ADAIR VILLAGE — It’s not often that a city’s founder and first residents attend a Founders Day ceremony. But Adair Village’s first mayor, Charline King, wasn’t going to miss its first-ever Founders Day ceremony Saturday.
King, who’s lived there for nearly 43 years, smiled at the hundreds of visitors taking part in the celebration, which honored not just the town's 40th anniversary but its military past as well.
In May 1976, a community of 840 residents was incorporated as Adair Village, which is located seven miles north of Corvallis. It originally grew out of two former military bases: Camp Adair, a World War II Army training post; and Adair Air Force Base, a Cold War radar installation. In the years since its incorporation, King said the village has continued to be her favorite place in the world.
“I always had grand ideas for Adair Village, so I’m not surprised this is happening," she said. "I’m pleased. I always thought Adair Village would go down in the map as something special. This is just the greatest place to live with the best people.”
City Manager Patrick Hare said people like King, who continues to advise in the village’s direction, were vital in building the small city and sustaining it through difficult times.
“It’s really unique to have our founder here and still so dedicated to seeing her vision through,” he said. “She did so much to get this started and she still meets with me once a week. That’s how much she cares. We’re really on the cusp of becoming something even bigger. And it’s so unique to have everyone come together with that same vision.”
The village hosts a Fourth of July community barbecue every year, but organizers of the first Founders Day combined that celebration with the annual Adair History Day to coincide with the town's anniversary. In past years, Adair History Day, sponsored by Adair Living History, included presentations, historical reenactors and viewings of the East Barracks, a surviving structure from the Camp Adair days.
On Saturday, for the first time since its renovations, visitors were invited to tour the barracks before their conversion for use as an historical interpretive center.
Barbara Melton, former Adair Living History president, said the entire community put years of hard work into making the barracks opening a reality.
“I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it,” Melton said with a laugh while watching people take tours. “Something that I’ve noticed from the beginning is there is a huge amount of interest in Camp Adair. To see people acknowledge that and come out feels really good.”
The 25-by-125-foot wooden structure was erected in 1942, and Camp Adair trained more than 100,000 GIs for combat during World War II. During the war, the camp contained roughly 1,800 buildings and housed up to 40,000 people, making it the second-largest city in the state. After the camp closed in 1945, many of the structures were destroyed, but the East Barracks remained. Melton said preserving and restoring them serves as a reminder of the important lessons of history and the identity of the local community.
“If that war had gone differently, we wouldn’t be singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at our baseball games. We might not even have baseball games,” she said. “It’s important to remember what we were up against, but also the sacrifices of everyone here.”
To honor those sacrifices, several Adair residents and descendants of those who served at Camp Adair wore historically accurate World War II uniforms. Matt Helget, current president of Adair Living History, dressed as his grandfather Staff Sgt. Alfred Helget, who served at Camp Adair under the 96th Infantry Division during World War II. Matt said he saw it as a way of offering visitors a genuine glimpse at how the camp's men looked 70-plus years ago.
“To do this is an honor,” he said. “This is our legacy. Once you forget where you come from, you forget who you are.”