Hello Central Oregonians! Welcome to the newest column for the Source Weekly. I'm a southerner (from Mississippi) stranded (perhaps permanently) in the Pacific Northwest. Like the majority of us, I landed in Bend and fell in love with the area.
Also like most of us, I love the outdoors, but I feel we often overlook what makes Central Oregon unique in favor of the latest hiking gear, the newest food truck or the tastiest IPA. Oregon's rich history and culture intrigued me from the beginning — the tales of tough fur trappers, homesteaders, sheep herders and loggers to present day recreation, art, creative entrepreneurship, and the many other things that make our area exceptional. My natural curiosity (and perhaps my educational background) led me on a journey of deeper exploration. With an entire new history to learn in this part of the country, I am always on the hunt for new adventures and information (including those that involve hikes, food trucks and beers).
Is there something you always wanted to know about Central Oregon but could never figure it out? Maybe you didn't have the time to do the research? Send me your burning questions about local history, cultural interests or other peculiarities of the area. The questions might relate to place names, old buildings, individuals, or other oddities and such. I'll do my best to find the answers and publish them in this column!
First question: Is there really a Lord of the Rings-inspired neighborhood in Bend?
In a quiet Bend neighborhood the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien remains alive and well. Yes, I am referring to the author of "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the most popular fantasy books ever written. Wizards, elves, dwarfs, trolls and orcs, oh my! And, of course, hobbits.
Many of us read those books as kids, and even more of us sat through possibly the longest films ever to be released in the theater! Three plus hours later, we emerged from the dark cinema, our eyes blinded by the sunlight and our bellies full of soda and popcorn. Good times, indeed.
Years ago in Bend, around the time the movies were released, in fact, a developer named Ron Meyers had the grandiose idea to create an entire village-like neighborhood with 31 homes. For this ambitious real estate venture, each home was planned to have unique stonework, thatched roofs, terraced gardens, Hobbit holes and a connected network of streams and ponds reminiscent of Tolkien's fantasy world. I can vividly see it in my head as I write.
Unfortunately, the early 2000s brought a housing crisis to almost every part of the United States, and it hit Bend especially hard. Prices went up fast and fell even faster. The values of homes plummeted and the vision of the Shire, barely started, disappeared quickly.
Meyers later sold his share of the development to a St. Charles physician. Unfortunately, soon afterward, tragedy struck the doctor as well. In the end, only two of the planned homes were built in the Old World style. The community was rebranded Forest Creek, and though many nice houses now exist in the area, they bear no mark of fantasy.
However, the grand idea remains visible in the unique architecture of the Butterfly Cottage and one other home. Two streets also still bear the name of what could have been — Ring Bearer Court and Shire Lane. You may not see Gandolf, Frodo or Bilbo Baggins hanging out in the area (no, they're not invisible), but Tolkien himself would be proud and appreciate the creative endeavor.
If Meyers' ideas had come to fruition, it's quite possible the entire neighborhood would be a prime viewing destination these days. Tourists from all over the world would visit and take countless selfies like they do at Blockbuster (the last one in the world, in case you didn't know). Luckily for the residents, this isn't the case. If you decide to take a look at these homes, be mindful they are private property and keep your distance. The residents would appreciate it.
Send those burning questions to [email protected] and we'll answer them in the next column!