Tin Pan Alley

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The outdoor Mecca of Bend

Of all the people who visit  Bend, I might be the only one who usually chooses to thoroughly explore Bend itself rather than visiting any of the world-class destinations surrounding the central Oregon city.

This trip was no exception; in fact, in a single day in March, I undertook a six-hour round-trip from Portland specifically to explore an alley. This is surely the first such trip ever taken by a human. 🙂

Downtown Bend’s long-neglected alleys are starting to show life. This large brewery under construction will have outdoor seating *facing* the alley–a first for Bend.

And I would happily do it all over again! It was a sunny, 64-degree day, and Mt Bachelor had received 10 feet of snow in the previous 10 days. Yet I never ventured outside Bend city limits.

A ski day would clearly have been a lot more fun, but this trip (and this blog) are all about researching and exploring—and then describing while sharing lots of great pictures of—unique urban places that are rarely visited or known about.

OK, I couldn’t resist making one stop on the way to visit some alleys. This is from Timberline Lodge (elevation 6000 feet and the location of the super snowy outdoor scenes of “The Shining”). 11,245-foot Mt Hood dominates the background.

For those not familiar with Bend, a once-sleepy town 162 miles southeast of Portland, it’s still mainly known as a base camp for exploring an unparalleled array of outdoor activities in all directions. Readers of Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal and seemingly every other outdoor- or active-lifestyle-oriented magazine have repeatedly seen Bend in top ten lists.

Within just *25 miles* of downtown’s Mirror Pond, you can:

  • Ski in any direction from the summit of a volcano—and one whose 4318 acres of lift-served terrain are unrivaled for a single peak
  • Rock-climb world-class routes at Smith Rock State Park
“Monkey Face” formation in Smith Rock, a very popular rock-climbing area just northeast of Bend. Photo courtesy of http://www.theellingers.com
  • Watch the Metolius River literally explode out of the ground from an overlook of the nation’s largest single spring
  • Participate in the Pole Peddle Pedal: a truly unique-to-Bend 6-leg annual relay that combines alpine skiing/snowboarding, cross-country skiing, biking, trail running, canoeing/kayaking and a paved sprint—yes, all in one race
  • Explore Lava River Cave, one of the nation’s longest lava tubes
  • Get lost in 350 other known caves in the area
  • Reach the bases of four different glaciated volcanoes
  • Climb the nation’s only volcano that’s located within a 20-minute walk of an urban core
  • Walk along the tops of 600-foot-high cliffs (with no guardrails) along the entire perimeter of a large peninsula while staring across a lake at a 160-foot-tall waterfall that seems to explode directly out of a desert wall
View of the glaciated volcanoes North and Middle Sisters (known less commonly as “Faith” and “Hope”) from Pilot Butte, a small dormant volcano 1.5 miles east of downtown Bend.
  • Transition, literally in a few feet, from dense stands of 200-foot-tall Douglas Fir trees to desert landscapes featuring the world’s largest Ponderosa Pine and Black Cottonwood trees
  • Ride Phil’s Complex, a 300-mile network of singletrack, along with 700 additional miles of mountain bike trails
  • Visit a different large brewery every day of the month
  • Star-gaze under some of the darkest skies found this side of extreme southeastern Oregon (where the darkest skies in the Lower 48—and the Burning Man festival—are found)
  • Learn about ecology and history at the nationally renowned 135-acre High Desert Museum
  • Fly-fish, raft or kayak world-class rivers

OK, I do admittedly have pictures of all of the areas above; as much as I joke about visiting alleys, I really do enjoy exploring as much as possible of Oregon, Washington and BC. But it would take me *years* just to go through the places in the bulleted list above. So, for now, you’ll just have to be content with pictures of alleys. 🙂 But I’ll throw in a bonus section of Bend’s Old Mill District (originally planned as a separate blog post) just to add some urban Bend scenery and context.

OK, one more scenery shot for now. This is the view (from a giant waterfall right behind me) of “The Island” at Cove Palisades State Park and Lake Billy Chinook.

Anyway, given an almost geographically impossible variety of natural attractions so close to Bend, it’s no wonder that historically, few visitors have spent more than a tiny fraction of a trip to the area exploring Bend itself. However, the proliferation of ever-fancier restaurants downtown indicates that this is changing rapidly. Bend’s city population has grown from barely 50,000 in 2000 to roughly 90,000 in 2017.

Bend has also had legendary boom-bust cycles. Its median home prices increased faster than anywhere else in the country in 2006. Just two years later, neighboring Redmond was the only city in the U.S. where home prices plummeted more quickly than they did in Bend.

