Historic Preservation: Canby women honored for efforts

For Canby’s Peggy Sigler, Oregon’s history and heritage has always been important.

Her passion for historic preservation was recently honored when Oregon Heritage, a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, announced the 2024 recipients of their bi-annual Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards.

Sigler was one of 12 individual award winners. The excellence awards also included honors to organizations and projects.

“I appreciate the multitude of friends, colleagues, mentors, inspirators, supporters, and tolerators who have been part of this historic journey with me over the past 35 years,” Sigler said. “As I have passionately followed my quest to preserve our past, they have been teaching, leading, pushing, or walking beside me in Canby, Clackamas County, and Oregon; at Willamette Falls, with Steiner Cabins, Chi Omega, DeFevers, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and now at Mark Prairie Schoolhouse.”

As part of their recognition program, Oregon Heritage recognizes volunteers selected by local heritage organizations. Canby Historical Society selected Dawn Eleen Coleman as its 2023 volunteer. She is one of 18 being recognized by the state organization.

Sigler has spent more than 30 years advocating for the preservation of local, county, and state historic sites. Her advocacy includes working on the memorandum of agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, which enables the restoration, transition to local control, and reopening of the Willamette Falls Locks.

Sigler’s work was integral to achieving National Park Service approval of the Willamette Falls and Landings National Heritage Area. Locally, Sigler played a key role in the adoption of the city’s historic preservation ordinance and establishing the city’s Heritage and Landmark Commission.

Currently, she serves as the volunteer manager of the Mark Prairie Schoolhouse Restoration Project. In that role, she has raised over $350,000 in grant funding, negotiated a $400,000 insurance settlement, hired and managed contractors, and directed all procurement. Three years after the devastating ice storm, exterior restoration is complete and interior work is in-progress. Plans to reopen the site this summer are underway.

“My current full-time, three-year volunteer project is managing the disaster recovery and restoration of the 1879 Mark Prairie Schoolhouse, just a mile from our home,” Sigler said. “When two oak trees crashed onto the building in 2021’s ice storm, my varied experiences equipped me to bring the skills and expertise needed for this unique project. Now 3½ years later, with a budget that soared from an initial $200,000 to $850,000, we are nearing completion, with a celebration planned for this fall. It feels like the cherry on top of a lifetime dedicated to my passion of historic preservation.

“I urge others to step up for history,” she added. “You can be the difference. Learn, research, write, cite, preserve, donate, volunteer, testify, advocate, influence decision-makers, become a decision maker, remind funders of the importance of protecting our past.”

Coleman serves as the treasurer and the media coordinator for the Canby Historical Society. This past year she replaced the organization’s web page, established a CHS Facebook group site, “Canby Then and Now,” initiated a social media campaign, and reached an agreement with Community Advantage Magazine for inclusion of a CHS article in each edition.

Additionally, Coleman has made community outreach a priority, returning the Santa Visit Program to the Depot, enrolling the CHS in the holiday street corner display programs, participating in the Kiwanis Toy Drive, and other charitable programs. As a result of her efforts, the Depot is now the home of the last 100 years of the Canby Herald newspaper.

Both women were recognized at the 2024 Oregon Heritage Conference Award Dinner on April 18 in Hillsboro. Locally, they will be honored at the May 1 Canby City Council meeting as part of the kickoff to May Historic Preservation Program.


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