The A-to-Zs of Central Oregon: O is for OLD MILL DISTRICT

Courtesy of the  Oregon History Project

Courtesy of the Oregon History Project

Photo by Jenny Furniss

Photo by Jenny Furniss


This week we're talking about the Old Mill District. This is one of Bend's most well-preserved historic sites, and one of the most popular tourist destinations for shopping and eating in Bend. You can stroll along the idyllic Deschutes River while purchasing a pair of hiking boots from REI, enjoying a coffee at Strictly Organic, sitting down to sip wine at Naked Winery, or tucking into dinner at Level 2

Next door at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, there are a host of excellent performances all summer long! What's better than listening to live music next to a river, with a sweeping mountain background? Check out their great outdoor lineup for the rest of the season


We talked a bit about Bend's rich logging history in a previous post. The Old Mill District is indeed the site of two previous lumber mills: the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Company and the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company. Both of these mills opened in the early 20th century, and shut down by the early 1950s due to unsustainable forestry practices. 


Courtesy of  TrainWeb

Courtesy of TrainWeb

Courtesy of the  Old Mill District

Courtesy of the Old Mill District

The shops and restaurants in the Old Mill District are more than meets the eye. In fact, there are nine restored buildings in the Old Mill! For example, Bend's REI is housed in a building made up of two historic buildings: the Brooks-Scanlon powerhouse and fuel building. This is the building that supports the iconic triple smokestacks!



According to the Old Mill District, two of the three smokestacks were originally erected in 1922, at a towering (pun intended) 206 feet from the ground. The third stack was added in 1933, standing at 201 feet tall.

These smokestacks stood on the original Powerhouse building that-- after a renovation and remodeling in 2004 and 2005-- houses REI today. 


Courtesy of the  Old Mill   District

Courtesy of the Old Mill District

The oldest preserved building in the Old Mill District is the "Little Red Shed," which used to house the mill's fire equipment. Today, it houses the fine art business DeWilde Art Glass. Fun fact: DeWilde is responsible for the stained glass circular "Bend" logos you'll see hanging in dozens of windows around town! 


This project is simply stunning, and should definitely be visited in order to be appreciated! For their attention to detail and immense efforts in preservation, the Old Mill District is the only project on the west of the United State to win a national 2017 Excellent on the Waterfront Award from the Waterfront Center, which seeks to commend designs that are sensitive to local bodies of water.

The Old Mill District was also a finalist for the Urban Land Institute's 2016 Global Awards for Excellence. Since 1936, the Urban Land Institute aims to commend designs that use land responsibly and create sustainable, thriving communities worldwide.

Bill Smith, the developer responsible for much of the current Old Mill District (as well as Black Butte Ranch) earned a Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2014 Building a Better Central Oregon Awards for his efforts to restore the old lumber mills.