Pine Valley Quilt Block Trail
Colorful oversized quilt blocks are starting to show up on historical structures throughout Pine Valley as part of a quilt block trail project organized by Debi Lorence.
Although new to the Panhandle, quilt trails have been appearing in towns across the U.S. since the early 2000s. Described as “a series of painted wood or metal hung or freestanding quilt squares installed along a route emphasizing significant architecture and/or aesthetic landscapes,” quilt trails originated in Ohio and can now be found in more than 30 states and several Canadian provinces.
In Oregon, large quilt trails are located in Washington County, along the north coast and in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn Trail features 60 blocks; there are 52 blocks on the Tillamook County Quilt Trail; and 46 appear on the Bridge of the Gods Quilt Block Trail in Cascade Locks. Halfway now joins this esteemed group with 21 art boards at 18 locations throughout Pine Valley. Most are located on or near paved roads for easy access and viewing.
The project started shortly after Lorence and her husband, Walt, moved to Pine Valley and she became enamored with the many old barns in the area. Lorence had been involved in the Tualatin Valley Quilt Barn Trail when she lived in Washington County and thought a similar project could also be successful here. She organized a community meeting in the fall of 2021 and from that gathering emerged the initial participants in Pine Valley’s Quilt Block Trail.
“Dee and Galen West were the very first to say yes,” Lorence recalled. “I needed that; I knew if just one person expressed interest we could do this. They got the ball rolling.”
While the property owners pondered possible quilt patterns, Lorence worked to acquire the necessary materials for the project.
“Miller’s Lumber gave us 20 pieces of plywood, and said they hoped it would inspire even more people to do the quilt blocks,” Lorence said, emphasizing the generous donation. She added Miller’s also provided primer, painter’s tape and colors, as well, and said, “They were so kind about it. I can’t express how much gratitude I have, and the joy they gave me in the project.”
The next step involved finding space big enough to accommodate the boards for painting, as most participants lacked ample room in their own barns for the project. Lorence wound up using a variety of locations including the Lions Hall and the Exhibit Hall at the Pine Valley Fairgrounds along with a couple of residential shops.
The very first barn quilts were painted directly on the surface of the structure, but the work was so labor-intensive that painters began creating the quilt blocks on pieces of wood instead.
A full-sized barn quilt is eight feet by eight feet, requiring two sheets of plywood mounted side by side; however, a few of the pieces in Pine Valley’s Quilt Block Trail are four feet by four feet due to structural or other limitations. For example, the Pine Valley Grange has three four-by-four boards as there is not enough room for an eight-by-eight on their building.
Transferring complicated quilt patterns to paper and then plywood is an exacting, time-consuming process. It’s followed by carefully outlining each section of the quilt with painter’s tape before layers upon layers of color are applied. “It takes between 30 and 56 hours to design and paint an eight-by-eight quilt,” Lorence said.
Quilt blocks traditionally do not include any advertising or logos, and Lorence worked hard to adhere to this practice for the Pine Valley project. There turned out to be a couple of minor exceptions, including the traditional wheat symbol which appears on one of the Grange boards.
Many Pine Valley quilt blocks are painted red, white and blue, a proud sign of local patriotism, and most of the local patterns hold significant historical or personal meaning.
The Martha Washington Star on Angela and JP Binford’s barn embodies their marriage and faith; the Arrow Star on Kellee and Tom Ford’s barn incorporates the Native American symbol for happiness; and Pharlemina’s Favorite, a family pattern, is going on the barn at Mehlhorn Century Farm. A directionaly-correct Compass highlights Tobie Willmarth’s barn; the Lonesome Dove, a symbol of faith and also a favorite TV show, is featured on Mike and Margie Knode’s barn; and the Drunkard’s Path pattern chosen by Richard and Marilyn Seal was copied from an actual family quilt.
The task of hanging the actual blocks can be complicated by the size and weight of the plywood, the orientation of the artwork and the height and condition of each barn or building. Most of the local barns were built in the early 1900s and, while many have been well-maintained, others are in need of care and refurbishing. Early construction methods and features such as angled rooflines, aging pine wood, bat and board siding, perlin bracing, door and window cutouts, and heavy steel hardware dictate exactly where and how each block can be affixed.
