Preserving Old Oregon: A tribute to John Klatt

John Klatt from Old Oregon website.

Our community mourns, celebrates and shares tributes to a special man, John Klatt. I’m not sure exactly when I first met John, or whether it was his wife Jody who I met first. What I do know for sure about this friend: he was beloved by his friends, family and community; he had an awesome sense of humor; and he preserved unique old Oregon photos. And now, each one of us has the opportunity to donate to continue John’s work and help it live on through the work of the Willamette Falls & Landings Heritage Area Coalition. More about that in a minute, but first, for those who didn’t know John or of his work, I share this from his website.

As it turned out, the photos pulled me in, and I began concentrating on images rather than words. In early 2009 I began this website to share the images I had grown to love. I called it “Old Oregon”, which to me means the original Oregon Territory, allowing me to include photographs from Washington and parts of other northwestern states. Early on I started working with other collectors, paying them royalties when I sold a print of their images. More recently I’ve added images from a few institutions, such as the Clackamas County Historical Society. I provide prints of various sizes, from note cards to multi-panel murals. Each image is carefully restored; I try to realize the original intent of the photographer. I do not consider myself a photographer, though I briefly had my own darkroom years ago. Today my work is all digital – beginning with high-quality scans and making all of the changes in Photoshop and other software. I strive for quality more than quantity when choosing images to restore. I call my process a “three legged stool”, meaning I look for images that combine historic interest, artistic merit and technical quality. My ideal photo is strong in all three areas.

John Klatt from About Us, Historic Photos at Old Oregon

I do know the first time I reached out to John was with an interest in purchasing some of the digital images hosted on his website Old Oregon Photos. It was for an event in May 2014, a date I now know to be only three months before my dad died. Back in the days when I actually went up to OHSU for work: I had invited my parents to a science seminar in honor of Oregon’s Safety Break where I shared Old Oregon photos documenting how workplace safety in Oregon had changed through the years. Not long after, with John’s permission, I shared 20 of these images in a West Linn Historical Society History on Fire Ignite Talk as well in a blog (Worker safety, politics, the past).

The Willamette Falls & Landings Heritage Area Coalition was formed in 2006 as a public, private and non-profit partnership. These partners share a passion for the 56-river-mile heritage area: its rich heritage, natural beauty, agriculture and recreational opportunities. While now recognized as a State Heritage Area, the Coalition works collaboratively to see it established as a National Heritage Area. See the Coalition website for a map of this heritage area. For some of us, it’s hard not to think about the Coalition without also remembering our dear friend and prior Coalition Executive Director, Siobhan Taylor. When I think of Siobhan I think of her passion for protecting this river heritage area, once as she eloquently offered an Ignite Talk: Because of the Falls. (Watch at the 30:40 minute mark here). I also remember sharing a cup of Irish tea in her home as we talked about my writing and the stretch of the Willamette River captured now in the heritage area.

Now, this Coalition has taken on preserving John’s historical legacy as his library, books and photos have been donated to it. We are so fortunate! The Coalition will continue to provide access to prints and licensing of the Old Oregon Photos collection. Once restored the complete collection will be housed in the Historic West Linn City Hall (supported by the Siobhan Loughran Taylor Fund). Russ and I gratefully donated to both these funds and encourage any Oregon history lover to consider this opportunity to further the protection of images that cannot be replaced. Visit the Coalition’s Make a Donation page to learn more.

Late last month at the West Linn Historical Society’s (WLHS) hybrid Annual Meeting and Ignite, I was thrilled to watch longtime West Linn Historian Larry McIntyre honored as the first John Klatt Awardee. Years ago as I got to know Larry, I told him how much he reminded me of my dad. Both, history lovers with a great sense of humor. Like John. I remember John, Siobhan and Dad – history lovers interested in preserving history – as I write this blog. It makes me feel sentimental, sad, and yet honored and incredibly fortunate to travel through life with such wonderful friends. I feel honored as well, to contribute to these donations to preserve Oregon history.

West Linn Historical Society Co-President Beth Smollins announces the first John Klatt Award at our January 2022 Annual Meeting. Congratulations to Larry McIntyre.

3 thoughts on “Preserving Old Oregon: A tribute to John Klatt

  1. Dede thank you for sensitive and well written history lesson about John, Larry and your dad I remember John as the Grill Master when he and Jody gathered friends their backyard, missed ā€œ absolutely ā€œ

    Liked by 1 person

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