Walkin’ Shoes: ‘Stroll through the Old Grove’ brings visitors to town’s iconic spots

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On Oct. 19, the Saturday of Homecoming weekend, as the Boxers face Lewis & Clark College on the football field, another event feeds the appetites of the history buffs among the crowd.

Mary Jo Morelli, founder of Sojourn Forest Grove, has been leading historic walking tours of Forest Grove for 16 years. For her, the history of the city has never become dull. There’s always new stories to uncover, and through the ‘Stroll Through the Old Grove’ tour, she’ll be bringing some of them to light. 

“[This tour] is really for anyone,” Morelli says. “I tend to start my tour in front of Old College Hall. As the oldest documented building in Forest Grove, it just seems appropriate to me.”

Reservations for the tour, which will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, are available online through the Alumni Association at community.pacificu.edu/homecoming. Individuals are $12, and children 12 or younger are free. 

The tour will venture into downtown Forest Grove and on to Main Street, uncovering the rich history that floods the historic downtown. Amongst the pasts that will be visited are the La Hacienda Ballroom, which has seen lives as both a pool parlor and a funeral home, and the WSC Insurance building, which at one time hosted the Johnson and Son Livery Stable, where an old pulley system for bringing carriages to the top floor still remains.

The tour will also see some walks into Forest Grove’s surrounding neighborhoods and historic districts, where many homes date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s; the homes bring with them varied architectural styles and many stories of the characters that once lived within.

Though the history of the university and surrounding city is something that anyone can find interest in, Morelli especially loves sharing these tours with returning alumni. Depending on those in attendance, she will often make quick route changes to bring guests to places they may have once roamed, letting them revisit their pasts and reminisce. 

“I always love doing their tours because they share stories of their time at Pacific University,” says Morelli. “I always really appreciate their perspectives.”

Whether a current student or a returning alum, Morelli feels passionately about the history of the school and town. She feels it is important to share with anyone who will lend an ear and an hour to the tour. “My philosophy has always been,” Morelli said, “You have to have some knowledge of where a community has been in order to move into the future.”


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