Tin Pan Alley Introduction

For many years, I’ve been a huge fan of urban alleys throughout the world, whether visiting in-person or researching them online. One day I absolutely must visit Melbourne’s famous “Laneways” and especially Beijing’s hutongs, which are *tragically* disappearing rapidly. Hutongs are alleys that have been formed by connecting rows of siheyuan (traditional courtyard residences).

Hosier Lane, courtesy of VisitMelbourne.com

I’ll eventually write about some of the beautiful alleys I’ve explored in many cities, and I’ll point out the *incredible* potential that cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle and many others have with their existing alley networks.

In fact, I recently wrote about an absolutely wonderful transformation in Milwaukee of what was once the single darkest, most dangerous corridor in the area; it’s now called Black Cat Alley.

Click on the image to read my post about Milwaukee’s Black Cat Alley

On this beautiful day in March, it was Bend’s turn. I hadn’t been to Bend in several years, and I knew that since I was last there, some beautiful art was gradually being installed on what has now officially been called “Tin Pan Alley.”

Technically, Tin Pan Alley is comprised of two parallel alleys separated only by NW Bond Street, in the heart of downtown Bend. The contrast between downtown’s main north-south streets (Bond and Wall) and the desolate alleys just to their east could not be more striking.

Looking down one of Tin Pan Alley’s several blocks. They have *tons* of far-from-realized potential.

Paintings were first hung on these  alleys (and parking garage walls, which I forgot to capture) in 2014, and the collection has grown slowly but steadily.

On the left is “Sunset Over Sisters” by Kevin Schwarting, who grew up in Chicago and lived in Montana for ten years before moving to Bend in 2010.
On the right is “Van Matre’s Eternal Tambourine,” which was inspired by Bend’s Tower Theatre (pictured later). Artist Avlis Leumas moved to Bend with his wife after making their first visit from California in 2004.
Informational signs exactly like this one accompany every work of art in Tin Pan Alley
Left: Artist Megan Phallon
Middle: Artist Vicki Roadman
Right: Artist Douglas Robertson; www.douglas-robertson.com
Close-up of “Seize the Day” by Vicki Roadman. Vicki is picturing how Bend’s residents take advantage of daily opportunities to go to the mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests. The paintings hang on the side of Bend’s historic O’Kane Building. The shamrock honors Hugh O’Kane, an Irish immigrant who built (and then, after a fire in 1905, completely rebuilt) the building. The Bend emblem within the sun honors William D. Cheney, who designed the emblem in the early 1900s.

Calamity Jane has nothing on Bend’s Klondike Kate!

Note: the story below Klondike Kate is based on an article from Mind Bend-ers, part of the great, quirky “Bend Buzz Blog” that’s been running since 2012.

So…Who’s Klondike Kate, and why is she prominently displayed on Tin Pan Alley?

Klondike Kate is honored in a painting by Sheila Dunn that hangs in the alley, right behind Toomie’s Thai Cuisine.

As Mind-Benders states, women in Bend have always been the adventurous sort, pursuing passions like skiing, rock climbing, rafting, and, in the case of Kate Rockwell, marching through downtown wearing a showgirl costume and rolling a cigarette with one hand.

Klondike Kate’s nickname was earned from her illustrious career as a vaudeville performer and showgirl, which included a stint in Alaska (the “Klondike”) in 1910.

The retired vaudevillian bought a horse, a gun, and a camping outfit (“all the necessities for a lady of the time,” as told by Mind Bend-ers), and she bought a property east of Bend, sight-unseen, where she homesteaded for three years until she earned the title to the land.

The 1915 equivalent of a cougar, at age 39 she married a cowboy half her age. The relationship, like many others for her, was rocky and short-lived.

After a decade on the ranch, Kate moved to downtown Bend’s Franklin Avenue to be closer to the general populace; this clearly had mixed results. People were either highly drawn to her and called her “Aunt Kate,” or they totally disapproved of and avoided her.

Her habit of always choosing local transient men (“bums”) to do major home projects was considered highly unladylike by the “cultured” folk. She was often assumed to be a prostitute or “a lady of ill repute,” but Deschutes County Historical Society’s executive director, Kelly Cannon-Miller, says that this was never the case.

Kate was a legend to those who adored her. She famously tended to the sick, particularly during the nationwide flu pandemic of 1918 when Bend’s entire population was quarantined for two months.

Bend’s Fire Department even made her an honorary member for her tireless efforts to bring food to men fighting blazes on cold nights.

