The father of Beaverton’s automobile industry
By Ann Koppy, BHSoc Historian
As many of us know, driving down Canyon Road west towards Hillsboro is like running an automotive gauntlet. Left and right for at least 5 miles, auto related businesses pepper the landscape: from dealerships to window tinting and tire shops, this stretch of road that was once fondly referred to as “Canyon Strip, Auto Row” by old-timers has everything a car owner needs and more. Can you believe it? All this auto awesomeness thanks to a simple man with a vision over 100 years ago.
Born in Sweden
Otto Erickson was born in Sweden in 1869 and came to America in 1888, at the age of 19. After arriving in Portland, he worked as an engineer, a trade learned from his father. The 1910 US Census found Otto living in a boarding house run by the divorced Maybelle Carr and her son, Guy. They would end up marrying and after a short time in Mexico, Otto moved back to Beaverton with the dream of putting his engineering skills to use by starting up the area’s first Model-T dealership. He opened a blacksmith shop with which to make auto parts (this was the only way they were available) and in 1915 Beaverton’s first automobile garage was established.
The Beaverton Garage
Early Fords were shipped unassembled so it took a skilled mechanic like Otto to put them together. The garage, which was started with capital of $3,500 ballooned to a net worth of over $96,000 in just five years. Then, in 1923, Otto sold his dealership to his step-son, Guy Carr, who went on to become the most recognizable name in Beaverton’s auto industry today. We’ll look at Guy’s story and his contributions in a future issue.
Aside from his business endeavors, Otto served as mayor from 1917-1926 and 1928 to 1931. He also served on the State Highway Commission. Erickson Avenue near Beaverton High School is named after Otto, the father of our city’s automobile industry.
Otto Erickson died in December of 1945 in Redding, California.
Categorised in: Our Stories
This post was written by Michael Wong