Eugene (And A Bit About "Animal House")
The Omega House
July 7, 2021
Eugene is at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, near the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, about 50 miles east of the Oregon Coast.
As of the 2010 census, Eugene had a population of 156,185; it is the county seat of Lane County and the state's third most populous city after Portland and Salem, though recent state estimates suggest its population may have surpassed Salem's. The Eugene-Springfield, Oregon metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is the 146th largest metropolitan statistical area in the US and the third-largest in the state, behind the Portland Metropolitan Area and the Salem Metropolitan Area. The city's population for 2019 was estimated to be 172,622 by the U.S. Census.
Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, Bushnell University, and Lane Community College. Several spots within Eugene are believed to be inspiration for locations in The Simpsons. This includes Max's Tavern and the Oregon Pioneer statue on campus. The city is noted for its natural environment, recreational opportunities (especially bicycling, running/jogging, rafting, and kayaking), and focus on the arts, along with its history of civil unrest, protests, and green activism. Eugene's official slogan is "A Great City for the Arts and Outdoors". It is also referred to as the "Emerald City" and as "Track Town, USA". The Nike corporation had its beginnings in Eugene. In 2022, the city will host the 18th Track and Field World Championships.
The first people to settle in the Eugene area were known as the Kalapuyans, also written Calapooia or Calapooya. They made "seasonal rounds," moving around the countryside to collect and preserve local foods, including acorns, the bulbs of the wapato and camas plants, and berries. They stored these foods in their permanent winter village. When crop activities waned, they returned to their winter villages and took up hunting, fishing, and trading. They were known as the Chifin Kalapuyans and called the Eugene area where they lived "Chifin", sometimes recorded as "Chafin" or "Chiffin".
Other Kalapuyan tribes occupied villages that are also now within Eugene city limits. Pee-you or Mohawk Calapooians, Winefelly or Pleasant Hill Calapooians, and the Lungtum or Long Tom. They were close-neighbors to the Chifin, intermarried, and were political allies. Some authorities suggest the Brownsville Kalapuyans (Calapooia Kalapuyans) were related to the Pee-you. It is likely that since the Santiam had an alliance with the Brownsville Kalapuyans that the Santiam influence also went as far at Eugene.
According to archeological evidence, the ancestors of the Kalapuyans may have been in Eugene for as long as 10,000 years. In the 1800s their traditional way of life faced significant changes due to devastating epidemics and settlement, first by French fur traders and later by an overwhelming number of American settlers.
Settlement and impact
French fur traders had settled seasonally in the Willamette Valley by the beginning of the 19th century. Their settlements were concentrated in the "French Prairie" community in Northern Marion County but may have extended south to the Eugene area. Having already developed relationships with Native communities through intermarriage and trade, they negotiated for land from the Kalapuyans. By 1828 to 1830 they and their Native wives began year-round occupation of the land, raising crops and tending animals. In this process, the mixed race families began to impact Native access to land, food supply, and traditional materials for trade and religious practices.
In July 1830, "intermittent fever" struck the lower Columbia region and a year later, the Willamette Valley. Natives traced the arrival of the disease, then new to the Northwest, to the U.S. ship, Owyhee, captained by John Dominis. "Intermittent fever" is thought by researchers now to be malaria. According to Robert T. Boyd, an anthropologist at Portland State University, the first three years of the epidemic, "probably constitute the single most important epidemiological event in the recorded history of what would eventually become the state of Oregon". In his book The Coming of the Spirit Pestilence Boyd reports there was a 92% population loss for the Kalapuyans between 1830 and 1841. This catastrophic event shattered the social fabric of Kalapuyan society and altered the demographic balance in the Valley. This balance was further altered over the next few years by the arrival of Anglo-American settlers, beginning in 1840 with 13 people and growing steadily each year until within 20 years more than 11,000 American settlers, including Eugene Skinner, had arrived.
