The History of Gladstone Conference Center
Here's a little on the history of the property which now hosts the Oregon Conference Office, the Adventist Book Center, the Holden Convention Center, and Gladstone Camp Meeting every year.
Gladstone Park Conference Center, or as the long-time visitors call it, “The Campground” has been owned by the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists since 1930, but it has a history that goes back much further than that.
In 1860 a land grant of 640 acres on the Clackamas River became property of Fenard and Rebecah Cason. When the Casons died the property was divided among their children who sold it in one piece sometime before 1890 to Judge Harvey E. Cross. Judge Cross, who had long admired England’s political leader, William Ewert Gladstone, decided to layout a town on the land and name it after the English politician.
People began to move into the new little town of Gladstone, and one of these new inhabitants, Mrs. Emery Dye, began a study class in her home, hoping to offer the local young people education and cultural betterment. Soon 60 people were crowding into her home. It was clearly time to move to a bigger location!
Mrs. Dye had heard about the Chautauqua and the program it presented in other areas of the country so she went to talk to Judge Cross about starting something similar in the Gladstone Area. The Willamette Valley Chautauqua Association was born and Cross granted a 50-year lease, for a dollar a year, on what is now the Gladstone Park Conference Center grounds for the summer assemblies. He called it Gladstone Park.
The first auditorium was built in 1895, just hours before the speakers were to step on stage. It had cost $1,300 and would seat 3,000 people!
People came from far and near for the two weeks of the summer event to hear the outstanding speakers, soloists, and plays. Because of the Chautauqua, Gladstone became a cultural and social center. Railroad and streetcars brought people from Portland and other local communities and towns for concerts, ball games, and other events. Speakers and performers included evangelist, Billy Sunday, bandmaster, John Philip Sousa, poet, Joaquin Miller, presidential candidate, Theodore Roosevelt, and the popular politician, William Jennings Bryan. Even the first Clackamas County Fair was held on the grounds in 1907.
Over the years times changed and the popularity of the Chautauqua faded. Chautauqua Park closed in 1927 and in 1929 Judge Cross passed away.
The Chautauqua directors were stuck with the property and put it up for sale. A realtor had heard that the Seventh-day Adventists were looking for a campground to hold their yearly meetings on and so he called up the Conference president, Elder Woodman.
The property was just what they were looking for, in fact a few years before they had held Camp Meeting on the grounds of the Chautauqua and loved it, and now they had the opportunity to purchase it!
The problem was the price. – The price tag was $37,000. In 1930 that was a lot of money! After visiting the grounds they were satisfied the property was worth the price, they just had to come up with the money.
After much prayer and discussion it was decided to present the idea to the local constituents.
Before that could be done, however, Elder Woodman got a phone call.
It was a local Seventh-day Adventist doctor, who asked if Elder Woodman would be willing to stop for a visit.
Elder Woodman drove to Dr. Holden’s home where they chatted for some time before Dr. Holden asked Woodman what the decision had been in regards to the property.
“They said we should present it to the people,” Woodman replied.
Dr. Holden began asking question after question about the conference’s plans for the property, which Woodman answered as best he could.
Finally, Dr. Holden turned to his wife and asked, “Shall we do it?” “Yes, I think we should,” she said.
Turning to Elder Woodman, Dr. Holden said, “My wife and I will assume payments on the whole contract for the property, if the conference will take care of the interest and improvements.”
Suddenly $37,000 was whittled down to an amount that could be managed and the property was quickly spoken for!
The local members raised money for further improvements and it was decided that members could build small cottages and cabins on the campus for use throughout the year for a lease of $10 plus $.99 a year.
Couples were known to honeymoon there, and families took vacations on the grounds. The original piece of property included the grounds that the Harley Shop, McDonalds and even Safeway now sit on.
In 1990 the property was put up for sale for $7.2 million. The sale, however, fell through, and the conference members took that as a sign that the property should stay in the current owning hands.
In 2003 the Holden Convention Center was built on the property, providing a place for meetings and events throughout the year, not just during the summer months.
In 2007 the Portland Adventist Book Center (ABC) was built at Gladstone Park.
And in 2008 the new Oregon Conference headquarters was ready to be moved into. – Right before camp meeting of course.
Buildings, lodgings, and facilities came and went over the ensuing years and now it has been 83 years since the property passed into Oregon Conference ownership.
This year (2013) Gladstone Park will host the 135th camp meeting in Oregon.