About 15 miles west of Ontario, Oregon sits the quiet, unassuming town of Vale. With a population of 1,874 residents, Vale serves as the county seat of Malheur County and is one of a small handful of cities and towns in Oregon that sit in the Mountain Time Zone.
Vale’s origins date back to the days of the Oregon Trail and was the first stop along the trail after emigrants crossed the Snake River into Oregon and crested Keeney Pass. Originally known as Malheur Crossing, this was where emigrants would ford the Malheur River in their covered wagons. With plentiful water, lush grasses to graze their stock, and a hot springs for bathing and laundry, this location must have been heaven on earth after the hot, dusty trek from the Snake River crossing. According to trail journals, a trading post operated by a Mr. Turner was located here as early as 1853.
With the motto “Born and raised on the Oregon Trail,” the residents of Vale are proud of the Oregon Trail heritage here. Founded in 1992, the Vale Mural Society showcases the area’s history via outdoor murals painted on the sides of buildings scattered around town.
Vale boasts 25 to 30 murals, some by themselves and others in small clusters. While they are all captivating, here are our favorites.
Historic buildings are located throughout Vale as well, most prominently the Rinehart Stone House, built in 1872. It is one of the oldest existing buildings in Oregon and has served in several roles over the years. Originally a way station on the Oregon Trail, it has also served as a stagecoach stop, a private residence, and as Vale’s original post office in 1883. The building earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Today, it houses the Rinehart Stone House Museum and showcases an impressive collection of artifacts, photographs, and publications throughout the history of this quaint little city and the surrounding area.
Other notable historic buildings in Vale include the 1906 Malheur Forwarding Company Building. Malheur Drug is the current and long-standing tenant.
Across A Street from the Malheur Forwarding Company Building resides two adjacent structures built in 1907. The corner building housed the First National Bank and the building next to it was the Goodrich Hotel. The rooms on the upper floor of the Goodrich Hotel are still rented out to this day and the first floor has hosted a variety of businesses over the years.
Give yourself an entire day to thoroughly explore the abundant art and history found here. We drove the mural route, but consider walking it instead. Driving resulted in frequent stops and parking to take photos, since most of the murals are in close proximity of each other. Above all, enjoy the experience and relaxed ambiance this little city exudes. A visit here is truly a trip back in time.
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