“Firebreather” was created to thank all of our wildland firefighters–past, present and future. The artist, Avlis Leumas, states that the piece was “created to capture the beauty of our mid-summer lightning storms that blow through and create chaotic fires across the area.”
When this piece is auctioned, half of the proceeds will go to The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a group that provides emotional and financial assistance to families of wildland firefighters seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.
Growing up in California, Avlis Leumas and his wife moved to Bend after a single visit in 2004.

Kate was also famously charitable, even to a fault. She’d often say, “Whenever I get down to my last dollar, there’s always someone who needs it more than I do.”

Klondike Kate would surely agree with this quote from “Walking” by Henry David Thorough: “In short, all good things are wild and free… Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones.”
Even the name of the artist (Katie Daisy) and her pieces that promote self-discovery and liberation are a perfect fit. 🙂

After Klondike Kate died in 1957, her ashes were scattered from an airplane over the site of her former high desert homestead. Bend’s famously fearless and fun-loving outdoorswomen say that her spirit lives on in Bend.

Additional Tin Pan Alley art

Title: The Day We All Looked Up
Bend artist Kaycee Anseth pays homage to the diverse, endlessly inspiring connections, interactions, personalities, and magicians that gather in Tin Pan Alley.
Kaycee uses discarded fashion and home decor magazines to create intricate collages that explore myth, fairytale and imagination.
“Finding Gold in Cascadia,” by Megan McGuiness
I love that this “Ride with Me” piece is literally 3-dimensional. Artist Jeff Remiker’s inspiration comes from Bend’s cycling lifestyle and mountain culture, as well as his many years of working with wood and metal.
Bend-based artist Judy Campbell calls this three-dimensional piece “Tomas’ Riddle.” It comes from her love of fractals, which are infinitely repeating (and infinitely magnifiable) patterns found in nature, such as ferns and shells. Ms. Campbell combined steel, wood and lights to bring abstract concepts such as love, mystery and infinity into the earthly plane.
Close-up of Judy Campbell’s fascinating fractal-inspired work of art. Her husband, Tom, taught her how to use many tools to bring “Tomas’ Riddle” to life.
“The Millworker,” by Sheila Dunn. The man depicted here, Dan MacLennan, worked in the lumber industry since age 12. Moving to Bend in 1909, he was one of the sawmill’s most talented workers. He could herd 80 train cars of logs a mile down the Deschutes River, despite having lots most of four fingers in his right hand. That hand is holding a Peavey Pole that’s used to maneuver floating logs. Ms. Dunn wanted to showcase the tireless, often unseen heroes who continue to build the community. Ms. Dunn graduated from Colorado State University and moved to Bend in 2010.
“A Parade of Strange Ideas” by Philip Newsom depicts spontaneous explosions of ideas emerging from the subconsious and growing “in some back alley of the mind.”

The need to *activate* Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley is actually two parallel alleys that run between Bend’s three primary north-south streets. There’s *enormous* potential with these between-block corridors. And now there’s JUST enough art to entice a few people to actually start intentionally walking through these still-far-too-under-utilized urban alleys.

But as some of the pictures below (as well as the very first image on this page) will show, VERY few of the businesses located along the alley even acknowledge its existence. They continue to literally turn their back to this great space. Hopefully these images will get the Downtown Bend Business Association to recognize what a GEM-in-the-rough they have. People are almost universally *not* curious enough to look around the corner; they tend to go directly from A to B with no deviations at all (typically while staring down at their phones).

Thus, there’s an increasing need for WAYFINDING and real PLACEMAKING. A picture’s worth 1000 words, as they say. The last few images in this section will hopefully get the DBBA and all the businesses located along Tin Pan Alley to notice the incredible potential the twin corridors have. After all, the location could not possibly be any more central, and downtown Bend continues to grow incredibly quickly.

People are just starting to intentionally wander into Tin Pan Alley
These guys couldn’t wait to be featured on the blog. 🙂 Sorry it took so long! 🙂 They were hanging out and skating right by the new Tin Pan Alley entrance to the aptly named Tin Pan Theater.

Here’s one of the problems Bend is having in activating Tin Pan Alley; they still let CARS rather than PEOPLE occupy key spaces in the alley, such as right next to the beautiful theater and coffee shop. The space should be highly *activated*, rather than be used for *parking*.