Interestingly, most of the barns were placed on stone piers and left open to the ground to accommodate runoff from flood irrigation. The majority are positioned north-south to avoid prevailing winds and many are left unfinished or painted red – with the notable exception of the pristine white structures on the Mehlhorn Farm.
A key feature of every quilt trail – in addition to the historic buildings upon which the blocks are displayed and the blocks themselves, many with a history of their own – is a self-guided tour map that allows people to visit the different locations at their own time and pace. Ours can be found by clicking the link at the top of this page.
Galen and Dee West, 37605 West Bell Street
“Patriotic Star” was the quilt pattern chosen by Galen and Dee West, who were among the first residents to agree to participate in the ambitious project.
According to the couple, the Hulse brothers built their house and barn in the early 1930s and Galen’s parents, Harvey and Vada West, purchased the five-acre parcel in 1933. Vada’s ancestors had traveled from Independence, Missouri to Pine Valley via the Goodall Trail in 1891. Vada was born and raised in Pine Town and she met Harvey when he came to the area after serving in World War I. Harvey worked in the Cornucopia Gold Mines and Vada worked at the bank, although she died at the early age of 41. Galen and two brothers were born raised in the Bell Street house.
The barn on their property is much narrower than other barns in Pine Valley, but Galen said it had ample room for the family’s cows, horses, hogs and chickens. The barn also has a huge second-story hay mow, now used for storage. Typical of other barns in the area there is no cement foundation, “just rocks.” Yet it is still structurally sound, and Galen has only had to replace a few rotten boards over the years.
The Wests said they chose “Patriotic Star” and used red, white and blue paint on the eight-by-eight quilt block to “reflect the patriotism of many of the family members dating back to the Civil War.”
Joy Bond, 247 North Pine
Joy Bond’s historic property on North Pine will feature two four-by-four art blocks. “Farmer’s Daughter” will go on the house and “Star of Noelle” will be placed on an adjacent small barn.
Joy said the 1920s-era house and barn were originally owned by Velda Huff. The property was later acquired by Tom and Ann Ingram, and after Louise Raven bought the plece in 2004 she made several improvements, including the “famous” facade out front that was constructed by George Guarino.
The house and barn were in disrepair and “really disgusting” by the time Joy purchased them in February of 2021. As she worked on upgrading the structures Joy found several treasures reminding her of a brother she had recently lost, and she incorporated these into her chosen quilt designs.
“My brother collected old aircraft, like army planes and such,” Joy said. “I found a blue fighter jet in the kitchen and it was in pristine condition. I ended up going with that blue for the background of the [‘Farmer’s Daughter’] quilt, and it also has wings on it. It means a lot to me.”
The “Star of Noelle,” which is going on Joy’s barn, is painted red and white and incorporates a cross. Joy said both quilt pieces express how content she is with her new home, and she added, “I feel very blessed to be here.”
Lions Park Shelter, Lion & Center Streets
“Pine Valley” is the name of the four-by-four quilt block mounted on the south end of the picnic shelter in Halfway's Lions Park. Long-time club member Karen Endersby said, “We just had the idea of having something that depicted the valley because the Lions Club is a service to the community.” The design was actually selected after discovering their first two quilt block choices were already taken. “So we found another one with the setting sun by the mountains and thought that had great possibility,” Karen commented.
“We presented it to the Lions and they liked it. We made a few adjustments and changed a few things as we went, and it wound up being a really nice project. So far people are loving it,” Karen added.
Jacob’s Dream, 233 Gover Lane
The board of the popular local non-profit thrift store chose “Royal Star” as the pattern to feature on their historic building. Once a barn, then a carriage house and later an electrical/plumbing shop, John Binford expanded the structure when he purchased it in the early 1990s. Binford ran a consignment shop downstairs and featured an art gallery upstairs before he turned over the second story to the Presbyterian Church for use as second-hand store.
