HISTORY OF A HIGH DESERT COMMUNITY
At the turn of the 20th Century, pioneer farmers, irrigation companies, railroads and entrepreneurs carved Redmond from the rocks, sagebrush and juniper trees of Central Oregon’s High Desert.
Irrigation water was two years in the future and the railroad seven years away when schoolteachers Frank and Josephine Redmond pitched their tent on right-of-way for the projected canal and railroad northeast of what would become their namesake downtown in 1904. Each week until irrigation water reached their farm, the Redmonds hitched the horses to a wagon and made the 10-mile round trip to the Deschutes River at Cline Fall to fill a leaky wooden tank with water. Once home they filled every container that would hold water – pitchers, jars, bowls and basins -- with enough water for people and animals until the next trip.
Once water flowed through the canals, farmers, lured by the prospect of free homestead land, speculators and business people looking to set up shop, flowed into the area, all aided by the knowledge that the railroad was coming.
The burgeoning community was incorporated as the City of Redmond on July 6, 1910, with a population of 216. The new voting precinct contained 101 registered voters: 70 Republicans, 20 Democrats, five Independents, five Socialists and one Prohibitionist. Women voted for the first time in Redmond in November 1912 when they participated in a nominating caucus for mayor and city council candidates.
Hopes were realized in the fall of 1911 when the construction crews for the Oregon Truck Line railroad arrived in Redmond and drove a “golden” spike at what is now Evergreen Avenue., connecting the little town to the world for both for export of its agricultural products and transportation of passengers in and out.
A BRIDGE TO MODERNIZATION
Redmond gained easier access by motor vehicle with the 1926 completion of the High Bridge over Crooked River Gorge that connected segments of The Dalles-California Highway (Highway 97) without the trouble of zigzagging up and down the canyon walls at Trail Crossing about a mile east of the current highway bridges. When the new Highway 97 bridge, the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge, was completed in 2000, the original highway bridge was designated for pedestrians.
As the result of easier access and new opportunities brought by the canal system, new residents flocked to the area in the 1910s and ‘20s, establishing farms, ranches and businesses. By 1930 1,000 people called the city home.
BUILDING EDUCATION & AVIATION
The 1920s also saw construction of Redmond’s largest historic buildings and the beginnings of its airport. The two-story brick Redmond Union High School was built in 1921. At the January 1922 dedication, State Superintendent of Public Instruction J.A. Churchill called the $100,000 school as “a very great achievement” in the history of rural education. “Facilities such as you now have will mean a better education to the young people and place the entire community life on a higher plane, making it a better place in which to live.” The building later served as Evergreen Elementary.
And in 1928, just one year after a fire destroyed the block with the original wood frame Redmond Hotel, the three-story brick New Redmond Hotel opened to guests. The hotel’s grand opening advertisement declared, “Luxury, beauty, comfort and convenience – all are combined in this magnificent structure, the forerunner of greater progress for Redmond.”
Roberts Field-Redmond Municipal Airport, Central Oregon’s regional airport, traces its origins to 1928 when members of Redmond’s Ray Johnson American Legion Post staked out land a mile southeast of downtown for an airfield. Over the following year, volunteers the Legion and the Redmond Commercial Club (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) scraped the first dirt runways from the desert landscape a mile southeast of downtown.
In the 1930's, the airport was improved using WPA funds. Rubble blasted from the site was used to build Redmond’s first dedicated city hall (at the site of today’s Centennial Park). During World War II the airport was taken over by the Army Air Corps and turned into Redmond Air Base, to train pilots of B-17's and P-38's. After the war the airport and its improvements were returned to the city and commercial air service began.
The wood products industry that began in the 1930's continued to thrive until the 1980's. Potatoes, the long-time king of Redmond-area agricultural commodities, disappeared in the ‘80's. Today the city’s economy is driven by assorted small manufacturing, retail, government and healthcare services and tourism.
Redmond’s population grew slowly, but steadily to 7,165 in 1990. Ensuing years saw the number of city residents explode. Between 2000 and 2006 the city’s population grew by more than 74 percent, making it among Oregon’s fastest growing communities. In July 2007 almost 25,000 people called Redmond home.
LEARN MORE ABOUT REDMOND HISTORY
- Redmond Rose of the Desert by Elizabeth Ward
- Redmond Where the Desert Blooms by Keith Clark
- Images of America “Redmond”, by Leslie Pugmire Hole and Trish Pinkerton
- The Redmond Spokesman, 1910 to present, on microfilm at Redmond Public Library
Greater Redmond Historical Society Museum
529 SW Seventh St.
Redmond, OR 97756
The Heritage Walk and The Moderne Architectural Movement in Redmond are brochures that feature self-guided walking tours of historical points of interest in Redmond. These brochures are available at the Redmond Chamber of Commerce & CVB, the Deschutes Public LIbrary Redmond Branch, and Redmond City Hall.