Thursday, December 12, 2013
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Robin Puccetti, left, and Peggy Smith look over the recently installed panels at Riverview Park and Amphitheater that highlight Independence's hop heritage.
September 17, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- There are few things the city of Independence is more proud of than its legacy as the hop capitol of the late 19th and early 20th century.
In fact, Mayor John McArdle officially proclaimed in July that Independence is the "Historical Hop Capital of the World."
Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, visitors to Riverview Park and Amphitheater will now get to see tales of that history firsthand.
The bulk of the grant went to printing multiple panels detailing aspects of the city's rich hop heritage, from housing for farmers to production.
Late last week, the city installed eight panels on the columns leading into the amphitheater.
"It's been a yearlong project. We're delighted to have them up. I think they're going to be an attraction to the downtown," Robin Puccetti, Independence community services director, said. "They really show how much of Independence's history was driven by one crop."
Peggy Smith, curator of the Independence Heritage Museum, spearheaded the research into the panels.
Smith estimates she spent around 200 hours gathering sources and information for the project.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Smith was hesitant to send the final designs off to Eugene-based Imagine Group for printing.
"This was the first time I have ever outsourced having panels made," Smith said. "Just before we sent them out, I noticed three errors. It's still not perfect, I had to just stop and say it was good."
Rogue Ales Hopyard outside Buena Vista partnered with the Heritage Museum and the Polk County Historical Society as well to bring the project to life.
For their partnership, the Hopyard has one set of panels for display and the Heritage Museum has the other two, one for permanent display, the other for loan to other groups and organizations.
Six more panels are on the way, too, in the form of full-page articles from The Oregonian circa the early 20th century promoting family vacations out to the hopyards.
The city's focus on its connection to hops and the pivotal role the crop played in the city's growth is all part of a new concentration on branding for the city.
"We think our connection with hops is something that makes us unique. We wanted to highlight that," Shawn Irvine, Independence economic development director, said. "We're starting to be engaged a little more with tourism planning and promotion, focusing a little more on our identity."
Once the remaining panels show up later this month, Puccetti and staff at the Heritage Museum will take a much needed break from displays and exhibits, but only for a little while.
"We're going to take a deep breath, but there are always projects," Puccetti said. "Independence has such a rich history, there are so many things you can explore."