Mention Baker City, Oregon to those who live on the west side of the state and their knowledge (if they don't say "Remind me just where Baker City is") will center on the historic aspects of the town.
The wide main street is lined with stone buildings dating from the city's prosperous past. (By 1900, it was the largest city between Portland and Salt Lake City, built with mining, ranching, and timber dollars.)
Baker City has a well deserved reputation for preserving and renovating their historic buildings. On a recent visit, I saw scaffolding in front of one building, as a worker was carefully painting.
And a good portion of the buildings have occupants--small shops, second-hand stores, restaurants, and banks.
One of the most famous structures is the Geiser Grand Hotel, restored in the early 1990s. (The hotel allows sightseers only on guided tours, so don't expect to be able to see much more than the front desk if you walk in off the street.)
On my recent visit, though, I was determined to see more than the historic side of the city.
Through my artist mother, I knew that there were several art galleries in town, as well as the community arts organization, Crossroads Carnegie Art Center.
My first stop was at Peterson's Gallery. The interior was lovely, with a spare, urban feel. In talking with Alyssa Peterson, I found that the gallery has been open only since November, 2011, but it has the feeling of a more established space. It's definitely on my "come back to" list.
Just down the street was the Short Term Gallery, a gallery with a unique beginning. (The gallery was the subject of a visit by Oregon Art Beat, Oregon Public Broadcasting's arts program.) The gallery walls are covered with art work from many different artists. It's a visual treat, with something for every taste. In particular, local artists Tom Novak and Brian Vegter are worth seeking out.
art and dance classes, in addition to a light filled gallery. The area's artists are well represented.
My time in Baker City ended before I had a chance to visit more of the downtown. But lucky me. That just means I'll have to visit again.
A few history and arts related links for Baker City:
Baker County Visitor Information
Historic Baker City
Eastern Oregon Regional Theater
Writers Guild of Eastern Oregon