March 5, 2023

Aurora, Oregon: Old Aurora Colony Museum + antiques shops; things to do

Aurora, Oregon

Alternate route Highway 99E goes right through town, splitting it in half.

Time After Time antiques shop in Aurora, Oregon
Time After Time antiques shop in Aurora, Oregon

Aurora is the first organized Christian communal society established west of the Mississippi.  The 400 original colony members arrived via the Oregon Trail in 1855.  Sharing property and labor with one another, they flourished here from 1856 through the mid-1880s.   The community became known for simple living and for accumulating a minimum of material things, and it produced fine musicians, craftsmen, and scholars.  Though the colony disbanded in the 1880s, many descendants continue to live here. 

Aurora opened its first antique store in 1959.  The town was designated Oregon’s first National Historic District in 1974.  Now, with more than 200 antique dealers, it claims to be Oregon’s antique capital.  What I like best about antiqueing here--besides the generally good prices made even better by Oregon’s policy of charging no sales tax--is that many of the shops operate within restored historic buildings.  But be cautious.  On my last visit I purchased an item that I later found in Portland for half the price! 

merchandise in Home Again Antiques shop in Aurora, Oregon
merchandise in Home Again Antiques shop in Aurora, Oregon

Old Aurora Colony Museum 

2nd/Liberty.  Fee. 
Five buildings display a collection of kitchen utensils, farm implements, and other artifacts once used in the daily lives of colony members.  Informal guided tours begin with a slide show telling how the mostly German colonists settled first in Pennsylvania, then in Missouri, then here.  The tour also includes the restored 1870s Steinbach Log Cabin and Kraus House.  Browsing the exhibits, we saw some unusual musical instruments--most of which still work--and an elaborate music box sent back to the town by Henry Theophilus Fink, who was the first Oregon student to graduate from Harvard (the whole town helped him with expenses) and who worked at the New York Post as a music critic from 1881 to 1924.  As a Bay Area resident, I found it interesting to learn that the town once operated a busy hotel serving travelers on the road between San Francisco and British Columbia.

Contact the Aurora Colony Visitors Association for more information about antiques shops, restaurants, and lodging.

More things to do along Highway 5 in Oregon.    

More things to do in Portland. 

More ideas for exploring the U.S.

images copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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