Camas History

There are lots of interesting Camas History factoids, given the town’s experience with the paper mill, multiple renovations, demolitions, and rebuilding that’s happened since the late 1800s. There are rumors of tunnels, friendly ghosts, and many hidden artifacts.

We’ve written a few stories about Camas history, so we thought we’d continue from time to time with some interesting factoids.

Officially incorporated on June 18, 1906, the city is named after the camas lily, a plant with an onion-like bulb prized by Native Americans. The paper mill was first established in 1883 with the support of Henry Pittock, a wealthy entrepreneur from England who had settled in Portland, Oregon, where he published The Oregonian, which is still in existence today.

Building upon the city’s industry, the downtown area took shape, and we’ve been learning a few things about its history.

Artifacts, Tunnels, Ghosts

Did you know the building that today is Lutz Hardware is actually two buildings merged into one? The main entrance used today sits on the site of the original Stoller’s Funeral Home building that was first erected in the late 1800s.

A portion of the Lutz Hardware basement is still very rustic, complete with an ancient boiler, and the dumbwaiter that was once used to lower coffins from the main floor of the funeral home to the embalming room.

“There’s a lot of history in this town, and it’s quite fascinating,” said Aaron Lutz, owner of Lutz Hardware. “We have a lot of cool things!”

The storage room also houses several mill artifacts, including mill paddles that used to mix pulp and a giant metal stenciler.

Camas History
Old mill paddles used to mix pulp.
Camas History
Old mill stenciler.
Camas History
This tunnel entrance has been blocked off on both ends. This is the view from under Lutz Hardware where the tunnel connects under Dallas Street to the building across the street.

And, what about the rumors of tunnels?

“They’re true, “ said Lutz, pointing to a bricked off entrance. “This was blocked off a long time, but it’s the tunnel that goes underneath Dallas and goes to the building across the street.”

There are several rumors about why the tunnels were built, and we’re working to confirm those.

And, what about rumors of ghosts?

“There are a lot throughout,” said Seth Michael, a spiritual advisor and physic/medium. “I sense at least one in most stores. Most are in or from the mill.”

He is volunteering at the Camas Haunted Walking Tour on September 13 and October 12, which is sponsored by The Wild Hair, and hosted by the Downtown Camas Association. The tour includes visits to several Downtown Camas buildings.

“We have history blended with activity some people experience in the businesses along with what mediums have picked up on,” said Michael. “The tour starts at the Camas Gallery and ends at Sauld for final stories. One spirit I came across I heard say, ‘We are happy to tell the stories. People just need to listen.’”

Jyl Straub, owner of The Wild Hair, the mastermind behind the tour.

“Jyl talked about it for a while then three years ago she said let’s do it,” said Michael. “Then all the writing and research began.”

For our next installment of Camas History factoids, we’re researching more about the tunnels and their use.

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2 replies
  1. Nick Brown
    Nick Brown says:

    This is a very interesting article. One update might be that the original Lutz Hardware was in fact Stoller Memorial Chapel not the original Straub’s Funeral Home. Straub’s has always been where it is currently located since 1911. The Post Record has an article from when Stoller Memorial Chapel originally opened in 1931.

    Stoller Memorial Chapel was founded in 1931 by Fred Stoller. He sold it to Gordon Brown in 1965 and it became Brown’s Funeral Home. Brown’s Funeral Home built what is now their current location on 4th and Garfield Street.

    Ron Brown would be able to give you some great information on how the true layout was over at the current Lutz Hardware location.

    Straub’s Funeral Home has some interesting information to its location too. I had the honor to work for both firms in my career.

    Interestingly the Stoller/Brown Funeral Home had a second location called Stoller’s Chapel of the Chimes located in downtown Washougal. The building is still there today.

    Reply

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