By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Six-year wait decided its fate

Two weeks ago, Out & About told the story of how Jim Doran sales manager Tim Elliott stumbled across the old McMinnville Community Hospital cornerstone in a Craigslist ad.

An ardent McMinnville booster, Elliott jumped at the chance to bring it back to Mac. Ever since, he has been trying to find an appropriate home for the substantial slab of stone — something more appropriate, at least, than its present resting place in his garage.

The hospital’s successor, the Willamette Valley Medical Center, has expressed interest. Spokesperson Carolyn Lash said the hospital would definitely like to find some way to display it.

Positive news, to be sure. But what led to the tear-down that orphaned the old cornerstone?

This writer was fascinated by what took place between the time the hospital’s doors were shuttered and halls abandoned in 1996 and the time demolition finally came in 2002. It may be reliving recent history for longtime locals, but the story’s worth retelling, both for edifying those who weren’t here and refreshing the recollections of those who were.

From 1931 to 1996, when Yamhill Valley residents referred to “the hospital,” chances are good they meant “McMinnville Community.”

The three-story, fortress-like structure took up much of the triangle now occupied by Walgreens. It lies at the southerly junction where Adams and Baker merge into one two-way street or split into two one-way streets, depending on which direction you’re headed.

At the time, the abandoned hospital was one of McMinnville’s largest and most imposing commercial buildings. Of course, some defined “imposing” as “awful,” while others defined it as “awesome.”

It was not a universally admired example of modern architecture. In fact, it earned an “ugliest building” award two years in a row in a News-Register survey.

Be that as it may, it’s 50,000 square feet made it a substantial structure. Besides, it came with a two-acre lot, and it showed promise for being brought up to date at a considerable savings over new construction.

Local residents Hans and Shauna Hendgen picked it up for the bargain-basement price of $225,000 in 1997. They planned to convert it into an assisted living facility, but were unable to secure financing, so listed it for sale in late 1998.

By then city officials had taken an interest in the property, viewing it as a gateway to the city’s historic downtown district and potential site of a new city hall. But the Hendgens were asking $1.2 million.

Kicking themselves for not making an offer when the property first came on the market, city officials eventually offered the Hendgens $998,000, which would have netting them a profit of more than $700,000. However, officials made their offer contingent on demolition of the asbestos-ridden building, and the Hendgens lacked the finances to cover the cost.

“It’s a real loss in my opinion,” said City Attorney Clifton “Clif” Ross after the deal fell through. “I don’t think we’re going to find many two-acre sites that close to downtown.”

The abandoned building had become quite an eyesore by the time Salem developer Chuck Sides picked it up in February 1999. Though he declined to reveal what he paid, the Assessor’s Office had the property listed at $880,000 on the tax rolls.

Like the Hendgens, he envisioned turning it into an assisted living facility. But he couldn’t find a bank willing to lend him what he figured he needed — about $8 million.

Sides eventually decided to cut his losses and sell the site to the city at a deep discount. But by then, Candace Haines had replaced Ross, and she said the city was no longer interested.

Sides instead sold the land and building back to the Hendgens. They struck a deal with Walgreens, whose closest store at the time was in Tigard, and the rest is history.

The Hendgens partnered with Powell Development of Kirkland, Wash., on both the demolition of the old building and construction of the new one, encompassing 13,600 square feet.

Walgreens, which has since become American’s largest drug and variety chain, was founded in Chicago in 1901 by Charles R. Walgreen Sr.

A publicly owned company, it currently has 8,077 stores, covering every U.S. state and the territory of Puerto Rico. Last year, it grossed almost $72 billion.

When it opened its McMinnville store back in 2002, it was grossing $24 billion with 3,622 stores. My, how things change.

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — driving up to the Walgreens Pharmacy drive-up window to pick up my latest round of pharmaceuticals.

Karl Klooster can be reached at or 503-687-1227.

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