Binford soon found his shop couldn’t compete with the nonprofit store and so, in exchange for the services of the church’s paint crew, he allowed Jacob’s Dream to take over the entire building rent-free for one year. The church eventually purchased the building and Jacob’s Dream later became its own 501(c) 3.
Now in its 23rd year, the thrift shop continues to grow; the business even managed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
The building will be painted this spring prior to the quilt block being installed and changes are also planned for the shop’s interior.
“It’s just another step in our growth,” manager Milicent Simpson said. “This place has been doing a lot of good things for many years. We are always here to help the community and we’ve always stayed true to our mission.” So it is fitting the “Royal Star,” a symbol of honor and generosity, was chosen by Jacob’s Dream.
Pine Valley Grange, Fairgrounds Road
Wyona Edwards, Pine Valley Grange Master, recalls seeing the local grange hall move into its present location on the fairgrounds property in 1998.
Constructed on Lone Fir Road in 1928, the 37-foot wide building had to be taken on a six-mile detour down through Jim Town and around to Slaughterhouse Road to avoid hitting the power lines in town to reach its new home.
“I was at the bowling alley when I seen it coming,” Wyona said. “I stood and watched for two hours. I watched them back it up onto the foundation using dollies. The foundation had three walls and footings and they got it in.”
Due to building constraints at its current location, the grange chose to install three four-by-four art boards rather than one large quilt panel. The boards are on the building’s south side so they will be visible from the fairgrounds main stage and midway where crowds typically gather. The three panels were carefully chosen to reflect the grange’s agricultural roots, showcasing a bundle of wheat, a wild rose and a pine tree.
“The wheat and flower represent our ritual, and we also chose a pine tree to represent the valley,” Wyona said. “What [Debi] did with the tree was beautiful. She put mountains in with snow, and it has a big pine tree and little ones through the mountains and the foothills. She made it depict Pine Valley.”
Brad and Helen Denson, 38911 Pine Town Lane
Every spring, like clockwork, the hills surrounding Pine Valley come alive with the bright yellow blooms of arrowleaf balsamroot. A flowering plant in the sunflower tribe of the aster family, arrowleaf balsamroot is found across western Canada and much of the western United States, and is a sure sign spring has finally arrived. Perhaps that is one reason Brad and Helen Denson chose it for the eight-by-eight quilt block going on their historic barn.
“It’s a common spring flower in the valley and I just like it,” said Brad, who grew up in the area. The Densons purchased the old Smelcer property on Pine Town Lane when they returned to Pine Valley in 2018. Brad noted while the barn was built prior to the house in the early 1900s, they chose to first remodel the house before tackling the barn.
The barn’s exterior now boasts a new coat of deep red paint and the Densons are slowly organizing the building’s massive rough-hewn interior which features feed stalls, mangers, work areas and plenty of room for storing hay.
“It’s been very well maintained,” Brad said.
Tobie Willmarth, 47549 Highway 86
Just east of Halfway on Highway 86 is the old Laird place, purchased 20 years ago by the Willmarth family. Tobie Willmarth estimates the distinctive barn on their property is more than 100 years old, and he said, “I don’t know who built it, but there are several around here, including the ones on the upper and lower old Buchanan ranch, that are the same style. I don’t know if an outfit came around and built them, but they are all similar.”
Tobie said his mom, Esther Willmarth, was a long-time quilter and he considered using a pattern from one of the quilts she had made for his barn’s art board. But then, while researching designs, he came across “The Compass.”
“I was sitting at my desk with my phone and it was perfect – north, south, east, west,” Tobie said, noting his barn’s orientation. “This barn gets a lot of pictures taken of it and [‘The Compass’] gives good direction.” Tobie chose fitting colors for his art blocks: blue for the sky, yellow for the sun. Lorence commented this is the only diagonal quilt block in the project; it’s also one of the few with lettering.
“It was a super cool challenge for me but there was no other way to do a compass,” Lorence said.
Tobie added, “She did an excellent job. We tweaked the colors a little and it just works! I figured people would either give me flack for putting it up there or love it, and everyone has loved it.”
