Quilt Barn Trail celebrates history throughout Oregon’s countryside

When you drive through Oregon's countryside, it's pretty easy to spot the beauty. In Washington County, there's something else that may catch your eye.
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 6:55 AM PDT
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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - The summer travel season is here and there are plenty of places in the area to get out and explore, that includes hitting the road to discover the history that’s on display in our own backyard.

When you drive through Oregon’s countryside, it’s pretty easy to spot the beauty. In Washington County, there’s something else that may catch your eye.

High up on the side of Beverly Hess’ barn you can catch a glimpse of a colorful square block. It’s actually a design passed through generations.

“This is a block called ‘Hovering Hawks.’ It was a popular block on the Oregon Trail,” Hess said.

Block called Hovering Hawks on Beverly Hess' barn
Block called Hovering Hawks on Beverly Hess' barn(KPTV)

The block is a pattern used over hundreds of years by quilters who sew blocks together to make a quilt. But Hess’ block is part of something much bigger.

“It’s just fun to got out and see them all,” said Hess

The square is a barn quilt, and it’s just one of dozens people will find along the Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn Trail.

“It’s actually art in unexpected places, in a rural area,” said Jane Fouste.

Fouste and other quilters in the county heard about the idea of a quilt barn trail nearly 10 years ago. Its roots in the Midwest, and they wanted an Oregon version. So the community brought it to life.

“I just thought it was a cool project. I love the bright colors and the whole idea of pulling the community in to work on this project because it became a community project that people got pretty excited about,” Fouste said.

Now, around the many turns along rural roads travelers will find barn quilts that represent history and family. Like at Spiesschaert Farms in Forest Grove.

“I’m the caretaker for the family is the way I specify it. It came out in 1884 in the Oregon Trail part of the later movement,” said Lyle Spiesschaert, owner of Century Farm.

Spiesschart’s farm houses the very wagon that brought his great grandfather from Illinois along the Oregon Trail and displays a block in its honor.

Sometimes the squares serve as landmarks, like the one at Brown’s Ferry Park named ‘Crossed Canoes’ where many have cross the Tualatin.

Block called Crossed Canoes at Brown's Ferry Park.
Block called Crossed Canoes at Brown's Ferry Park.(KPTV)

Just like the quilts that are sewn together, Hess says the quilt trail has also helped connect communities.

“They slow down, they park on the corner out here, they look at it. Bicyclist go by and remark on them,” she said.

Turning a drive into a historical journey - you just have to know where to look.

Fouste says there is at least one barn quilt trail in every state, while Oregon has four of these trails. The first was in Tillamook County and at the time it was the first of its kind on the West Coast.

To learn more about the Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn Trail, click here. To learn about the Tillamook Quilt Trail, click here.