PEOPLE are relegated to the sidelines, while CARS get the choice spots
Very, very few businesses even acknowledge the existence of Tin Pan Alley. These are a couple of beautiful exceptions.
Another of the depressingly few businesses that celebrates Tin Pan Alley by opening up to it
I shot this from right next to a cafe, where an employee couldn’t explain to me where either Tin Pan Theater or Tin Pan Alley was. They are both literally right outside her door. People do NOT notice their surroundings. Again, downtown businesses have to do a *100 times* better job at wayfinding and leading horses to water, even if they don’t drink it.
Lots of young workers take their breaks in the alley, but very few amenities are provided, outside of the art itself.
Finally! A couple of chairs are provided for people on their breaks from work, as well as anyone who just wants to have a seat.
It’s ridiculous to think that cars get front row seats to these spaces that have such amazing potential
I had a long talk with the owner of Pedego Electric Bikes. He’s one of the few business owners who truly celebrates Tin Pan Alley, as far as I can tell. And he let me use his electric bike for free for a couple hours afterward!
D&D is Bend’s oldest bar & grill. It’s a wonderful space, but it’s almost invisible from Tin Pan Alley, even though I’m standing IN the alley to take this shot. You’ll see what I mean from the next two images.
Most people would never think to look through this awkward (though artsy) gate to see the beautiful bar & grill that lies just beyond it. Where’s the SIGNAGE?
Here’s a larger view of the area. Trucks, parking lots and containers of every type have clear priority over PEOPLE in Tin Pan Alley. And there is a TON of parking available elsewhere downtown, despite beliefs to the contrary.
These are brand new buildings. There should be an ordinance that ALL new buildings or major modifications along Tin Pan Alley (both alleys) contain major placemaking and activation. The only thing that ALL great spaces on Earth have in common is PEOPLE walking through them.
There’s a lot of beautiful art in Tin Pan Alley (both alleys), and there are a FEW nice spaces in the alleys. But much of it still looks like this. Activating urban alleys is a VERY new concept in the U.S. It will take time, but the efforts will pay for themselves many-fold!
There are numerous fascinating old telephone posts that stretch across the alley. I can foresee lots of uses for them, such as stringing up lights. Granted, there are actually a couple small sections that have *beautiful* lighting drilled into the brick itself. I couldn’t stay there late enough to get shots of it, unfortunately. A shopkeeper, who saw the lights go on every night, was sure that they went on at 8PM. I waited until 8:20 before I really had to start driving back to Portland. NEVER trust when someone is “sure” of something regarding time or distance. 🙂

Downtown streets bordering Tin Pan Alley

The main north-south streets of Bend are Wall Street (closer to the river) and Bond Street, a block to the east. Technically, Gasoline Alley runs between Wall and Bond, and Tin Pan Alley runs on the other (east) side of Bond. But both alleys are considered Tin Pan Alley today.

The Tower Theater is at 835NW Wall St, in the heart of downtown, a block east of beautiful Mirror Pond, which is a wide curve in the Deschutes River that often has surprisingly glass-smooth water. Mirror Pond is, of course, more widely known these days as a beer, but now you know where the beer gots its name!

The Tower Theater was built in 1940 and lovingly restored. The beautiful adobe-looking building to its left (our right) is the also-now-restored building housing the old Liberty Theatre that was built way back in 1917.

It’s almost shocking how many fancy cafes, restaurants and shops now line Bond, Wall, Minnesota, Brooks, Oregon and other downtown streets in Bend. I nearly gave up finding a place where I could reasonably afford dinner. I went to a gorgeous place—and settled on a single appetizer, along with one of the most creative-looking and -tasting drinks I’ve ever had.
This is the nicely granularly activated base of the very large new “Franklin Crossing” building on the northeast corner of Franklin & Bond. The ENTIRE perimeter of the building (including the back side *along Tin Pan Alley*) is lined with beautiful signs featuring pictures and names of trees that are native to the area. *Great* touch!
This is the full view of Franklin Crossing. Notice the beautiful signs featuring dozens of native area trees; they wrap around the entire building.
While Bond and Wall streets are pleasant to stroll, they’re also both one-way streets (typically highly opposed by modern urban planners) and lined with diagonal parking (which has its pros and cons).
While the bike trails NEAR Bend might be unparalleled anywhere, there’s surprisingly VERY little cycling infrastructure (or bike-friendliness of any kind) downtown. This needs to be remedied immediately! Granted, there’s a partial riverside trail leading south to the beautifully restored Old Mill District; see the next section for photos.
Brooks Street is one block west of Wall Street. Brooks borders the beautiful downtown park overlooking Mirror Pond, a serene, perfect curve in the Deschutes River. Brooks St is becoming increasingly pedestrian-friendly in parts, but there’s still a LOT of work to do to make both this and ALL other downtown streets more people-friendly rather than car-dominated.
This is a decent stretch of Brooks Street, but what you’re not seeing (or maybe can just make out to the left of the nice streetlights) is a giant parking lot separating the Deschutes River’s Mirror Pond and the waterfront park from what could (and hopefully will soon be) livelier downtown streets.
A group of home-schooled high schoolers is enjoying a night out on the town. Taken with permission from their mothers. 🙂 They were practicing manners at fancy restaurants and learning other social skills, from what their mothers told me. Ten years ago, such a fancy “night on the town” probably would not have happened in Bend.
There isn’t a beautiful historic city in Oregon that doesn’t contain at least one McMenamins. This is the old St Francis School, which the McMenamin brothers converted in the impossibly beautiful way they treat all 55 of their renovated historic properties in Oregon and Washington.
But again, *Franklin Avenue* is an AWFUL separator of downtown Bend and Old Bend. McMenamins is just half a block south of Franklin, but it might as well be *miles* from downtown Bend. A *serious* road diet performed on Franklin Ave. would dramatically improve downtown vibrancy, safety, walkability and cycling.
For those not familiar with McMenamins, their gorgeous interiors (all done in a way that brings back hundreds of old stories of the places they renovate) are incredibly artsy. This is just one example of wall in any given room inside a McMenamins property.

