Which 5 Historic Homes Will Make The Hillsboro Holiday Walking Tour?

October 22, 2023

On December 9, 2023 you can kick off your holiday activities with a walk back in time tour of five of Hillsboro’s historic treasures.  Don’t be surprised if you encounter costumed carolers, liquid cheer and homemade treats as part of this historic experience!

Hillsboro’s oldest and finest

We don’t guarantee these locations will be part of the tour, since destinations haven’t been published by the Hillsboro Preservation Foundation yet, but even if they’re not on the agenda they’re worth our appreciation.

The Malcolm McDonald House: A Glimpse into Hillsboro’s Past

A New Beginning in 2013

In 2013, imagine the buzz in the air as the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department officially takes the keys to the historic Malcolm McDonald House. As you wander through the 42-acre Orenco Woods Nature Park, this beautiful house stands as a testament to history, sitting proudly on a 0.7-acre plot.

Architectural Significance

Picture yourself walking through the doors of the McDonald House, where every corner holds a story. Marvel at the original layout and historic condition of the primary public spaces. Feel the quality of the rooms, which hint at the potential for adaptive reuse. This isn’t just any acquisition; it aligns perfectly with the Parks & Recreation Department’s mission to offer unforgettable experiences. Remember their motto? “Nature. Inspiration. Culture. Adventure.” By becoming the custodian of this house and its surrounding property, imagine the City preserving a crucial chapter in Hillsboro’s tapestry.

A Historic Recognition

Do you know what makes the Malcolm McDonald House even more special? Since 2014 it’s been part of the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1912 Legacy

Turn back the hands of time to 1912. Picture Malcolm McDonald, the co-founder of the Oregon Nursery Company, overseeing the construction of this very house. This wasn’t just any house; it was built on the legacy of the nursery company’s move from Salem to Hillsboro in 1905, a move sparked by a devastating fire that consumed their office and warehouse.

In the Heart of a Company Town

Visualize the grandeur of the McDonald House in its prime. Nestled in approximately 1,200 acres of lush nursery land, it wasn’t just a standalone structure. It was the heart of a thriving company town for the nursery’s employees. Feel the vibrancy of the soil beneath your feet, the rich soil of Hillsboro that fueled the booming nursery business. As the town teemed with citizens, it soon took on an identity of its own, incorporating in 1913 under the name ‘Orenco’. Ever wonder where that name came from? It’s a clever blend, a portmanteau, honoring the town’s parent company.

A Glimpse of Luxury

Step into the McDonald family’s world, where prosperity from the nursery business flowed freely. Their residence wasn’t just a house; it was a showcase of the era’s cutting-edge technology. Can you imagine having indoor plumbing, push-button electrical switches, a call system for servants, and even a dedicated phone closet at the turn of the century?

A Standing Ode to the Past

Today, the Historic McDonald House stands tall, a beacon reminding us of this golden era in Hillsboro’s history. Imagine exploring its three levels, encompassing over 7,500 square feet of space, with the beauty of nature enveloping it. Think of the potential this house holds, transitioning into a vibrant public space. Envision attending a class or discovering artifacts in the basement, while the main level, with its rich ambiance, welcomes you for memorable events.

Zula Linklater House Hillsboro HIstorical House
The Zula Linklater House. Image via CC by-SA 3.0


The Zula Linklater House

A Glimpse into Its Past

As you walk down Second Avenue in downtown Hillsboro, Oregon, you’ll find yourself in front of a captivating two-story office building, known as The Zula Linklater House. Built in 1923, this Mediterranean-style structure made of concrete, wood, and stucco, stands as a testament to the past. While originally constructed as a residence for Zula Warren Linklater, it underwent a transformation into office space in 1984. Did you know? This iconic building earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places in the same year.

Zula Warren: The Woman Behind the House

Delve a bit deeper into the history, and you’ll discover the intriguing story of Zula Warren. Born on August 12, 1870, near Hillsboro, her family home was situated near what you now recognize as 10th Avenue and East Main Street. Life took a romantic turn when she married the local doctor, Samuel Towers Linklater, after her 28th birthday. Together, they had six children. Tragedy struck when Samuel passed away on February 8, 1914. But Zula, drawing upon the family investments, provided for her family and even embarked on building a new home. Inspired by her daughter Ruth’s wish for a home “that would last forever”, Zula began the construction of this concrete dwelling in 1922 on land Samuel had purchased back in 1889.