As the demographic pressure from the settlers grew, the remaining Kalapuyans were forcibly removed to Indian reservations. Though some Natives escaped being swept into the reservation, most were moved to the Grand Ronde reservation in 1856. Strict racial segregation was enforced and mixed race people, known as Métis in French, had to make a choice between the reservation and Anglo society. Native Americans could not leave the reservation without traveling papers and white people could not enter the reservation.
Eugene Franklin Skinner, after whom Eugene is named, arrived in the Willamette Valley in 1846 with 1,200 other settlers that year. Advised by the Kalapuyans to build on high ground to avoid flooding, he erected the first Anglo cabin on south or west slope of what the Kalapuyans called Ya-po-ah. The "isolated hill" is now known as Skinner's Butte. The cabin was used as a trading post and was registered as an official post office on January 8, 1850.
At this time the settlement was known by Anglos as Skinner's Mudhole. It was relocated in 1853 and named Eugene City in 1853. Formally incorporated as a city in 1862, it was named simply Eugene in 1889. Skinner ran a ferry service across the Willamette River where the Ferry Street Bridge now stands.
The first major educational institution in the area was Columbia College, founded a few years earlier than the University of Oregon. It fell victim to two major fires in four years, and after the second fire, the college decided not to rebuild again. The part of south Eugene known as College Hill was the former location of Columbia College. There is no college there today.
The town raised the initial funding to start a public university, which later became the University of Oregon, with the hope of turning the small town into a center of learning. In 1872, the Legislative Assembly passed a bill creating the University of Oregon as a state institution. Eugene bested the nearby town of Albany in the competition for the state university. In 1873, community member J.H.D. Henderson donated the hilltop land for the campus, overlooking the city.
The university first opened in 1876 with the regents electing the first faculty and naming John Wesley Johnson as president. The first students registered on October 16, 1876. The first building was completed in 1877; it was named Deady Hall in honor of the first Board of Regents President and community leader Judge Matthew P. Deady.
Eugene grew rapidly throughout most of the twentieth century, with the exception being the early 1980s when a downturn in the timber industry caused high unemployment. By 1985, the industry had recovered and Eugene began to attract more high-tech industries, earning it the moniker the "Emerald Shire". In 2012, Eugene and the surrounding metro area was dubbed the Silicon shire.
The first Nike shoe was used in 1972 during the US Olympic trials held in Eugene.
History of civil unrest
Eugene has a long history of community activism, civil unrest, and protest activity. Eugene's cultural status as a place for alternative thought grew along with the University of Oregon in the turbulent 1960s, and its reputation as an outsider's locale grew with the numerous anarchist protests in the late 1990s. In 2000, the Chicago Tribune described the city as a “cradle to [the] latest generation of anarchist protesters.” Occupy Eugene was home to one of the nation's longest-lasting Occupy protests in 2011, with the last protestor leaving the initial Occupy camp on December 27, 2011. The city received national attention during the summer of 2020, after Black Lives Matter protests in response to the murder of George Floyd grew violent.
1960s: Counterculture and campus protests
Already a counter-culture haven, Eugene felt the change of the 1960s in a heavy way, with underground groups carrying out bombings on military targets. In September 1967, the Eugene Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Training Center was damaged by a series of explosions and fire, and in November 1967, a bomb exploded at the Air Force ROTC building. On Sept 30, 1968, unknown anti-capitalists exploded firebombs at the Eugene Armory, causing over $100,000 in damage (approximately $741,000 in 2020), destroying multiple trucks and Jeeps and dealing significant destruction to the city's equipment compound. Unrest continued throughout 1969 as well, with frequent dynamite attacks on local businesses, newspapers, and Emerald Hall on the University of Oregon campus.
