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Camp Withycombe

Oregon National Guard training sites are located at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, the High Desert Training Center in Redmond, Umatilla Army Depot, Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, and Camp Adair in Corvallis.

Camp Withycombe just East of I-205 in Clackamas (South-East of Clackamas Town Center) near Portland, Oregon. A Disaster Recovery Centers is operated jointly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Oregon Emergency Management in Camp Withycombe. The Oregon State Defense Force (OSDF) is headquartered at Camp Withycombe. Oregon Military Museum at Camp Withycombe provides military historical displays of events concerning the Oregon National Army and Air Guard and the Oregon citizen members of all the National Military Departments.

Camp Withycombe was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office in July 1994. Camp Withycombe, located at the foot of Mt. Talbert southeast of Portland, is a collection of National Defense facilities dating from 1903 to the late 1930s. Camp Withycombe has served as a rifle range and training ground for the Oregon National Guard for more than 80 years. The original 234-acre parcel of land was first named Camp Benson after Governor Frank W. Benson, but was later renamed Camp Withycombe during World War I for James Withycombe, the Governor during that time.

Significant contributing elements of the camp include the rifle range, a 24-station, 500-yard facility, which first opened in 1909, and several buildings constructed prior to 1940: the Mess Hall, ca. 1912 (Bldg. 200), the Storage Building, 1910 (Bldg. 206), the Feed Barn, 1910 (Bldg. 305), two Storage Buildings, 1910 (Bldgs. 308, 310), the Supply Building, 1920 (Bldg. 450), a Barn, ca. 1903 (Bldg. 525), and the Adjutant General's House, built in the Colonial Style in 1938, constructed by the WPA.

Camp Withycombe is significant as the site of the earliest organized firing range in the state and as a developed landscape with various architectural features, all with the common theme of National Defense. Camp Withycombe has served as a rifle range and training ground for the Oregon National Guard for more than 80 years. Land for the camp was purchased by the U.S. Government in the spring of 1909 and the range opened for the season on May 15, 1909.

Commonly referred to as the Clackamas Rifle Range, the Camp Withycombe rifle range is one of the oldest National Defense ranges in the western part of the United States. At the time it was constructed, the Camp Withycombe rifle range was described as the most "thoroughly modern and fully equipped rifle range available". The site was hailed as 'ideal for the purposes of rifle practice and competitions." It was the first on the west coast to employ a 1000 to 1500-foot shooting range and one of the first in the country with this feature. At that time only the newest service rifles had a shooting range of this distance. The layout of the range was also carefully considered as wind and sun played an important part in target practice. Mt. Talbert, to the east and north, provided some protection against the northwest wind thus minimizing any fishtailing effects. The mountain also provided a safe backdrop for the range and the flat land at the base of the mountain provided an ideal flat firing range. The range was cited as having the 'perfect environment" upon its opening.

Troops from all over the state came to the town of Clackamas by the Southern Pacific Railroad and then walked to the camp where they stayed for seasonal rifle practice. The range was also the site of annual state competitions. By 1913, the Oregon Infantry placed third out of forty three in the competition, a success which was attributed to the excellent rifle range facility at Camp Withycombe.

During the early years, camp personnel were housed in tents. It was not until the depression that many of the building were constructed with the help of the Work Projects Administration. However, some of the buildings (the storage shed and feed barn) were previously on the site prior to the government's purchase and subsequently utilized by the National Guard.

During World War I, in addition to its function as a rifle range, the camp was used to receive enlistees and also was the site where troops were mobilized at the start of the war. It served as an important headquarters for the National Guard during World War I, serving as a central supply depot and training center for the guard. During the subsequent years, newer buildings were constructed to facilitate the needs of the guard.

During the 1930's the camp developed as a supply depot for the National Guard. Some of the buildings on the camp property, such as the Adjutant General's house (1938), were built by the WPA during this period.

The camp still serves as a training facility, supply depot, and equipment repair facility for the National Guard. Until recently, the rifle range was regularly used for target practice by various agencies such as the State Police. Though the rifle range is now closed due to deteriorated baffles and complaints from nearby residential areas, the range retains its original layout with modifications only in the structures which shelter the close range target area. A portion of a rock retaining wall and a stone drinking foundation are located near the range, dating from the historic period.


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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:45:02 ZULU