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Lake Oswego

Coordinates: 45°24′46″N 122°42′01″W / 45.41278°N 122.70028°W / 45.41278; -122.70028
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Lake Oswego, Oregon
Oswego Lake in the center of the city
Oswego Lake in the center of the city
Flag of Lake Oswego, Oregon
Official seal of Lake Oswego, Oregon
Location in Oregon
Location in Oregon
Lake Oswego, Oregon is located in the United States
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Location in the United States
Coordinates (City Hall): 45°24′46″N 122°42′01″W / 45.41278°N 122.70028°W / 45.41278; -122.70028
CountryUnited States
CountiesClackamas, Multnomah, Washington
Founded1847, incorporated 1910
Named forOswego, New York[1]
 • Mayor[2]Joe Buck
 • City Council[2]Ali Afghan
Trudy Corrigan
Massene Mboup
Aaron Rapf
Rachel Verdick
John Wendland
 • Total11.48 sq mi (29.75 km2)
 • Land10.83 sq mi (28.05 km2)
 • Water0.66 sq mi (1.70 km2)
Elevation249 ft (76 m)
 • Total40,731
 • Density3,760.94/sq mi (1,452.08/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (Pacific)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)503 and 971
FIPS code41-40550[6]
GNIS feature ID2411606[4]

Lake Oswego (/ɒsˈwɡ/ oss-WEE-goh) is a city in the U.S. state of Oregon, primarily in Clackamas County, with small portions extending into neighboring Multnomah and Washington counties.[4] Population in 2020 was 40,731, an 11.2% increase since 2010, making it the 11th most populous city in Oregon. Located about 7 miles (11 km) south of Portland and surrounding the 405-acre (164 ha) Oswego Lake, the town was founded in 1847 and incorporated as Oswego in 1910. The city was the hub of Oregon's brief iron industry in the late 19th century, and is today a suburb of Portland.


Early history[edit]

The Clackamas people once occupied the land that later became Lake Oswego,[7] but diseases transmitted by European explorers and traders killed most of the natives. Before the influx of non-native people via the Oregon Trail, the area between the Willamette River and Tualatin River had a scattering of early pioneer homesteads and farms.

19th century[edit]

Restored remains of the 1866 Oregon Iron Company furnace, in George Rogers Park

As settlers arrived, encouraged by the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 and the subsequent Homestead Act, they found the land underoccupied.

Albert Alonzo Durham founded the town of Oswego in 1847, naming it after Oswego, New York.[8] He built a sawmill on Sucker Creek (now Oswego Creek), the town's first industry.[7]

In 1855, the federal government forcibly relocated the remaining Clackamas people to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in nearby Yamhill County.[7]

During this early period in Oregon history, most trade proceeded from Portland to Oregon City via the Willamette River, and up the Tualatin River valley through Tualatin, Scholls, and Hillsboro. The thick woods and rain-muddied roads were major obstacles to traveling by land. The vestiges of river landings, ferry stops, and covered bridges of this period can still be seen along this area. A landing in the city's present-day George Rogers Park is thought to have been developed by Durham around 1850 for lumber transport; another landing was near the Tryon Creek outlet into the Willamette.

In 1865, prompted by the earlier discovery of iron ore in the Tualatin Valley, the Oregon Iron Company was incorporated. Within two years, the first blast furnace on the West Coast was built, patterned after the arched furnaces common in northwestern Connecticut, and the company set out to make Oswego into the "Pittsburgh of the West".[9] In 1878, the company was sold off to out-of-state owners and renamed the Oswego Iron Company, and in 1882, Portland financiers Simeon Gannett Reed and Henry Villard purchased the business and renamed it the Oregon Iron and Steel Company.[10]

The Portland Oregon Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located in Lake Oswego.

The railroad arrived in Oswego in 1886, in the form of the Portland and Willamette Valley Railway. A 7-mile-long (11 km) line provided Oswego with a direct link to Portland. Prior to this, access to the town was limited to primitive roads and riverboats. The railroad's arrival was a mixed blessing; locally, it promoted residential development along its path, which enabled Oswego to grow beyond its industrial roots, but nationally, the continued expansion of the freight railroad system gave easy local access to cheaper and higher quality iron from the Great Lakes region. This ultimately led to the local industry's demise.[7][10]

By 1890, the industry produced 12,305 tons of pig iron,[7] and at its peak provided employment to around 300 men. The success of this industry greatly stimulated the development of Oswego, which by this time had four general stores, a bank, two barber shops, two hotels, three churches, nine saloons, a drugstore, and even an opera house.[9]

The iron industry was a vital part of a strategy designed by a few Portland financiers who strove to control all related entrepreneurial ventures in the late 19th century. Control of shipping and railroads was held under the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, later to become the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. This local monopoly responded to the area's increasing demand for iron and steel, and grew to play a key role in economic history throughout the area.