A beautiful trail leading to the Old Mill District

This section (as well as the section above) was originally intended to be a separate blog post, since they feature aspects of Bend that have nothing to do with alleys. But I decided to just create one huge post on Bend instead. 🙂

I did this for two reasons: 1) I was originally planning on doing a very detailed separate post on the Old Mill District (it really deserves it).

However, 2) I spent the last two sections being quite harsh on Bend’s walkability, cycling infrastructure and placemaking efforts. So, I wanted to show some much more attractive images to make up for it–and to encourage downtown to attract more bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the *entire* corridor from Greenwood Avenue (the northern tip of the downtown business district) all the way south to the riverfront Old Mill District. I thought it would make more sense, therefore, to include this section on this post–and to end on a more hopeful note. 🙂

The beautiful trail to the Old Mill District starts on the downtown waterfront at Mirror Pond.
Parts of Old Bend (bordering downtown Bend to the south) are super charming, funky and historic. I could enjoy walking through Old Bend for days. It needs a MUCH better connection across wide, awful *Franklin Avenue*, which acts like a wall, preventing pedestrians and cyclists from going between the two districts.
Every whimsical neighborhood in Oregon contains numerous homes that feature treehouses that border chicken homes. I have a separate close-up of the chicken palace for proof, if you’d like. 🙂
The waterfront is home to the lucky few, but at least us normal folks can enjoy some of the same views from beautiful trails heading south along the Deschutes River.

This was actually taken on the way back from the Old Mill District, so it was getting dark by now. But it was in this same area as above. I just *love* car-free mid-block cut-throughs. And the old stone wall is a really nice touch. The curving, oddly intersecting residential blocks in this area are heavenly to explore.
This is the site of one of the largest pine sawmills ever operated in the U.S. We’re now in the Old Mill District.
Corporations have stepped up with major sponsorships. The beautiful outdoor amphitheater is named for Les Schwab, which is based in Bend.
The 300-acre historic area formerly occupied by two huge lumber mills has been converted to a mixed-use district of shops, restaurants, art galleries and trails. Stand Up Paddle Bend sends *many* happy customers to this area.
Approaching the Old Mill District from due north. Several artsy tunnels are on the Old Mill side of the river.
The oldest and largest remaining building in the Old Mill District is the “Little Red Shed.” Once used to store fire equipment, it is now home to Dewilde Art Glass.

Below are several typical scenes within the Old Mill District, which is a mile south of downtown Bend, via the Deschutes River

Greg’s on the Deschutes, on a beautiful sunset. Greg’s was clearly named after my brother, Greg Davis. 🙂 I can *definitely* picture Greg enjoying exploring the Deschutes by stand-up paddle, kayak, canoe and (once downstream a little ways) especially by RAFT!
Heading back toward downtown from the east side of the river this time

Another decorated bridge covering the trail
Good night, Bend and its perfectly timed full moon! It was another beautiful visit.


Examples of beautiful alleys from around the world

It will take me years to go through the images I’ve captured of alleys from all my trips. So, in the meantime, enjoy these images below, courtesy of Portland-based Alley Activation, which is run by my friend Melinda Matson! By the way, their great new “woonerf icon” is available for licensing, with donations supporting their work.

Angel Place Laneway in Sidney, Australia
Tomonouro Alleyway in Japan. Note that each country has slightly different (English version) names for “alleys.”
In London, alleys are called “mews.” This is gorgeous Albion Mews, which would perfectly suit the climate of Cascadian cities: Portland/Seattle/Vancouver/Victoria.
This beautiful alley in Athens is found on the climb to the Acropolis