J.C. Cooper and McMinnville

An Ode to Nuts

The Atticus Hotel is a nod to the collective faces that make up McMinnville and J.C. Cooper is certainly a prominent member of the bunch. The one-time teacher, McMinnville postmaster and U.S. Surveyor General for Yamhill County embodied the Willamette Valley as it was coming into its own. A true pioneer, J.C. Cooper served in the Union Army before heading west to McMinnville in the late 19th Century.

J.C. Cooper and McMinnville are deeply intertwined; a couple of nuts in the same shell. In our lobby, you’ll notice a proper replica of Cooper’s work – an archway packed full of walnuts that served as a display during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle in 1909. Back then, McMinnville was known as Walnut City, prized for its impressive hard-shelled crop. Cooper’s archway captures the riches of Yamhill County perfectly, a dizzying display of neatly stacked nuts.

No Shortage of Talent

Cooper took every opportunity to sing the praises of the American west and the Willamette Valley in particular. Sure, he preached the gospel of nuts, editing widely read books like “Walnut Growing in Oregon” and presiding over the Western Walnut Growers Association as its president. But he also represented McMinnville on the Board of Directors of the Lewis and Clark Exposition, which took place in Portland in 1905. He was a voracious writer and journaled about the many awe-inspiring features of a young Oregon. Cooper even penned daydreaming romantic novels such like “The Yamhills,” a reference to a Native American tribe indigenous to the area.

A renaissance settler of sorts, Cooper was also an architecture enthusiast and a freemason. Cooper was awarded the first 50-year pin by Union Lodge 43 in 1921, at the age of 76. This masonic lodge, built in 1914, stands today as one of many historic structures in downtown McMinnville. It’s a sturdy symbol of the rich history of our beloved town and the many dynamic, sometimes nutty, folks who helped put McMinnville on the map for good.

Cooper’s most famous son and McMinnville native, F.G. Cooper, went on to become a nationally renowned cartoonist. The illustrator’s work featured prominently in everything from trade posters and industry branding to the cover of Life magazine.

We Welcome Character(s)

We invite you to walk our historic streets, peruse our perfectly preserved edifices and drink in the rich context of our town. Whether it’s the McMinnville National Bank just down the street – a place Cooper used to frequent and the current home of the Bitter Monk tap house – or our very own display of portraits in the secret Drawing Room behind our Welcome Bar, the character and characters of the place formerly known as Walnut City are everywhere. J.C. Cooper and McMinnville is just one such important pairing.

Stepping beneath Cooper’s walnut archway in the Atticus Hotel lobby is one of the many ways we hope you’ll get transported to Yamhill County’s formative years. Part architectural feat, part homage to the region’s sprawling agricultural heritage, part delightful curiosity, it’s McMinnville through and through.

J.C. Cooper with the walnut case that inspired the piece now featured in Atticus Hotel