Student activism at the university shaped both campus and Eugene life during the times of social upheaval. Protests at the University of Oregon were the most intensely heated against the Oregon chapter of the ROTC, which was the embodiment of the war effort in Vietnam and Cambodia. The UO chapter of Students for a Democratic Society formed in 1965 but came to the forefront of campus activity in 1969, when they first led students to march and demand the removal of campus ROTC. On January 6, 1970, campus demonstrators threw animal blood onto tables at an ROTC recruitment event in order to draw attention to the barbaric war in Vietnam. Students held a public "People's Trial" of campus president Robert D. Clark, finding him guilty for "complicity in the actions of U.S. imperialism" by enabling the Oregon ROTC to have a presence on campus.
Throughout January and February 1970, anti-war student activists disrupted ROTC events and demonstrated against the war presence, culminating in unknown perpetrators setting the University of Oregon ROTC building on fire in Esslinger Hall, causing massive damage and destroying draft records of university students. In March, 150-200 students, led by the campus SDS chapter, attempted to gain entry to McArthur Court for a concert, setting off a riot that resulted in the arrest of 5 students. On April 15, 1970, the UO faculty voted by a 199-185 margin to allow the ROTC to remain on campus, which immediately led to nearly 100 students ransacking the ROTC building, breaking furniture, windows, and throwing rocks at the property, to which the police used tear gas on campus demonstrators for the first time.
The height of the Vietnam protest movement at UO occurred over three days between April 22 and April 24, 1970. At 11:00 am on the 22nd, between 50 and 100 UO students occupied Johnson Hall to protest the ROTC’s continued presence on campus, taking over the lobby of the building. The crowd grew to around 300 students by 5:00 pm, when Clark negotiated with the group to allow the protestors to remain in the lobby overnight if they remained peaceful. The protests disrupted work and on the 24th, Eugene police arrived, arresting 61 protestors, but everything remained peaceful until the National Guard arrived on the scene and escalated the situation by deploying tear gas against the crowd outside the building. News of the National Guard’s involvement led a larger congregation of nearly 2000 students to converge at Emerald Hall in protest of the incident.
On April 26, 1970, around 40 UO students successfully closed 13th Avenue through the university by erecting barricades on either end, calling it "People's Street". This protest successfully forced the Eugene City Council to hold hearings on restricting the street to non-automobile traffic, which passed and soon went into effect. On October 2, 1970, unidentified perpetrators exploded a bomb in Prince Lucien Hall, causing $75,000 in damage (approximately $511,000 in 2020).
The 1970s saw an increase in community activism. Local activists stopped a proposed freeway and lobbied for the construction of the Washington Jefferson Park beneath the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge. Community Councils soon began to form as a result of these efforts. A notable impact of the turn to community-organized politics came with Eugene Local Measure 51, a ballot measure in 1978 that repealed a gay rights ordinance approved by the Eugene City Council in 1977 that prohibited discrimination by sexual orientation.
1990s: Anarchist activity
In January 1991, a downtown student-led protest against the Gulf War drew 1,500 people and resulted in the arrest of 51, including 15 juveniles. Protesters carried a 10-year-old girl inside a body bag to the front door of the federal building as a symbol of war's innocent deaths. After the demonstration, a fire was set at a Eugene Marine Corps recruiting station.
Attempts by the city to remove a forest grove at downtown Broadway and Charnelton were met with protests on June 1, 1997. Forty trees in downtown Eugene were cut down to make way for a parking garage project; 22 people were arrested and the Register-Guard ran a front-page photograph showing a photographer being sprayed with pepper spray by the police. The Eugene force was accused of overreaction and excessive use of force for their flagrant use of pepper spray, which was defended by Republican mayor Jim Torrey. In the Whitaker District, citizens were further radicalized by the incident and helped spur the activist community, which was already burgeoning due to a lack of affordable housing and growing income inequality in the area.