Richard and Merrilyn Seal, 46682 Fish Lake Road
“I really don’t know much about it, except it’s been here forever,” said Richard Seal of the barn on the property he and Merrilyn have owned for 10 years. “It’s all hand-hewn timbers; you can see the ax marks all over and the way they are pinned. We found a rock with 1897 scratched on it but I’m not sure where it came from.”
Richard said he has yet to do any renovations on the old building, but plans to start with a new roof and some cosmetic details. Otherwise, the barn is structurally sound.
“I still can’t figure out how they got the timbers up there. Those old boys knew what they were doing!” he commented.
“Drunkards Path,” the design chosen for the eight-by-eight quilt on the Seals’ barn, has particular meaning for the family. It was the pattern for a blanket being made by Merrilyn’s great-grandmother before her grandmother was born in 1893; sadly, her great-grandmother died at childbirth.
“This is the second block we did for the trail and Teena, Richard’s daughter, was a huge help,” Debi Lorence said. “It’s literally a picture of a real quilt that had deep meaning for Merrilyn. It only has two colors, and there’s only one other block that’s just two colors.”
Jimtown Store, 47672 Cornucopia Highway
The Jimtown store and adjoining ice house have been landmarks on the Cornucopia Highway north Halfway for more than a century. Kert Lorence, who purchased the property in the late 1990s, has photos showing horses and wagons in front of the building and people standing on the porch next to icicles going clear to the ground. One of the photos, dated 1905, shows the addition of the ice house.
“I heard during World War II people would bring hams in here and wait and then take them to soldiers,” Kert noted. “As far as I know it’s the only brick building in Halfway, although there are some in Richland.” Kert said the main building was a grocery store until about 1989, and during construction of the dams on the nearby Snake River in the 1950s the business was a “a going deal.” Locals have told Kert that shoppers’ cars would be parked all along the highway and clear around the corner, “which is amazing to me.”
Due to structural constraints on the main building, Kert chose to put his “Patriotic Friendship” quilt block on the ice house where it will be more visible. Kert said he selected the “Friendship” block, a very old design, to symbolize the historical importance of the Jimtown store, and he explained, “I love the idea of the friendship thing because everybody I ever talked to that has memories of growing up here or coming here as a kid sat on this porch and had a soda pop or ice cream. Even people from La Grande and Baker would go on a Sunday drive and always stop in Jimtown.”
Debi Lorence added, “One thing fun about Kert’s block is the way it’s painted. There are so many ways you can see the four stars and there is a huge star in the center, too, so there are actually five stars.”
The block is painted red, white and blue to reflect Kert’s patriotism. “I love the colors and the quilt because it’s the flag and it’s about friendship,” Kert said.
Tim and Kellee Ford, 37141 Goodwin Sawmill Lane
Tom and Kellee Ford are relative newcomers to Pine Valley, having just moved to the area in the fall of 2021. “I knew when we pulled in the driveway this was it,” Kellee said, adding the couple had searched for three years over 10 states for the perfect retirement spot.
The house and barn on their property date to the early 1900s. Kellee said the barn served many purposes over the years, from a dairy barn to a pig farm, and she is excited about future possibilities for the historic structure.
“Half will be for my husband and half will be for me,” Kellee laughed. “My dream is to have a couple of mules and a wagon. I’d really like to have draft horses but those are hard to come by.”
Kellee said she got involved in the quilt trail project as a way to meet more people. “I also thought it would be fun, but picking a pattern was like picking wallpaper,” she said. “I would go through the designs Debi gave me and every time I time I picked one I’d see another one I liked better. Finally I just picked a design, but it turned out to be really complicated because it was oblong. We thought we could square it up and we spent hours trying to do it, but I had to find another one that was square,” Kellee said.
She eventually settled on the “Arrow Star,” a pattern of many triangles that create a square. It even had room in the middle for Kellee, a lifelong artist with an affinity for Native American culture, to add the Native symbol for happiness. “It was a lot of work, but I’m really happy with it,” Kellee said.
