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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

#3832 - Oxbow Restaurant and Tavern, Prairie City, OR - 7/27/2019

Oxbow Saloon, Prairie City, OR

A glance at these photos will tell you what brought me to Prairie City in central Oregon, first settled by Europeans in 1862, when a group of Confederate sympathizers discovered gold nearby, and originally named "Dixie." There in the shadow of Strawberry Mountain, the Oxbow lies inside an old stone building, said to be constructed in 1902, in the middle of a block of old west style buildings on Front street. Referred to both as the Oxbow Tavern and the Oxbow Saloon, the owners appear to have embraced the "OXBOW Dinner House and Pizza Company." (I tend tend to use the "Saloon" name, as it is the old saloon elements that I cherish.)

I wish I could tell you the history of this building (is the stone steer head above the entry a clue?), how long there has been a bar here, and how long it has been known as the Oxbow, but alas I have discovered very little here. But in any case the current incarnation looks both antique and splendid, with taxidermy heads lining the stone walls and one of the most beautiful back bars you will ever see. The menus in the restaurant contain some info on the bar:

Beautiful Brunswick "Los Angeles" model bar
in Oxbow Saloon, Prairie City, Oregon

"The Rosewood and Mahogany "Twin Virgin" back bar is in its original condition. The Ladies were hand carved in Milan, Italy in 1879. They were transported by sailing ship across the Atlantic ocean and up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri where the W.L. Lewis Company completed the cabinetry for this magnificent back bar. The bar was again loaded onto a sailing ship, traveling around South America's Cape Horn on a 21,000 mile, 9 month journey through treacherous seas to the mouth of the Columbia river. After being transferred onto a sternwheeler, the bar was ferried up to [the] city of The Dalles. It then traveled by train to Baker City. Pulled by horse drawn wagons the bar made it to its final destination, the Heinenkraft Saloon in Prairie City, where the Ladies welcome you now..."

There is no source listed for this history, but it's great to have the story available to patrons. I'd only add that the bar is pretty much identical to the "Los Angeles" model in the Brunswick-Balke-Collender catalog -- and could have had a fairly similar history were it produced by Brunswick. (The catalog describes it as "Golden Oak and Birch, Mahogany Color.") This is probably my favorite Brunswick model, and this is the only one I've actually seen in person.

Today the Oxford serves wide range of contemporary pub food and weekly specials, including pizzas, burgers, wings, taco salad, fish tacos, ribeye steak and a fine assortment of homemade pies. It features a full bar with fair standard choices in spirits and a good selection of draft beers. If you like history, beautiful woodwork, old buildings with unique character, or you're just in Grant County and could use a bite or drink, I recommend a visit.

The "Los Angeles" model from a 
Brunswick-Balke-Collender catalog

Established date: Unknown - Building constructed: 1902 
Previous bars in this location: Unknown
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