On June 18, 1999, several months before the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, Eugene was home to a predecessor riot. Following a two-day conference at the University of Oregon about the dissolution of the country's economic system, a rally against global capitalism enveloped the streets of the downtown area. After the rally, protestors turned to the streets, stopping traffic, burning flags, and smashing windows and electronic equipment. After police responded with tear gas and pepper spray, protesters battled with police for several hours. The tear gas used by the Eugene police affected over 100 people, and 15 were arrested. Later that year, Eugene activists also played a key role in conjunction with other anarchists in organizing black bloc tactics during the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity. Eugene police subsequently claimed that local anarchists were responsible for other attacks on local police officers. Local activists in turn argued that police needlessly harassed individuals wearing black clothing in response.
Mayor Jim Torrey declared Eugene to be the "Anarchist Capital of the World" in response to the riots, which some embraced. Seattle police chief Norm Stamper in his resignation speech after the 1999 WTO protests blamed the majority of the unrest on "Eugene anarchists". Influential thinkers in Eugene's scene at the time included John Zerzan, an author known for his contributions to leftist theory and who was an editor for Green Anarchy, an anarchist magazine based in the city. Anarchists and leftists continued to protest against Torrey throughout his tenure, including gathering each June 1 (the anniversary of the Broadway Place confrontations) to protest against police brutality committed under his control.
One hotspot for protest activity since the 1990s has been the Whitaker district, located in the northwest of downtown Eugene. Whitaker is primarily a working-class neighborhood that has become a vibrant cultural hub, center of community and activism and home to alternative artists. It saw an increase of activity in the 1990s after many young people drawn to Eugene's political climate relocated there. Animal rights groups have had a heavy presence in the Whiteaker, and several vegan restaurants are located there. According to David Samuels, the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front have had an underground presence in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is home to a number of communal apartment buildings, which are often organized by anarchist or environmentalist groups. Local activists have also produced independent films and started art galleries, community gardens, and independent media outlets. Copwatch, Food Not Bombs, and Critical Mass are also active in the neighborhood.
21st century unrest
The more visible anarchist scene seemed to have died down after an upswing of several years, but protest activity still remained in Eugene. Groups such as the Neighborhood Anarchist Collective still maintained an active grassroots network, and the Eugene Share Fair has been used as a resource for organizations to market support. On June 16, 2000, environmental activists set fire to trucks at a car dealership on Franklin Boulevard. On the one-year anniversary of the 1999 riots, police again attacked demonstrators, arresting 37 and striking a KLCC reporter on the head with a baton. Later, while anarchism took a backseat, Eugene's reputation as a potent leftist center increased as overall political support in the city swung liberally.
The Occupy Eugene protests grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement which began in New York City on September 17, 2011. The Eugene protesters were concerned about fairness issues regarding wealth-distribution, banking regulation, housing issues and corporate greed. The first protest march was held on October 15, 2011 and the main encampment, located in Washington Jefferson Park lasted until December 2011. The initial Occupy Eugene demonstrations had over 2,000 attendees and began at Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza.
2020 George Floyd protests
Eugene's George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests grew out of the civil unrest that began in Minneapolis and spread nationwide in May 2020 after the murder of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In Eugene, demonstrators turned their attention to surrounding stores on May 29, and disrupted traffic and knocked trash and newsstands into the street in the downtown. Rioters crowded on to Highway I-105 and began setting fire to a nearby road sign. That night, fires were set and windows were smashed. Around 11 p.m., protestors created a bonfire in the street, consisting of traffic cones, newspapers, signs from local businesses, and other items. No arrests were made on that night.
Protests - including marches, rallies, and teach-ins - continued daily for several weeks, re-igniting in response to the insertion of federal troops in Portland.
On June 13 protesters toppled the Pioneer and the Pioneer Mother during a protest of Matthew Deady (controversially the namesake of a University of Oregon building).
Over 2,000 demonstrators attended a Juneteenth Black Lives Matter protest at Alton Baker Park, which was designed to draw revenue to Black-owned businesses.
