Walton Potter
  • Park Historian, Oregon State Highway Department (ODOT), Parks and Recreation, 1966-1974.
  • Coordinator, National Register Program, State Historic Preservation Office (OPRD), 1977-1998.

About Elisabeth Walton Potter

Courses on architectural heritage fascinated Elisabeth Walton Potter while she was at school. Specifically, ones taught by the incomparable University of Oregon professor Marion Dean Ross drew her attention. These college courses helped to determine her career path early on. She graduated from the university’s Architecture and Allied Arts program. She later received master’s degrees in art and architectural history and early American culture at the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Delaware.

Potter has deep family roots in Salem and in state government. She returned to Oregon with graduate degrees and credential to become its state park historian in 1966. The National Historic Preservation Act passed that same year. This set the stage for surveying the state’s historic structures, buildings, sites, arch sites, and entire towns and placing them on the National Register of Historic Places.

Over various agency consolidations and renaming, Potter’s title evolved to Coordinator of the National Register for the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office. Throughout her career, Potter guided individuals and organizations in the nomination process. She alone nominated over 1,500 buildings, places, and sites.

During her oral history, Potter details the history of all of the state capitol buildings. She also highlights the process of placing the State Capitol on the National Register in time for its centennial anniversary in 1988. “I think it’s important to preserve our cultural heritage….These things show us where we’ve come from and how we can proceed in the future if we have some frame of reference.”

– Interview recorded July 9, 2021