(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)
Corner 14 is a great “new” family-oriented venue in Oregon City where one can get “great food, spirits and brew,” in both an expansive outdoor environment, or now that restrictions are lifted, in a nice indoor space as well.
I’ve been there four times in the last two months and all visits were enjoyable with good beer and delicious food – each time from a different choice in the eclectic food carts on the premises. And I’m delighted that an entrepreneurial family was willing to take a risk in the town in which I spent a good part of my youth.
Find out below, why you should put this on your list of establishments to visit this summer. But first a little context. Why should you want to visit Oregon City?
My family moved to Oregon City, Oregon from Ohio in 1960 when I was twelve. Oregon City is a wonderful community – now with about 38,000 people – about twelve miles south of Portland on the Willamette River. The Oregon City Arch Bridge built in 1922 is an historical landmark.
History abounds – the city was founded in 1829 by the Hudson Bay Company and in 1844 became the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains. The original plat of San Francisco was filed there. (See end of post for photo attribution *).
For many years, it was a mill town with Publishers Paper at the south end of Main Street and Crown Zellerbach right across the River on Willamette Falls in West Linn. *1 That’s the site of the first multi-level navigational locks in the US.
The Willamette Falls Legacy Project is a public (four government entities) and is owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grande Rhonde who own the site.
It’s also the only city with an outdoor municipal elevator in the US. The Oregon City Municipal Elevator (130-foot vertical lift) was originally constructed in 1915 and was water-powered. (It required riders to navigate a wooden catwalk between the exit and the Promenade at the top.) The current elevator replaced it in 1955.
The Elevator took me from the second level and the top of the basalt cliff to downtown where I delivered the The Oregon Journal in junior high.
Our home was on Center Street on the second level – across the street from the historic John McLoughlin House – I also mowed and took care of the McLoughlin House lawn during the summer for $20 per week.*5
Living in OC was like taking a continuous class in Oregon History. Our first house at 720 Center Street was built in 1908 and owned and occupied by Captain M.D. Phillips.
“He served during the Spanish American War as a member of Company I of the Second Oregon Regiment of Oregon Volunteers. He replaced Captain Pickens while in the Philippines.
Captain Phillips was co-owner of the Riverbank Skating Rink in Downtown Oregon City with G. Olds and later was employed as foreman by Crown Willamette Company.” (City of Oregon City Planning Department)”
Main Street is filled with historic buildings and the Carnegie Library – only about four blocks from our house – was built in 1913. The City’s infrastructure such as the Oregon City-West Linn Bridge and the Elevator are on the National Register of Historic Places.
After Oregon City High School in 1966 and graduation from Oregon State University and Naval Service, I returned to Oregon City. My first “real” job was working for Clackamas County for seven years – first in the Elections Department and then for the County Commissioners – right on Main Street where I used to deliver the paper.
Oregon City also means a lot to me because that’s where I met my wife of forty-one years, Janet. I ultimately served on the Oregon City Planning Commission for almost eight years and was Chair. Janet was hired as the City’s first Citizen Involvement Coordinator – important because we spent over a year developing the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
The first time I laid eyes on her was at a 1979 evening Planning Commission meeting and since the process and decisions could often be controversial with the various constituencies, no one knew we were dating until we got engaged that September. Janet went on to become the Assistant City Manager for both Oregon City and West Linn.
In the late ’70’s, we were concerned that downtown Oregon City was slowly withering away with shops, professional offices and restaurants moving away or going out of business and the distinct possibility that the Courthouse and many County buildings would move to the Red Soils area which is about five miles from downtown.
Fortunately, in the last several years, downtown Oregon City has had a revival, of sorts. Although not helped by the pandemic, there are new shops, restaurants and bars and the Courthouse stayed in its original location and expanded to a building across Main Street. Now, it’s difficult to find a parking place and downtown is thriving.
I’m therefore pleased to say that on a busy corner – only two blocks east of the north end of Main Street – at the corner of 14th and Washington Streets – there’s now what I’ll label as a “new community watering hole” named Corner 14. And it’s right across from the Oregon City Brewing Company – also a nice establishment.
Corner 14 is the brainchild of Cherisse Reilly and her father, Dan Fowler, who opened their new venture in February, 2021. Both are long-time Oregon City people, she a 1997 grad of OCHS and her dad from cross-river rival, West Linn HS in 1971, but then moving back to OC where he eventually became Mayor.
His parents also graduated from OCHS (grandfather Dale Fowler in 1949, grandmother Norma (Schubert) Fowler) in 1950. Both Dan and Cherisse have been involved in businesses and historic restoration in Oregon City for many years. They describe Corner 14 as:
“Founded and operated by a father and daughter with a deep love for the community of Oregon City.”
Corner 14 is not a bar per se’ but a large lot that houses twelve esoteric food carts, an expansive area with numerous picnic tables – many of which are undercover and have small propane burners to keep patrons warm. Oh yes, there’s also an ax throwing cube – more on that later.
There’s an indoor area housing a bar in the structure that for many years was “Spicer Brothers’ Produce Market.” When the Spicers sold it, Dan and Cherisse leased it from the new owner to bring to life a concept they had been thinking about for some time.
In the indoor bar area, they have 24 taps (twenty beer, two cider and two wine taps). It includes gluten-free selections. Their most popular beers are two of my favorites – Boneyard RPM IPA and Pfriem Pillsner. If you want a cocktail, they also have a good selection and skilled bartenders.