On October 14, 1996, to commemorate the anniversary of Columbus Day, Earth Liberation Front activists coordinated several attacks on local fast food chains and oil companies. Two Willamette Chevron gas station locks were glued and painted with the slogan "504 Years of Genocide" and "Earth Liberation Front". Two Eugene public relation offices of Weyerhauser and Hyundai were also targeted in a similar manner. Later in the month, ELF protestors destroyed a U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station south of Eugene, causing an estimated damage of $5.3 million. These were some of the first examples of eco-defense in the United States.
In September 2000, members of a Eugene-based cell of the ELF burnt down the Eugene Police Department's West University Public Safety Station. Later, in March 2001, activists attacked the same car dealership on Franklin for the second time in 6 months, damaging more than 30 SUVs. Over 125 different fire attacks were set in the city between 1997 and 2001.
In January 2006, the FBI conducted Operation Backfire, leading to federal indictment of eleven people, all members of ELF. Operation Backfire was the largest investigation into radical underground environmental groups in United States history. Ongoing trials of accused eco-terrorists kept Eugene in the spotlight for a few years.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.74 square miles. Eugene is at an elevation of 426 feet.
To the north of downtown is Skinner Butte. Northeast of the city is the Coburg Hills. Spencer Butte is a prominent landmark south of the city. Mount Pisgah is southeast of Eugene and includes Mount Pisgah Arboretum and Howard Buford Recreation Area, a Lane County Park. Eugene is surrounded by foothills and forests to the south, east, and west, while to the north the land levels out into the Willamette Valley and consists of mostly farmland.
The Willamette and McKenzie Rivers run through Eugene and its neighboring city, Springfield. Another important stream is Amazon Creek, whose headwaters are near Spencer Butte. The creek discharges into the Long Tom River north Fern Ridge Reservoir, maintained for winter flood control by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Eugene Yacht Club hosts a sailing school and sailing regattas at Fern Ridge during summer months.
Like the rest of the Willamette Valley, Eugene lies in the Marine West Coast climate zone, with Mediterranean characteristics. Under the Köppen climate classification scheme, Eugene has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb). Temperatures can vary from cool to warm, with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Spring and fall are also moist seasons, with light rain falling for long periods. The average rainfall is 46.1 inches with the wettest "rain year" being from July 1973 to June 1974 with 75.59 inches and the driest from July 2000 to June 2001 with 20.40 inches. Winter snowfall does occur, but it is sporadic and rarely accumulates in large amounts: the normal seasonal amount is 4.9 inches but the median is zero. The record snowfall was 41.7 inches of accumulation due to a pineapple express on January 25–29, 1969. Ice storms, like snowfall, are rare, but occur sporadically.
The hottest months are July and August, with a normal monthly mean temperature of 66.8 to 66.9 °F, with an average of 16 days per year reaching 90 °F. The coolest month is December, with a mean temperature of 39.7 °F, and there are 53 mornings per year with a low at or below freezing, and 2.7 afternoons with highs not exceeding the freezing mark.
Eugene's average annual temperature is 52.5 °F, and annual precipitation at 46.1 inches (1,170 mm). Eugene is more wet and slightly cooler on average than Portland. Despite being about 100 miles south and having only a slightly higher elevation, Eugene has a more continental climate, less subject to the maritime air that blows inland from the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River. Eugene's normal annual mean minimum is 41.6 °F compared to 45.7 °F in Portland; in August, the gap in the normal mean minimum widens to 51.1 °F
and 58.0 °F ( for Eugene and Portland, respectively. Average winter temperatures (and summer high temperatures) are similar for the two cities. This disparity may be additionally caused by Portland's urban heat island, where the combination of black pavement and urban energy use raises nighttime temperatures.[
Extreme temperatures range from −12 °F, recorded on December 8, 1972, to 111 °F ( on June 27, 2021; the record cold daily maximum is 19 °F, recorded on December 13, 1919, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 71 °F on July 22, 2006.
