Eastern Oregon Light and Power, Baker County, Oregon
By Chet Smith
In the early 1900�s the property was occupied by the Eastern Oregon Light and Power Co. They had a two story brick building along the east side of the property close to the banks of the river and it was here where coke and gas were manufactured from coal, and gas was piped throughout the Main street area and used for heat and lights, the street lights were gas lamps.
The power company developed a generator along the Powder River just above the Industrial Park in South Baker and this is where our early electricity was produced.
Baker City installed a Pelton wheel and generator at the city reservoir and powered it from the city water coming into the reservoir from the west hills. This power was used to light the streets and the substation and controls were on poles in the alley behind city hall.
The building today being referred to as �the barn� was used on the northeast corner as offices of Eastern Oregon Light and Power. The south side of the building had some open stalls where they stored materials, in the early thirties, the south portion of the building was enclosed, doors installed and it was the shop.
Eastern Oregon Light and Power employed Ray Comstock as their mechanic and maintenance man and he took care of what few gasoline powered vehicles they had, in that shop.
About 1926, Eastern Oregon Light and Power moved their office to the Rand building on the NW corner of Washington and first street now an open basement as the result of a fire. They continued to use the gas plant property as a pole yard. In early 1940 they abandoned their private repair shop and rented it to Jones-McCord Hardware company. The store was on the SE corner of Main and Broadway.
They acquired the John Deere tractor franchise and housed the tractor business in the former Easter Oregon Light and Power company shop.
In the late 40�s Jones and McCord liquidated the hardware business and moved the tractor store to the Masonic building at the SW corner of main and Church. Floyd Jones and Harvey McCord retired and Jones� son Howard took over the tractor business. He maintained the shop at the gas plant but developed a new shop in the Masonic building. Howard retired in the early 1960�s and John Deere was moved to a new facility on highway 30, at that time the gas plant shops were vacated and to the best of my knowledge was never used again until Johnson acquired the property.
The lot, now used as Baker Garage�s used car lot once had two buildings facing Washington street, next to the river, a building housed Bob Irvin�s paint and body shop and his family occupied an apartment top side.
Next door, West was another building occupied by Blackie Davis and his brother as a welding shop.
A road, as it is today passed along the West side of the welding shop into the gas plant. The �barn�, fence and gate were much as they are today.
The accompanying photo shows the body shop next to the river bank, a foot bridge, a Reo Royale coupe, property of a local citizen on his way to the golf course, and he missed the bridge. In the background is the �barn� and the SE corner of The Geiser Hotel.
Traveling salesmen of the time always traveled by train of which we had six passenger trains a day. The salesmen were called � Drummers� and they brought with them large tall trunks.
Both the Antlers Hotel and the Geiser Grande had large sample rooms and the Drummers would rent a sample room to display their wares to the local merchants. The trunks were transported to the hotels by local transfer companies.
The two hotels each had a horse drawn bus that met every train and transported the guests to and from the depot.
I doubt very much the �barn� was ever used to display anything except John Deere tractors.
I�d rather believe the words � Sample Rooms� were of two possibilities, first, one of the hotels used the West end of Resort Street side as a �Bill Board� advertising the hotel and the availability of Sample Rooms.
The other possibility is there may have been a rooming house in the area named The Sample rooms. We had many rooming and boarding houses about town and they all had names.