JP and Angela Binford, 46830 Lone Fir Road
The barn sitting on the Binfords’ property on Lone Fir Road is a quintessential Pine Valley barn – two stories with a steeply-pitched roof, bat and board siding made of pine and painted red, rough-hewn timbers, handmade steel hardware and stones for the foundation. The barn even features an owl box high in the rafters, which Angela said was part of an OSU Extension project many years ago when volunteers would collect owl pellets for research purposes.
The red, white and blue “Martha Washington Star” quilt pattern selected by the Binfords for their barn is reflective of their patriotism and marriage. Angela explained they liked the simplicity of the pattern, especially the three intertwined parts of the star “that stand for my husband, me and the Lord.”
Dave and Dona Schmitt, 48017 Cornucopia Highway
Dave and Dona Schmitt also chose a star design for their barn quilt block, “Carpenter’s Star,” which is patterned off an intricate cross stitch piece.
“We chose the quilt pattern because of its 3-D effect – different patterns emerge after looking at it for longer periods of time,” Dona said, adding, “The colors were selected to blend in with the surrounding trees and vegetation.”
Although unsure of the exact age of the barn, the Schmitts said at some time in the past it was used to milk cows like most other barns in the area. Dona said, “We have lived on this property since 1996 when we purchased it from the Richard Lont estate. We put an addition onto and completely remodeled the interior of the existing house which was built in 1975 using old timbers from Cornucopia. The old door on the huge pantry came from the cookhouse at Cornucopia. The hardwood flooring and some of the doors were from the old grade school and high school in Halfway.”
Mike and Margie Knode,
46288 Slaughterhouse Road
Mike and Margie Knode came to Pine Valley a couple of decades ago, settling in the old Stelting place on Slaughterhouse Road. The couple slowly reclaimed and opened up the property, making improvements to the house (built by Theresa Stelting to replace one that burned years ago) while leaving the historic barn as is.
The dominant feature on their chosen quilt pattern is a dove. Margie explained that “Lonesome Dove” is Mike’s favorite TV show, and the dove is also a bird of peace and love in life and marriage.
Mehlhorn Century Farm, 38214 Sunny Dell Lane
Edward Mehlhorn, an early homesteader and owner of the Mehlhorn Lumber Company, built the house on Sunny Dell Lane in 1917.
“He chose and probably milled every piece of wood in the house and I’m assuming also for the barn and other buildings,” Edward’s granddaughter, Sheila Yeomans, recalled, adding the barn was been built earlier than the house.
“He built the house for his mother, and when she died, he married my grandmother, so he’s really my step-grandfather,” Sheila said.
She noted it was a working barn during her growing-up years in the 1940s and ’50s, and said, “I can remember as a small child they had cows, a hog pen and chickens behind the granary and the shop. Grandmother would let me collect pullet eggs, and I got to keep the money when we took them to town to sell. They also sold milk, and my mother went to college on the cream check.”
Unlike other barns in Pine Valley, the Mehlhorn barn had a cement foundation and featured a bright paint job. “Grandfather painted everything white,” Sheila said.
“Pharlemina” is the name of the quilt design chosen by Sheila and her sister, Cindy Thayer, for their family’s historic barn. “We looked at different patterns and found ‘Pharlemina’ and I just liked the name,” Sheila said.
When it came to choosing colors they considered green and orange to reflect their grandmother’s Irish heritage “and then Cindy reminded me that Grandfather was German and had nothing to do with the Irish.” One day the sisters were at Cindy’s quilt studio when Sheila noticed a purple and aqua quilt piece hanging on the wall and said “That’s it!”
Matching the colors took some effort and they wound up using a combination of glossy and flat paints on the art boards. Sheila is hoping once the four-by-four block is varnished and hung it will be true to their original vision. “Even if it’s a little different and not quite what we saw, it will still look really good on the white barn,” Sheila said.
Teri Whipple Simons, 48333 Cornucopia Highway
The final art board to be installed is the “Four Corners” quilt block on the barn at Teri Whipple Simons’ property on Cornucopia Highway.
Simmons is a fifth-generation Pine Valley resident who returned to the area in 2008. The house on her property was moved down from Cornucopia in 1939 while the barn is one of the original structures from the early 1900s.