By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

History set in stone

Marcus Larson/News-RegisterA Beaverton contractor saved the original McMinnville Hospital cornerstone when the building was demolished in 1998.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
A Beaverton contractor saved the original McMinnville Hospital cornerstone when the building was demolished in 1998.
Submitted photoThe Martin Miller Fountain in Dayton Courthouse Square made an excellent photo posing spot after its completion in 1917.
Submitted photo
The Martin Miller Fountain in Dayton Courthouse Square made an excellent photo posing spot after its completion in 1917.

Cornerstone cornered

In 1998, the McMinnville Hospital that had stood for 67 years on the triangular tract of property where Adams and Beker streets merge was torn down. Now, a quarter century later, the building’s long lost cornerstone has turned up and is being brought back home. This is the story behind that story. So let’s get on with the story.

In 1931, brothers William and Erwin Barendrick, both medical doctors and professional partners, built a three-story, brick hospital on the triangle property where Walgreens is now located.

The first building in McMinnville designed specifically for medical care, it initially featured 30 beds, one surgery suite and two delivery rooms, but was expanded several times over the years. It eventually came to feature 80 beds, two surgery suites, a cystoscopy unit and a birthing center.

The Barendricks came to town in 1919 and purchased the practice of Dr. Elmer Goucher, founder of McMinnville’s first hospital. It occupied a converted three-story house just to the north.

After the Barendricks completed work on the new hospital, they converted the old one next door into living quarters for the nursing staff.

No matter which town they grew up in, the vast majority of Yamhill Valley residents born between 1931 and 1996 came into the world at McMinnville Community Hospital.

After a 65-year run, however, the building was both outmoded and outgrown. When the old brick building finally fell to the wrecking ball, its remains were unceremoniously trucked from the site for disposal elsewhere.

Overlooked among the rubble was the building’s simple but stately cornerstone, which had “McMINNVILLE HOSPITAL 1931” chiseled into its surface.

Long gone and apparently totally forgotten, the cornerstone recently resurfaced, thanks to the keen eye and quick action of local history buff and auto pro Tim Elliott.

Elliott often cruises Craigslist looking either for vintage vehicles to purchase for himself or previously owned pearls to purchase for his employer, Jim Dorn. And he noted, “One never knows what he will find.”

As he tells it, “On April 22, I found a post for the 1931 hospital cornerstone and an ambulance sign. Knowing they don’t make these every day, and it’s a part of our town’s history, I decided to call and see if I could strike a deal for the cornerstone (most important and very cool) and possibly the ambulance sign (less important but still cool).”

The Beaverton woman who posted the ad said her son, who had passed away, had been involved in demolition of the hospital. She said he had kept a few things, including the cornerstone and sign.

She expressed interest in seeing the cornerstone find a proper home in McMinnville, and Elliott set out to ensure that.

He arranged to buy the cornerstone and sign, and lined up fellow 1977 Mac High alum Robert Brown to help him pick them up and bring them back down.

Elliott said the cornerstone, which probably weighs more than 150 pounds, “is in fine shape and would look great on display in a prominent spot.” He said he had his eye on the small parklike setting in front of the Willamette Valley Medical Center on the Highway 18 Bypass, or the Yamhill County Heritage Center, just south of town on Highway 18.

Elliott said both had expressed interest, but neither had yet gotten back to him with a detailed proposal.

For now, the cornerstone reposes in the garage of its new owner, awaiting word of its future. He said he would be happy to donate it to either party, as long as it is assured a suitable home.

If you’re interested in assisting Elliott with relocation of his rock-solid piece of the local past, you can reach him at


Bubbler back from the brink

A lovely old fountain graces the grounds of Dayton’s signature city park, often fondly referred to as Courthouse Square, though there’s never been a courthouse in Dayton.

The Martin Miller Fountain was dedicated on May 17, 1917. And Dayton leaders could not have chosen a more appropriate way to honor Miller, the local pioneer who donated water rights on his Dundee Hills property to the city.

No ordinary, every day, run-of-the-water fountain, the stone structure was designed by prominent Portland architect Ernst Kroner, who personally oversaw its installation.

Kroner charged nothing for his work, nor did the laborers who constructed it. And a Dayton women’s group, originator of the idea in the first place, raised enough money to cover the cost of materials.

Over a 50-year career, Kroner amassed an impressive portfolio in Northwestern Oregon. Among the buildings he designed were the I.O.O.F. halls in Portland and Clatskanie, Zion Lutheran Church in Oregon City and the German Aid Society in Portland,

In McMinnville alone, he designed the Carnegie library, the US Bank building and Lincoln High, the city’s original secondary school. He also designed schools in Sheridan, Gresham, Seaside and Astoria.

Though Kroner had made the fountain to last, weathering and wear over nearly a century of continuous use have taken their toll. Fortunately, a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office has been supplemented with enough local match from the city to fund restoration.

The office is also supplying a restoration expert to provide advice on proper techniques in bringing the fountain back to its original appearance and functionality.

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — having a granite time putting a chunk of calcite on my slate and taking it all with a grain of basalt.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227.

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