The Harold Wass Ray House

Architectural Marvel of Its Time

As you explore Hillsboro, make sure to stop by the Harold Wass Ray House. This remarkable building showcases the architectural brilliance of its era. With its intricate woodwork and classic design, it’s no wonder this house has been preserved for future generations to admire.

A Legacy Built on Industry and Passion

When you delve into the history of Hillsboro, the legacy of Harold Wass Ray looms large. In 1920, Ray, in collaboration with his father Albert, embarked on a venture that transformed into the Ray-Mailing Cannery. This cannery later became a significant part of Birdseye Frozen Foods. Harold’s business acumen extended beyond canning; he found success in food processing, growing hops, and even breeding thoroughbred horses. By 1933, he had acquired the Hawthorn Farm from Rachel Hawthorn. Originally spanning around 400 acres to the east of Hillsboro, Ray’s vision expanded the farm over the years, eventually amassing about 410 acres.

Ray’s passion for horses wasn’t just limited to breeding. He established a racetrack on his farm and played a pivotal role in the inception of the Portland Meadows racetrack. His love for the sport was palpable in every race that took place on his grounds.

The Story of the House

In 1935, nestled amidst the sprawling acres of his property, Ray built a magnificent two-story home. The house was a masterpiece designed by the renowned Portland, Oregon, architect Charles Ertz. Ertz, with his signature touch, blended prairie style and traditional farmhouse elements to create a 4,100 square feet architectural marvel. Located along the Elam Young Parkway at Orenco Creek, the Ray House boasts brick and board and batten siding walls. With a sturdy concrete foundation enclosing a full basement, the interior of the house gleams with oak hardwood floors and is adorned with Spanish Colonial arts and crafts furniture.

From Private Residence to Historic Landmark

Over the years, the Ray property witnessed several transitions. Post 1960, Ray sold his farm to the Hawthorn Farm Company and other investors. In a significant turn of events, Intel’s Quadrant Corporation acquired the property in 1978, leading to the creation of its Hawthorn Farm Campus. 1979 saw the addition of an exterior swimming pool to the property. Though a major portion of the property changed hands, a small section remained with Ray. This section faced its own challenges in 1999 when Ray’s estate was awarded condemnation proceeds from TriMet, due to the construction of the MAX Blue Line.

In 1993, Val Cady recognized the historical significance of the Ray House and bought the 4.85-acre home site. The house was rightfully added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1994. Fast forward to 2007, Beardsley Building Development took ownership, making a commitment to restore the house to its original grandeur.

Charles Ertz: The Architectural Genius

The brilliance of Charles Ertz isn’t just limited to the Ray House. He also lent his expertise to the design of the Laurelhurst Theater in Portland. His own residence, the Charles W. Ertz House, was once a proud member of the NRHP, further cementing his legacy as an architectural maestro.

Old Scotch Church Hillsboro Oregon
The Old Scotch Church, Hillsboro, Oregon. Image via CC by-SA 3.0


The Old Scotch Church

A Spiritual Beacon from the Past

As you venture further into Hillsboro’s rich history, you simply cannot miss the Old Scotch Church. This venerable structure, with its iconic steeple piercing the Oregon sky, stands as a beacon of faith and community spirit. Rooted in the traditions of Scottish settlers, the church offers a window into the spiritual life of early Hillsboro residents.

Tales Etched in Stained Glass and Stone

The walls of the Old Scotch Church have witnessed countless ceremonies, prayers, and community gatherings. Each stained glass window, each stone, tells a tale of devotion, hope, and the indomitable spirit of the pioneers. Whether you’re drawn to its spiritual significance or its architectural splendor, this church invites you to pause, reflect, and connect with a bygone era.

About the Hillsboro Preservation Foundation

Have you heard of the Hillsboro Preservation Foundation? It started back in 2005 when there was a big push to build all over Hillsboro. Some of the most valuable historical spots and really important natural areas like farms, woods, and open spaces were in danger. But the folks at HPF stepped up. They organized, educated people, and managed to save hundreds of acres of land. They made sure this land is gonna stay green and untouched forever.

Over the past ten years, these guys have been champs for keeping our land and historic sites safe. One of their big wins was raising cash to fix up and take care of the Old Stone School in Hillsboro. That place is a gem!



Feature Image Credit: Malcolm McDonald House: Photo via: Steve Morgan,, creative commons license