replaced by an electric trolley system. The electric streetcars ran from 1906 to 1927 under the ownership of several different companies. The transportation systems connecting College Hill and downtown were significant factors in the development of the College Hill area. Nearly all early settlement took place along these major road and streetcar routes.

The coming of the railroad in 1871 spurred a period of development in the Eugene area. Early entrepreneurs began to see the potential in commercial and residential development. College Hill was an obvious choice for residential subdivisions because of its access to the city center. One of the first subdivisions in College Hill was College Hill Park, plotted in 1890 by J.E. Atherton. He had purchased the southern end of the Mulligan Donation Land Claim which now lies to the south of 19th Avenue. An advertisement for College Hill Park appeared in the Eugene Register of 1891 and helps explain College Hillís popularity as a residential area:

"The fortunate owner of a house in this tract will have all the advantages of the City without any of the annoyances, all of the quiet seclusion of country life without its inconveniences, good sidewalks and graded streets at his door and the queen of rivers at the rear of his property...College Hill Park (has) the aspect of becoming the most picturesque addition to Eugene, as well as becoming the popular residence portion of the City...It is the most accessible point from the business center. Its avenues are broad. Its lots are large and in many cases sold in plots. Care is taken to secure a most desirable class of residents."

Other businessmen were quick to follow Athertonís lead, and by 1900 there were several subdivisions plotted in the College Hill area. Most of the street names given by the developers to their subdivisions were changed to City of Eugene designations by 1905, when most of College Hill had been incorporated into the city limits. Even in itís early period of development, College Hill was an area specifically geared to the residential needs of professional people.

College Hill had a specific patters of settlement which is still evident in the contemporary neighborhood pattern. Most houses were constructed along Willamette Street or the old streetcar routes. Until 1940, most construction was confined to between Willamette and Friendly streets, with few houses built south of 22nd Avenue, except on these two major streets. All of the land north of College Hill Park was replatted in 1909, and by 1925 many houses were built, especially in the Lizzie Lucky Addition, along Willamette and Olive streets, and in the Walnut Park Addition. After World War II, cheaper lots were needed for mill-working housing. Thus, most construction after World War II was of a lower standard and meant a different type of residence than previous College Hill construction. Currently, the area is almost completely built up, with a handful of vacant lots remaining. The crest of College Hill is still mainly professionals and their families; rental properties are concentrated in older subdivisions which lie at the base of College Hill, especially south of 24th and along Jefferson, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 22nd avenues.

College Hill is historically significant for its reputation as one of the oldest and most successful residential neighborhoods in Eugene. There are several significant older properties in the area which add to its diversity and charm. The College Hill area contains the second-oldest house in the city of Eugene; the Masterson farmhouse, built in 1857 on the Mastersonís 160-acre Donation Land Claim. The residence stands at 2050 Madison and was completely renovated by the owners in the 1950ís. Other significant residences include the Smith-Landsdowne house at 2056 Lincoln -one of Eugeneís better examples of Victorian architecture- built in 1904, and the Archie Tirrel residence, a Dutch Revival house at 2058 Olive.

One of the most significant events in College Hillís history was the establishment of Columbia College, for which College Hill was named. The college was located near Olive and 19th Avenue on 120 acres Charnel Mulligan had donated for the establishment of a college. The college was founded by the Cumberland Presbyterian church and was in actual operation for only four years. Reverend E.P. Henderson was the president of the college from 1856-1859. He was later replaced by M.I. Ryan until the college closed in 1860. Columbia College was the first coeducational college in the US and officially opened November 3, 1856, with 52 students. By november 20, the classroom building had been burned to the ground, the work of an arsonist. College resumed in a rented dwelling while a second ďtemporaryĒ structure was built. This new building was occupied by the college in November of 1857. On February 26, 1858, another fire, also set by an arsonist, burned down the second college classroom building. The second fire nearly ruined the college, but funds were raised and a third classroom building was erected, this time using fireproof sandstone as the primary building material.

Columbia Collegeís Board of Directors was divided on the issue of slavery in Oregon. Henderson was known to be anti-slavery. The pro-slavery faction of the board made several attempts to gain control of the board and, therefore, the college. They finally succeeded in 1859 and forced Reverend Henderson to resign. The new principal, M.I. Ryan, was vehemently pro-slavery and wrote several articles expressing his position. A student at the college wrote several rebuttals to Ryanís articles under a pseudonym. Ryan mistakenly suspected Pengra, the editor of the paper, of writing the rebuttals. On June 22, 1860, Ryan attacked Pengra with a revolver and was arrested for attempted murder. Aside from this embarrassing incident, the college was in bad financial straits after the two fires and the Board of Directors was still heavily embroiled in slavery controversy. The college finally closed its doors on July 10, 1860, but left a legacy of education in Eugene.

Another important project which helped to form the character of the College Hill neighborhood was Mercy Hospital. The hospital was built in 1907 near 21st and Willamette on the west side of the street. Originally the hospital was known as the Eugene General Hospital, but in 1912 a group of doctors and businessmen sold the hospital to the Catholic Sisters of Mercy. Mercy Hospital was run by the Sisters until 1928 when Sacred Heart Hospital was established in another part of the city.

In 1912, the Sisters of Mercy placed an advertisement for Mercy Hospital in the Polkís Directory.

"The building is situated on College Hill commanding a beautiful view of the City and surrounding country. The location is most sanitary and healthful, the slight elevation affording the best of drainage and atmospheric conditions. Though but a few minutes walk from the center of town and conveniently reached by the College Hill Car Line, the Hospital is entirely outside of the noise and dirt of the city."

All that remains of Mercy Hospital today are the stone steps.

Today, College Hill remains a favorite residential area for young professionals and students alike. The topography and lovely residential structures have contributed to College Hillís popularity as a residential neighborhood. The legacy of Columbia College ensured that Eugene would be considered a center of education for Oregon. College Hill serves to remind Eugene of itís commitment to higher education from the earliest settlers to the present day. College Hill, as a residential neighborhood, represents Eugeneís commitment to maintaining and enhancing the livability of the area.

Written by Patricia Berl.