Garden Home Water District

If you have been reading this series, you know that as more people came west and settled in our three areas, it became harder to supply enough water to meet the need in the early 1900s. Wells, springs and creeks worked well for farming uses, but not necessarily to drink.  Some people began to buy their water from already-established Maplewood or Sylvan Water Districts – depending on where they lived – but it was expensive. Thus Garden Home, Raleigh and West Slope formed their own water districts and the boundaries of those districts became the communities. Raleigh and Garden Home already had names; and their water districts incorporated their boundaries, expanding their communities to include more than just their train station, Post Office and store.  West Slope took on the name of the topography for their district and community.

Perhaps the hardest community of the three to trace back is Garden Home, because the Garden Home Water District is no more. Fortunately, Mr. Jesse Lowman came to our rescue to identify that original locale and map it out for us, so we feel very fortunate to be able to share both the formation of the boundaries and the demise of its water district.

Garden Home appears to have been more “established” with a communal feeling before the other two areas. Still, before the train station, the “area” of Garden Home consisted of only a few homes and buildings around the village store until community members held their first organizational meeting to form its own water district in December of 1920…thereby giving a larger distinct, designated area the name of Garden Home. The first formal incorporated meeting of the Garden Home Water District was in January of 1921. They, too, used to buy their water from the Maplewood Water District; bringing it in through a 10” line off of 60th and Vermont.

The position name of the person running the day-to-day operations of a water district was sometimes District Superintendent and sometimes District Manager, according to the district and decade.  Jesse became manager of the Garden Home Water District in April of 1972, following the death of Ken Waldele. At that time the water district had around 1125 customers and approximately twenty miles of pipe, mostly cast iron and copper, although he did have to replace 13,000 feet of asbestos concrete pipe. There was a small office west of where the (Shell) gas station is now at the corner of Oleson and Garden Home roads, and it had a small storeroom, bathroom and single truck bay that held their one pickup and shovels with which to maintain their water district services. Bills were sent out with a hand addressograph, and Jesse and the full-time bookkeeper were the only two employees. Together they took care of everything that needed doing, office wise. Jesse did all of the field work, maintenance etc., though occasionally he needed to hire a part-time person. In 1960 and 1962 they were able to build two reservoirs in the Garden Home area to hold a total of one million gallons of water; and later, a 24” line was installed from 64th and Multnomah.

As in the other districts, a written description is not going to be as accurate as seeing the map because the lines zigzag, but we’ll do the best we can so you can envision where Garden Home’s original perimeters were:

Surrounded by the Raleigh, Progress, Metzger and Maplewood Water Districts, Garden Home is about one square mile. The eastern boundary is Multnomah County. Northerly it begins at Vermont and travels a straight line to 78th, when it runs south to the Oregon Electric Right of Way, west and up to Becker, cuts over to Scholls Ferry Road briefly and back south to Moss where it goes west again, then south another time to where Alden would be if it went through to this western water line.  The Garden Home boundary then goes east to Carmel, following that street and zigzagging along on the north side of Kensington and both sides of Greenwood to 74th, north to Alden and east once more to the county line.

The original Garden Home Water District boundary is defined by the line drawn with dashes. Part of it is in yellow; part in purple, 2001.

The original Garden Home Water District boundary is defined by the line drawn with dashes. Part of it is in yellow; part in purple, 2001.

Some of you may remember that the Governor of Oregon established a task force called a Boundary Commission in 1969 to review government services in the metro area and to resolve disputes between community boundaries.  It is no longer in existence, but its edict was to eliminate government duplication.  Because Garden Home didn’t have the back hoes and other equipment and materials sometimes needed to maintain water district services, it was clear to the water district board and Mr. Lowman that this was a good time to merge with another district.  Although Progress Water District was the newest in the area, it was also the smallest with only 452 customers.  Metzger was the largest of the three interested in merging, so when they all decided to combine on January 1, 1973, they took the Metzger name.

On May 23, 1991, Metzger, Raleigh and West Slope were invited to join with the Wolf Creek Water District in order to form an east county water district.  Raleigh and West Slope declined, but Metzger and Wolf Creek districts did consolidate and formed what is now the Tualatin Valley Water District. Unfortunately, these consolidations have resulted in possibly losing the historical records of all the original areas unless someone in each region has made it a point to save that historical data. Tualatin Valley Water District does not have any history of any of their former districts, so we are fortunate someone in their office was able to direct us to Mr. Lowman, who retired from Tualatin Valley July 30, 1999 and had been with the Garden Home water district through all its changes.

By Sharon Wilcox, 2001.  Reviewed by Elaine Shreve, April, 2012

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