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The Oliver Willard & Annie Lilly Robbins House

523 East Main Street
1890 - 1905
by Gail J. McCormick

The Oliver Willard and Annie Robbins House is located at 523 East Main Street in Molalla, Oregon.  The architecture is the Folk Victorian-Vernacular Style.  The house is one and a half stories and has intersecting gables, double-hung windows and decorative porch brackets.  Folk Victorian Style homes were popular between 1870 and 1910.  With detailing around the front porch, windows and gables, the style was a play on the more elaborate Queen Anne Style.  Originally, the house had a decorative bay window and the front porch has since been enlarged.  Today, the house is in excellent condition and you can explore it yourself.  Just stop by and enjoy the friendly atmosphere at Hoffman House Antiques and chat with the owner, Debbie Hoffman.

The First Library

The house is notable for being the first continuously operated library in Clackamas County.  Annie Robbins operated the first library, in her home, from 1900 to 1905.  On May 16, 1900, Annie signed a contract with Pacific Coast Installment Library Company, at Portland.  It was to purchase 60 volumes in installments tri-annually for six years, at wholesale prices.  A Book Club was organized and, shortly thereafter, a shipment of books arrived.  Those were the days when you could leave the front door unlocked and allow people to pick up books when you were not at home.  In 1905, the Library was  moved to William Mackrell's Harness Shop.  William and Rhoda Mackrell operated the library for 36 years.  They had a reading room and a continuous selection of books.  William Mackrell would update the collection of books by sending select books to the Salem Library every six months.  In turn, he then would receive a "completely new library".  

At various times, the United Artisans or the Civic Club sponsored the Library.  In 1938, the county court created a Clackamas County Library Board.  Mrs. Reva Case represented Molalla on the Board.  Around 1941, the Molalla Library Board purchased a small building built by the WPA, and moved the Library there.  This building is now located behind the First Methodist Church.  The Library remained there until March 28, 1955, when it was moved to the new Molalla City Hall at 117 North Molalla Avenue.  In March of 2001, the Library moved to its present location.  Today’s building was formerly the old Molalla High School’s library and science lab.

Oliver & Annie Robbins

Oliver Willard Robbins, known as Willard, was born near Salem, Oregon in 1861.  His parents were Levi Robbins, Sr. and Ediff Barger Robbins.  He was brought to Molalla as a baby and lived most of his life here.  Annie Lilly Robbins was born in 1865, at Blodgett Valley, in Benton County, Oregon.  Her father was Jeremiah Ladd Lilly.  He crossed the plains with five other young men in 1853.  Her mother was Mary Hardie, who crossed the plains with her parents in 1853.  Both Willard and Annie attended Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University).  Willard graduated in 1886.  Annie graduated June 6, 1888.  After Annie’s graduation ceremony, the couple were married on the same stage.

Two years later, the Robbins moved to Molalla.  During the Robbins’ first 10 years in Molalla, Willard was in partnership with his father, Levi Robbins, Sr., operating the Robbins & Son Store.  In 1900, he sold his interest in the store to his father.  In 1905, he purchased 10 acres of land from his father's farm on Adams Cemetery Road.  He and Annie built a house there and took up the occupation of farming.  On the 1910 census, Willard lists his occupation as “general farming”.  Willard was also an extremely skilled carpenter.  Interesting that he listed his occupation on the 1900, 1920 and 1930 censuses as “house carpenter”.  In 1895, he built the First Methodist Church on East Main Street, in the elaborate Queen Anne Style.  In 1904, he built the Levi Wayne and Iona May Robbins House that was featured in last month’s story.  In 1909, he built a house and barn, for his parents, on Adams Cemetery Road.  All of the buildings are notable as City or County Landmarks.

In 1920, Willard retired and they moved back to their house on East Main Street.  Early on both Willard and Annie had worked as teachers.  Over the years, Willard also served on the Molalla City Council and was a school clerk.  Oliver Willard died in 1930.  Annie Lilly died in 1959.  Both are buried at Adams Cemetery in Molalla.

Photo Gallery


“Hoffman House”, Self-Guided Tour of Molalla, by Judith Sanders Chapman and Lois Helvey Ray, June, 2009
“Molalla Library” (History), Molalla School Children Project, Marilyn Morris, Date unknown
“Molalla Library Celebration”, by Peggy Savage, Molalla Pioneer, October 3, 2017
“Mrs. Willard Robbins”, by Fred Lockley, Impressions & Observations of a Journal Man, 1939
“Oldest Free State Traveling Library”, Molalla Pioneer, October 12, 1933
“Oliver Willard Robbins”, Obituary, Molalla Pioneer, July, 1930
“Oregon Trail Trek”, by Harvey Robbins, Our Proud Past V. I, 1992
“Robbins Bros. Store”, by Gail J. McCormick, Our Proud Past V. I, 1992
“W. Robbins Residence”, #806 Clackamas County Resource Study, 1984

​© Gail J. McCormick, 2017

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