The Depression Era Photographs of Arthur Rosenstein

During the Great Depression the WPA program gave job opportunities to unemployed artists and photographers from around America, and Aurther Rosenstein  came to Central Oregon to photograph the program.  The drought had decimated most of the farming communities of the Lower Desert, and most had moved away before the Depression came. The WPA worked on roads and access to water for the few hardy souls who remained. The plateau had been landlocked until the Round Butte Dam was finshed in the late '60's.

I first started coming to the Grandview site in 1968 and it opened a time capsule. Many of these buildings and structures were there when I used to go "Ghost Towning" as we called it then. By the early 70'a the scrap dealers and tourists scooped up every aritfact, leaving only the rock walls that defined the farms.   Sadly, the photographs I took were lost but these FSA photographs will give you a good idea of what I saw in those first trips.   Many of the residents just left everything behind and ventured out for work, never to return.  Dishes were in the cupboard, beds were made up, and at the school books sat in the desks and on shelves.

Later, in the 1980's, we started a set of workshop programs with well known photographer Steve Terrill.  At that time all the surrounding lands of the lower desert were under the ownership of either Portland General Electric or the confederated Tribes of Warm Srings. At that time there no gates and we were able to gain access to many areas that are now closed off.

The community of Three Rivers is now located on the site of Grandview.  This gated community has a few dozen year-around residents, many vacation homes and is completly off the grid.  With the only privately owned Marina on the Metolius River it draws hundreds of landowners and guests every summer.

Sometimes a shallow well would find water from 30-50 feet down.

Either the Crooked River or the Deschutes

This narrow wagon road, called The Grade, descended 700 feet to the Deschutes River. It was a full days trip.

It was a common sight to see some woman going up the Grade driving an old poor team of ponies and an old wagon with tires held on with hay wire.   After loading three or four barrels and several old tin washtubs, with the help of and three or four children, they headed back to the farm.

Central Oregon Sheepherder 1936

Probably returning with groceries and supplies

WPA barracks on the road to Prineville

Bringing irrigation water from one of the Cascade Lakes

Either the Crooked River or the Deschutes

The combination of the Depression and drought caused many to just walk away from their farms.

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