Air quality and allergies
Eugene is downwind of Willamette Valley grass seed farms. The combination of summer grass pollen and the confining shape of the hills around Eugene make it "the area of the highest grass pollen counts in the USA (>1,500 pollen grains/m3 of air)." These high pollen counts have led to difficulties for some track athletes who compete in Eugene. In the Olympic trials in 1972, "Jim Ryun won the 1,500 after being flown in by helicopter because he was allergic to Eugene's grass seed pollen." Further, six-time Olympian Maria Mutola abandoned Eugene as a training area in part to avoid allergies.
Here's a fun article about Eugene and Animal House.
At 755 East 11th Avenue in Eugene, an unassuming plaque sits on the sidewalk in front of the Oregon Foot & Ankle Center. Here, the plaque notes, once stood the home of noted pioneer settlers A.W. and Amanda Patterson. Almost as an afterthought, the last two lines read: “In the 1950s and 1960s, the house was used by a fraternity and popularized in the late 1970s by the film ‘Animal House.’”
It’s all that remains of Delta House, the famed fictional frat where John Belushi and his brothers caroused in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” a classic comedy shot in the Eugene area in the fall of 1977.
But while the Delta House is no more, you can visit other “Animal House” locations at the University of Oregon (U of O) campus and in the surrounding community. In the film, U of O’s stately buildings and sprawling lawns provided a perfect comedic contrast to the renegade young men of Delta House, the hard-partying fraternity whose exploits set the tone for dozens of college gross-out comedies to come.
Most of the buildings are still standing today — the keen-eyed “Animal House” fan will find much to recognize on a stroll through campus.
John Belushi popped his own cheeks like a zit in Erb Memorial Union dining facility The Fishbowl, prompting a massive food fight. (The beloved Fishbowl, long a center of campus life, survived a recent renovation of the student union.)
The courtroom scene, where Otter (Tim Matheson) offers a high-minded defense of Delta House’s over-the-top antics, took place in Fenton Hall.
Women’s school Emily Dickinson College, where the boys capitalized on a girl’s recent death to trick her friends into dating them, is actually U of O’s Gerlinger Hall, one of three buildings that together make up the Women’s Memorial Quadrangle Ensemble, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Even the very seat of campus power was fair game: Dean Wormer’s office, where a horse famously dropped dead on a late-night raid, was the actual office of university president William Boyd, who reportedly accepted the studio’s offer to film on campus because he was still stinging from passing an offer to film “The Graduate” at another school he’d worked at years before.
The posh Omega House lives on too: Interiors and exteriors were shot at 729 East 11th Avenue, forever cementing the house where Kevin Bacon, in his first film role, gritted his teeth through a hazing, requesting “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” with every slap of the paddle.
There are many sites to see on and around campus, but no “Animal House” pilgrimage is complete without a trip to Dexter Lake Club (39128 Dexter Road, Dexter), the roadside dive where four Deltas take dates to see soul band Otis Day and the Knights. (In the film, the frat boys quickly leave after realizing they’ve crashed an all-black club. The scene’s racist overtones are the most egregious of the many moments in the film that have aged very, very poorly.)
The Dexter Lake Club is low key about its iconic status: There’s an “Animal House” sign tucked into one corner of the bar, a newspaper clipping about the film pasted to the wall by the bathrooms and a John Belushi drink special on the cocktail menu — $5 for a Jack and Coke, in tribute to the scene where Bluto chugs a fifth of Jack Daniel’s after the Deltas are kicked off campus. (“They took the bar,” he moans, heartbroken.) Otherwise, it’s a down-to-earth dive that features live local music and barbecue alongside the region’s staple entertainment: U of O football.
And speaking of football, crowds at Oregon Ducks games give a nod to the film between third and fourth quarters. During this break at every home game, Ducks fans dance and sing along to “Shout,” which was featured in the film’s famous toga party scene.
The truly committed will cap off their pilgrimage in nearby Cottage Grove, where the parade that ends the film was shot. Just try not to crash your Deathmobile into any bandstands.