Alpenrose is the oldest family-owned dairy in Oregon. It was named after a flower in Switzerland, where McKinnon’s family lived before moving to Oregon over 100 years ago.
Located off Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway at 6149 S.W. Shattuck Road, the dairy has long offered many facilities and activities more closely associated with public parks, including the most steeply banked bicycle Velodrome track in the region, a quarter-mile oval track for go-kart racing, and baseball fields where Little League World Series girl’s games have been played for the past 23 years.
Tracey Cadonau McKinnon’s grandfather, Carl Cadonau Sr., started Dairyville in the 1950s to provide wholesome recreation for families after church. The buildings, which increased in number over the years, look like a cowboy movie set. Original activities included pony rides, kite-racing, and frog-jumping, pie-eating and cow-milking contests. Visitors also enjoyed the challenge of climbing a pole covered with bacon fat, where those who made it to the top could earn a silver dollar.
Alpenrose Dairy’s roots run deep in the community. Back when most of Southwest Portland was farmland, Florian Cadonau began to deliver milk to downtown Portland in 1891 with his young son, Henry, who opened the dairy in 1916 with his wife, Rosina.
Originally located at Southwest 45th Avenue and Vermont Street, it moved to its current location after a catastophic fire. Henry’s son, Carl Sr., joined the business after returning from World War II in 1946, and his son, Carl Cadonau Jr., later joined him. The senior Cadonau ran the dairy until his death in 2004. The dairy currently is managed by Cadonau Jr. and Rod Birkland, both great-grandsons of Florian Cadonau.
The dairy did not set out to become a community center. According to Carl Jr., when he and Rod were growing up, they and their brothers would play ball near their grandmother’s rose garden. After trampling some of the plants, she told Henry to build the kids their own ball field. A local Little League saw it and soon was playing games there. Dugouts, lights and a scoreboard were added over the next few years. After a couple more fields popped up, the dairy gained a reputation for having excellent facilities, eventually hosting the Little League Softball World Series games that are broadcast every year on ESPN.
More sports facilities followed, including the Quarter Mile midget track (go-karts) in the 1950s, a dirt-surfaced bicycle track in 1962, and the Velodrome in 1967. The facility began hosting national competitions just two years later.
At one point, the dairy also had between 80 and 100 Shetland ponies that would be taken to grocery stores for pony rings and wagon rides. McKinnon says rides also were offered at the dairy in the first building of what became Dairyville.
Today, the dairy is a different business than it once was. In the past, as many as 250 cows were on the property. Early deliveries were made around the city by horse and wagon. Now, Alpenrose gets its milk from a co-op that includes approximately 100 farms in the state. Processing is done at a modern plant at the dairy, from which products are then distributed.
But, despite the changes, Alpenrose still gives back to the community by opening its doors to visitors and staging such signature events as one of the largest Easter egg hunts in the country. It is opened every Sunday afternoon during the 2017 summer. Free.
Adapted by Elaine Shreve from the Portland Tribune story of June 2, 2017, written by Jim Redden (Pamplin Media Group). This story used with author permission, June 2, 2017.
[Editor: After we published the above story, Doc Hickman called with more details, below.]
Doc Hickman: Remembering Alpenrose and early life in Garden Home.
After a fire at the Elco Dairy on Shattuck Road, Alpenrose purchased the Elco acres and moved from its original location at SW 45th and Vermont.
Stan Marugg was hit by a car up at Alpenrose, broke his arm, successfully sued the dairy.
Doc worked in hauling a thousand tons of alfalfa baled hay from a farm at Goldendale, WA. It was used to feed the large herd of milk cows at the dairy.
Pete Gertsch farmed with horses in the early part of the 1900’s. After WW II, he bought a small tractor. Alfalfa was the major feed for cows, besides pastures. It could be cut and stacked 2-4 times in a year.
Doc also worked for the Schallberger’s dairy farm on Scholls Ferry Road near the Raleigh Hills intersection. The testing of milk was a complicated and expensive procedure in that day. The untested and thoroughly clean milk had to be sold as “dog milk.” On this farm, they rigged up a system of dog milk in big cans where one could drain the amount of milk they needed into a container and then choose to use it for dogs or to drink for the family. People paid by an honor system.
From our Doc Hickman story:
In 1948 at the time of the great Vanport flood in north Portland, Mrs. Schallberger had gone to Switzerland to visit family. One of the family members had taken a nice photo of the dairy farm to send her but then forgot to turn the dial to move the photo on to the next space on the camera. Another picture of the terrible Vanport flood got overlaid on top of the Schallberger farm to present an alarming photo. They were afraid to send this photo to Switzerland fearing that it would be misinterpreted. Addition: When Mrs. Schallberger came home, she brought one of the large famous Swiss cowbells especially inscribed for the Alpenrose Dairy.
For more information about the history of the Alpenrose Dairy, visit: