Local Histories- College Hill

Eugene, Oregon is nothing if not a college town. Which is why, presumably, no one questions the locals referring to a small lump of a hill in the middle of town more than a mile from campus College Hill. Duck country.

What most locals aren’t able to tell you is that College Hill was named for Columbia College, an early predecessor to the University of Oregon and an ambitious undertaking in 1855 for a town of only 200 residents. Like a lot of things in the region at that time, the college was burned to the ground by the end of its first month. The fire was decried as arson, an attempt to oust the anti-slavery and pro-woman board of directors by a pro-slavery group.

Undeterred, the University resumed classes just two days later in a private residence and began reconstruction. The new buildings were completed in November of 1857 and welcomed an astonishing 150 students- three times the original enrollment.
Just three months later the college burned again.

The third, and final attempt at the construction of Columbia College (this time out of fireproof sandstone) was permanently blocked by the pro-slavery contingency. In 1867 the remaining portions of the unfinished building were demolished and the stones dispersed across Eugene City to act as cornerstones for banks and civic buildings.

(Ref: A Brief History and Walking Tour of College Hill, Eugene Historical Review Board, 2001)

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