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

Lake Oswego Railroad Bridge across the Willamette River, shown in April 2008

The Oregon Iron and Steel Company adapted to the new century by undertaking programs in land development, selling large tracts of the 24,000 acres (97 km2) of land it owned, and power, building a plant on Oswego Creek starting in 1905, and erecting power poles in subsequent years to supply power to Oswego citizens. With the water needs of the smelters tailing off, the recreational potential of the lake and town was freed to develop rapidly.[7]

In 1910, the town of Oswego was incorporated.[7] The Southern Pacific Railroad, which had acquired the P&WVR line at the end of the 19th century, widened it from narrow to standard gauge and in 1914 electrified it, providing rapid, clean, and quiet service between Oswego and Portland. The service was known as the Red Electric.[7]

Passenger traffic hit its peak in 1920 with 64 trains to and from Portland daily. Within nine years of the peak, passenger service ended, and the line was used for intermittent freight service to Portland's south waterfront until its abandonment in 1984. The line was preserved, however, and the Willamette Shore Trolley provides tourist rides on the line today.

One of the land developers benefiting from sales by OI&S was Paul Murphy, whose Oswego Lake Country Club helped promote the new city as a place to "live where you play."[7] Murphy was instrumental in developing the first water system to supply the western reaches of the city, and also played a key role in encouraging the design of fine homes in the 1930s and 1940s that ultimately established Oswego as an attractive place to live. In the 1940s and 1950s, continued development helped spread Oswego's residential areas.[7]

Mass transit service after the end of electric interurban service was provided by Oregon Motor Stages, but that company suspended all operations following a drivers' strike in 1954.[11] In 1955, a newly formed private company, Intercity Buses, Inc., began operating bus service connecting Oswego with downtown Portland and Oregon City.[12] This service was taken over by TriMet in 1970.

In 1960, Oswego was renamed "Lake Oswego" when it annexed part of neighboring Lake Grove.[7] The city has some nicknames including "Lake No-Negro",[13][14][15] "Lake Big Ego",[13] "Fake Oswego"[13][14] and "Fake Lost Ego".[14] Additionally, it was spoken of as Nimbyville during a planning-related seminar on 2008 by Dennis Egner.[16] A 2012 article in the Daily Journal of Commerce identified Egner as a long-range planning director for the city of Lake Oswego.[17] According to historian James W. Loewen, locals often call it "Lake No Negro" in reference to its recognition status as an "elite white suburb".[18]

In August 2020, Lake Oswego received significant media attention when its resident received an anonymous letter from neighbors asking them to take down their "Black Lives Matter" sign from the window, complaining that it lowers property values,[19][20][21] which prompted Mayor Studebaker to issue a response to this matter.[22] A documentary titled Lake No Negro about Lake Oswego's racially exclusive past was produced by a Lakeridge High School student in 2020.[23]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.35 square miles (29.40 km2), of which 10.68 square miles (27.66 km2) are land and 0.67 square miles (1.74 km2) are covered by water.[24] That area does not include more than 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) of unincorporated land within the urban services boundary as defined by Clackamas County.[25] Oswego Lake is a lake, originally named Waluga (wild swan) by Clackamas Indians,[26] which has been expanded is and currently managed by the Lake Oswego Corporation.[27] The lake supports watercraft, and a dock floats at the lake's east end, where boaters can disembark and walk to the nearby businesses. The main canal from the Tualatin River was dug in 1872.[28]

Every three years, the water level in the lake is lowered several feet by opening the gates on the dam and allowing water to flow into Oswego Creek and on to the Willamette River, enabling lakefront property owners to conduct repairs on docks and boathouses.[29] In 2010, the lake was lowered about 24 feet (7.3 m) to allow for construction of a new sewer line, the lowest lake level since 1962, when the original sewer line was installed.[30]

The city extends up Mount Sylvania and through Lake Grove towards Tualatin.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[31]
2018 Estimate[32][5]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census of 2010, there were 36,619 people, 15,893 households, and 10,079 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,428.7 inhabitants per square mile (1,323.8/km2). There were 16,995 housing units at an average density of 1,591.3 per square mile (614.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.3% White, 0.7% African American, 0.4% Native American, 5.6% Asian, 1.0% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 3.7% of the population.[6][25]

Of the 15,893 households, 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.6% were not families. About 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.88.[6]

The median age in the city was 45.8 years; 22.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 5.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21% were from 25 to 44; 35.1% were from 45 to 64; and 16.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.3% male and 52.7% female.[6]

In the city, the population was distributed as 24.8% under the age of 18, 6.1% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 31.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.2 males. The median income for a household in the city was $71,597, and for a family was $94,587 ( Males had a median income of $66,380 versus $41,038 for females. The per capita income for the city was $42,166, and 3.4% of the population and 2.3% of families were below the poverty line. Of the total population, 2.0% of those under the age of 18 and 4.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.[6]

City government[edit]

The new city hall opened in 2021.

