Preserving Heritage

Of Portuguese heritage, St. Peter’s Church in Echo is slowly being restored.
Of Portuguese heritage, St. Peter’s Church in Echo is slowly being restored.

The rally to restore a historic church

written by Joni Kabana

If you find yourself traveling along Oregon’s Interstate 84, consider taking a short side trip to the small historical town of Echo, 8 miles south of Hermiston and 20 miles east of Pendleton. Set amid gorgeous rolling hills on the banks of the Umatilla River, Echo takes you way back in time.

You can sip wine at either Echo Ridge Cellars or the Sno Road Winery, take a jitter juice or lunch break in the family operated H&P Cafe or peruse any of the small yet highly fascinating museums. There are seven buildings that are registered with the National Register of Historic Places, so simply strolling the town’s streets is a history lesson in and of itself.

The real treasure of this town is tucked away on a lot that, despite facing three major floods in the last century, has never been flooded. Townspeople are baffled by this feat, calling the lot “an island.” On this seemingly sacred piece of land sits the old St. Peter’s Catholic Church, built by Portuguese settlers in 1913. The facade is made from a unique stucco material, and the architectural design is ornate. Inside, one can see intricate statues and a faux marble altar. Sacred garments worn by priests in the 1930s and 1950s have been preserved and are available for viewing.

The Echo Heritage Association has taken on the delicate and arduous task of restoring the church and little by little they are making headway toward renovations that will ensure the building is not lost to the elements. Michael Duffy, president of the Echo Heritage Association, welcomes visitors, many of whom say things such as, “What a travesty. Let’s do something!” after seeing the extraordinary workmanship attributed to this structure.

Each year, Echo’s Oktoberfest designates funds toward the restoration project, and many locals pitch in with time and money. Many Portuguese descendants still live in the area and have passed down stories about the old church. There has never been plumbing in the church, but many people recall using the neighbor’s facilities “since she was a dedicated parishioner.”

See more information at and Call ahead if you’d like to see the interior and artifacts of the church.

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