Author: Olga Karavaeva
Prineville quite literally sits on a volcano. The Crooked River caldera is an ancient, currently extinct, volcano, which last erupted about 29.5 million years ago. The caldera’s diameter of about 22 miles x 15 miles that makes it one of the biggest in the United States – and the city is nestled almost right in its middle.
A Brief History of Prineville
Incorporated on October 23, 1872, Prineville was part of Wasco County until Crook County was created in 1882, with Prineville as the county seat. The city was named after Barney Prine, one of the first merchants who settled in the area.
The community was thriving until 1911, when the railway built by Oregon Trunk Railways and Union Pacific from the Columbia River southwards, bypassed the city. The business started leaving the area for the cities with better railroad access. Prineville, however, instead of resigning to its fate, raised money and built its own railway, which connected the town to the main line 19 miles away.
The city's railway became operational in 1918 and connected the town to Redmond, Oregon. After struggling at the beginning, the railroad managed to become profitable in 1939, with sawmills as its main customers. For that very reason, the railway’s revenues decreased dramatically, when the mills shut down in the 2000s. Today, the railway is still in use servicing some of the region’s industries.
Another noteworthy company connected to Prineville is Les Schwab Tire Centers, a major tire retail chain, which has been associated with the city since the company’s foundation in 1952. In 2006, Les Schwab announced the relocation of its headquarters to Bend, Oregon, resulting in the loss of 320 jobs for Prineville. For a city of slightly over 9,000 residents, that was a big blow. Prineville, however, managed to compensate that loss by Federal jobs with the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, while housing boom and developing tourist industry helped diversify the local economy.
Among other positive contributions to the city, an economy was a construction of Apple and Facebook data centers in the Prineville area. Crook County was hit by the Great Recession more than any county in Oregon. According to Judge Mike McCabe, administrator for Crook County, construction of the data centers that brought hundreds of temporary jobs “couldn't happen at a better time".
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