The city has a council–manager form of government, which vests policy-making authority in an elected, volunteer city council. The council consists of a mayor and six councilors, all of whom are elected at-large and serve four-year terms.[33]

Day-to-day operations are handled by an appointed, professional city manager. Almost all of the city's employees, which include part-time staff amounting to about 342 full-time equivalents,[34] report to the city manager. This includes the police chief, fire chief, one assistant city manager, and the community development director. The biggest groups are:

  • Police and fire departments, consisting of about 50 people each,
  • Library, parks, and recreation departments, consisting of about 70 people total
  • About 80 people throughout the engineering, planning, and maintenance departments

Ground was broken in 2019 on construction of a new city hall that would also house the city's police department and the Arts Council of Lake Oswego, on a site adjacent to the existing facility.[35] Located at A Avenue and Third Street, the new city hall opened to the public in April 2021.[36]

Civic involvement[edit]

Neighborhood associations play a formal role for citizen involvement in the city government's land-use planning and other activities. A neighborhood association's role is governed by state and city law. As of September 2013, the 21 recognized neighborhood associations (associations including lakefront property are marked with a ¤ symbol) include: Birdshill, Blue Heron ¤, Bryant ¤, North Shore-Country Club ¤, Evergreen ¤, First Addition, Forest Highlands, Glenmorrie, Hallinan Heights, Holly Orchard, Lake Grove, Lakewood ¤, McVey-South Shore ¤, Old Town, Palisades ¤, Rosewood, Skylands, Uplands, Waluga, Westlake, and Westridge.[37]

Oswego Lake[edit]

Oswego Lake has been a subject of controversy over whether it is a private lake or a public navigable water. A lawsuit against the city charges that they are preventing people from using a public stairway in a public park to swim in a public lake.[38] The City of Lake Oswego does not allow public access. Two recreational users of the lake who were barred from using the lake filed a lawsuit in 2012.[39] On August 1, 2019, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a 2012 Lake Oswego ordinance will need to be reviewed. The Supreme Court recognized public right to enter the body of water from public land and that the City of Lake Oswego cannot interfere with this right.[40]

Public schools[edit]

Lake Oswego High School

The Lake Oswego School District includes most of the city boundaries,[41][42] and serves roughly 7,000 students, with a ratio of 23 students per instructor. The two high schools in the district are Lake Oswego High School and Lakeridge High School. The six elementary schools and two junior high schools serve students in grades 1 through 8. The junior high schools are Lakeridge Junior High and Lake Oswego Junior High. Lakeridge Junior High was known as Waluga Junior High until 2012 when it was merged with Bryant Elementary.

A portion of Lake Oswego in Multnomah County is in Portland Public Schools.[42]

Cultural and recreational facilities[edit]

The city maintains 600 acres (2.4 km2) of parks and open spaces[43] including George Rogers Park, Millennium Plaza Park and Lake Oswego Golf Course.[44]

Lake Oswego has one public library, part of the Library Information Network of Clackamas County. From 2002 to 2006, the library was rated among the top 10 libraries serving similar population sizes in the United States.[45]


Largest employers[edit]

According to Lake Oswego's 2022 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[46] the principal employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Lake Oswego School District 813
2 Mary's Woods at Marylhurst 630
3 Eye Health Northwest 435
4 Micro Systems Engineering 406
5 Logical Position 380
6 Axia Home Loan 379
7 City of Lake Oswego 347
8 Kindercare Education, LLC 300
9 Navex Global 270
10 Directors Mortgage, Inc. 183

Notable people[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Lake Oswego has two sister cities:

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Oswego
  5. ^ a b "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
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  8. ^ "Eight Myths Concerning Lake Oswego". Oswego Heritage Council. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Goodall, Mary (1958). Oregon's Iron Dream. Portland, Oregon: Binsford & Mort. p. 43.
  10. ^ a b Kuo, Susanna Campbell. "A Brief History of the Oregon Iron Industry" (PDF). Oswego Heritage Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 19, 2008. Retrieved July 23, 2009.
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External links[edit]