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Baker City, Oregon

On the eastern desert side of Oregon, en route to Idaho lies the historic town of “Baker City”. It is at an elevation of 3451 feet above sea level. It has a population of just over 9800 residents (2019). Baker City was named after the only U.S. Senator ever killed in military combat – Edward D. Baker. Baker City is well known for its Gold Rush and mining days, early activities with the Oregon Trail, and Euro-American pioneers. It was platted in 1865. Its first post office was created in 1866. The town was incorporated in 1874.

The Railroad came through in 1884 – The Oregon Short Line which expanded growth to the area. It became the largest city between Salt Lake City and Portland by 1900 because of the rail and it is a trading center. The Roman Catholic established a Diocese in 1903, after which they built the Saint Francis de Sales Cathedral. In 1918 a Solar Eclipse took place there with impressive observations taken by the U.S. Naval Observatory that was based there. Because of its significance to early pioneers and mining, the Main Street downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Baker Historic District” with over 140 properties dating from 1880-1915. The tallest building in Oregon east of the Cascades is the Baker City Tower which was originally the Baker Community Hotel developed in 1929. In addition, the Geiser Grand Hotel from 1889, originally the Washauer Hotel based on mining. The Baker Heritage Museum (1920) is next to the City Park exhibiting pioneer settlements, mining, ranching, and timber industries of the area. 5 miles out of town is the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center – one of the more famous centers for explaining the Oregon Trail with theater, workshops, events, exhibits, and preservation of wagon ruts.

The city is located between the Blue Mountains (the Elkhorn Mountains in the West) and the Wallowa Mountains in the east, with the Snake River running through its city center. I-84 runs along the eastern edge of the City, with U.S. Route 30 through downtown, Oregon Route 7 connects Baker City to Sumpter and Austin. Route 86 connects to Richland and Halfway. There is a small municipal airport 3 miles north of downtown, and Baker City is accessible via Greyhound, Union Pacific Railroad, and between 1977-1997 Amtrak. The City is approximately 7.16 square miles. The area has a cool semi-arid climate. It gets approximately 25 inches a year of snowfall.

Pre-pandemic, it was known for its annual festivals such as the Miner’s Jubilee in July and the Clint Eastwood comedy “Paint Your Wagon”.

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