A restored Victorian houses the nationally acclaimed Joel Palmer House Restaurant in Dayton, Ore.
Once a thriving riverside settlement, this 1850 pioneer town boasts more homes per capita on the National Historic Register than any other city in the Yamhill Valley, a smaller valley within Willamette. Its commercial district centers on Dayton Courthouse Square, a city park filled with Douglas fir, a bandstand gazebo, and a military blockhouse from the frontier era. Located just a quarter-mile off Highway 18, the quiet town of nearly 2,500 is a relaxing respite from traffic and a glimpse into an earlier era. Dayton, Oregon: daytonoregon.org.
Area code is 503.
Stroll through Courthouse Square, then cross to the commercial side of Ferry Street, Dayton’s main drag, still caught in time. Putter around Putt’s Market, a general store with wooden floors and a laid-back demeanor reflecting the fact that it hasn’t changed much in three-quarters of a century. 304 Ferry St., 864-3480. Amble across the suspension footbridge at the northern terminus of Ferry Street and gaze down at the lazy Yamhill River. There you might picture a once bustling wharf where paddle wheel riverboats loaded the valley’s crops to take to Portland. Then wander over to Seufert Winery, a family-owned artisan producer specializing in pinot noir. 415 Ferry St., 864-2946, seufertwinery.com. Conclude your Dayton visit by cruising around the adjacent neighborhood grid, which abounds with homes and churches built in the late 1800s.
Gourmet dishes made with exotic mushrooms are the attraction at Dayton’s nationally acclaimed Joel Palmer House Restaurant. Dine in a beautifully restored 1857 Victorian residence with impeccable service, creative dishes—porcini corn chowder, escargots with black chanterelles, and beef stroganoff—and a wine cellar boasting more than 500 Oregon pinot noirs. 600 Ferry St., 864-2995, joelpalmerhouse.com. Lupita’s is considered one of the best among the valley’s many Mexican restaurants. Try the enchiladas and chiles rellenos, the local favorite “wet” burritos, or the giant nacho platter. 312 Ferry St., 864-4176. Or drop by the Block House Café, which excels at breakfast burritos, burgers, and dinner, too, all made with fresh, local ingredients. 302 Ferry St., 864-8412, theblockhousecafe.com.
There is no lodging in Dayton proper, but just two miles away in Lafayette, the handsome Kelty Estate Bed and Breakfast occupies an 1872 residence with lovely secluded grounds popular for weddings. From $116 for AAA members. 675 Third St., Lafayette, 560-1512, keltyestate.com. With a Dayton address but located up in the hills, Wine Country Farm offers sweeping valley and mountain views along with an on-site winery and horse stables. From $150. 6855 Breyman Orchards Rd., 864-3446, winecountryfarm.com. To find a place to stay, visit AAA.com/hotels.
Photography by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives
This article was first published in August 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Check out the rest of our Willamette Valley package:
Carlton: Tiny, but packed with wine country delights
Dundee: Knockout eateries and pioneering wineries
Forest Grove: Sip sake or bird-watch
McMinnville: Airplanes, UFOs, and a charming downtown
Newberg: Convenient tasting rooms and nearby vineyards