In the early 1900s, McDonald purchased 1,200 acres east of Hillsboro and founded the town of Orenco. The town name was an acronym for ORE-gon N-ursery CO-mpany. He erected a sprawling Craftsman mansion on the property in 1912, and his business sold smaller lots to its employees, who built their own houses.
In 1913, the Oregon Nursery Company was at its peak of production and sales. That same year, the company hosted a national horticultural event that brought hundreds of nurserymen from around the country to visit the Orenco operation and tour its property covered with millions of trees and shrubs.
Orenco’s rise marked the beginning of Oregon’s nursery industry. The company expanded production significantly, anticipating a move into the European agriculture market. However, the outbreak of World War I ended any hope of selling nursery stock in Europe for many years. As a result, the company began losing money. It filed for bankruptcy and was dissolved in 1927.
When the company closed, the city of Orenco lost its only large employer. Some families started small nurseries of their own, but most moved away. Hillsboro eventually annexed the Orenco townsite.
The city is currently working to preserve the McDonald House as part of a larger effort to build a nature park on the land surrounding it. Planners have proposed exhibiting Orenco’s history in the house and renting it out for private events.