In the last six weeks, I’ve been to Corner 14 four times and loved it. It had the advantage of being a great place to eat and drink in a covered (also uncovered if desired) outside area before pandemic restrictions were lifted to allow indoor dining. They also have live music several nights each week.
They took a risk in bringing to life a community concept with the same “outdoor vibe” as Bend in such establishments as the Crux Fermentation Project. Bringing it to fruition took patience and perseverance since the City Zoning Code at the time did not provide for food carts.
Clackamas County had no similar concept and, of course, there were the usual hoops to jump through to secure licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and food permits, etc.
The pandemic-caused lockdowns, which occurred shortly after they opened, undoubtedly caused them to pause, wonder about timing and move forward cautiously; however, they have not altered the original concept.
And upon reflection, since outdoor venues were the only ones that could serve food and beverages for quite some time, there were some advantages because Corner 14 was the venue with the most outdoor seating in the area. (We found that out the first time my wife and I visited it while indoor options were still not available. (They were also good with mask protocols so one could feel safe.)
I had food from three different food carts (Shawarma Express, Adelina’s Mexican Food and Maw Maws Cajun Kitchen). The pricing was very reasonable, the food excellent and portions plentiful. Cherisse said that when they were considering the concept, the food cart vendors came to them and they selected the mix based on having food diversity, but more importantly, “owners that were a good fit and great people.”
My favorite was Mediterranean vendor Shawma Express where I had a scrumptious lamb sandwich on saj bread which was big enough for dinner that night and lunch the next day. The complete list of food carts and their menus are on the Corner 14 website.
The “Celtic Ax Throwers” booth is from a company that originated at the now-closed Feckin Brewery just south of Oregon City and one of the first ax vendors in the area. The owners decided to market the concept and now have them in five bars and breweries in the US and even have private parties for this type of competition which is obviously more aggressive than darts!
Cherisse said the activity is very popular and since I worked in a law firm for many years, she responded well when I asked questions about insurance and liability issues, especially since it’s in an area where people are drinking alcoholic beverages.
These two articles from the Daily Nebraskan in 2019 are Point – Counterpoint pieces on the wisdom of this concept with the debate “Do Ax Throwing Bars Provide a Fun, Different Escape from Reality?” or “Are They a Reckless New Fad.” Evidently the State of Nebraska prohibits ax throwers from having more than two beers!
So what’s ahead? Cherisse Reilly when I asked her what has been the biggest surprise since they started, didn’t hesitate and said, “The amount of support we have received from the Community.” As evidence, each time I’ve been there, the place has been bustling with enthusiastic individuals and families.
The aforementioned Oregon City Brewing is expanding across the street and plans food carts, but rather than view it as competition. Cherisse stated positively, “Activity breeds activity.”
I have to mention before ending that my last visit two weeks ago was with a frequent Beerchasing companion and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jim Westwood – a fellow OCHS graduate. His mom, Catherine, was my (and his, a few years earlier) Latin teacher for two years in high school. (That is some indication of how old we are….).
This retired appellate lawyer and I were reminiscing about life in Oregon City including the 1964 Christmas Flood that affected the Northwest and Northern California. It was a 100-year flood caused by unique weather conditions that Jim explained – he has a long-time interest in meteorology – even appearing as a weekend weatherman on Portland television in past years.
Also at the corner of 14th and Washington – across the street from Corner 14 is my high school classmate Tony Petrich family’s fish market – founded by his dad, Tony Sr. in 1936. You can see from the two of the pictures, the impact of the 1964 weather event. The Willamette River is over two long blocks from Tony’s Fish Market – also worth a visit and including delicious fish and chips.
Photo Attribution for Photos not taken by Don Williams
*1 Willamette Falls – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – Author: Angelus Commercial Studio, Portland, Oregon (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_–_at_Oregon_City,_Oregon_(75494).jpg
*2 Willamette Falls – Wikimedia Commons – Author: Garry Halvorson, Oregon State Archives 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_(Clackamas_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clacD0069).jpg)
*3 Willamette Falls Locks – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_Locks_1915.jpg)
*4 Original Oregon City Elevator Mural – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: EncMstr – 16 Dec 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City_Municipal_Elevator_mural_original_elevator_P1331.jpeg)
*5 Captain Phillips House – 720 Center Street (https://www.orcity.org/planning/720-center-street-captain-md-phillips-house)
*6 The Dr. John McLoughlin House on Center Street – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: Mark Goebel from Taos, New Mexico, USA – 28 June 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_McLoughlin_House,_Oregon_City.JPG_(3534603314).jpg)
*7 Carnegie Library Oregon City – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Srandjlsims 29 May 2012 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OREGON_CITY_OREGON_CARNEGIE_LIBRARY_copy.jpg)
*8 Main Street Oregon City circa 1920 – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – Source: Carey, Charles Henry. (1922). History of Oregon. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City_Main_Street_1920.jpg)
*9 Clackamas County Courthouse – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Another Believer 22 April 2018 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City,_Oregon_(2018)_-_008.jpg)
*10 Cherisse Reilly and Dan Fowler – Courtesy of Cherisse Reilly.
*11 Corner 14 Barroom – (https://www.corner14oc.com/)
*12 Washington Street during 1964 Christmas Food – Photo Courtesy of Clackamas County Archives.