Body shop owner researches, writes Lents history

While he’s been well-known for fixing broken cars since 1969, discover why the owner of Lents Body Shop also loves delving into the past …

Randy Dagel says he’s enjoyed exploring the history of the area where his business has been located for decades.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
The Lents neighborhood has held a fascination for Randy Dagel for decades – more than thirty years, he says.

But, his enthrallment in the area, Dagel says, goes way beyond simply having owned and operated Lents Body Shop since 1984.

“I started researching the history of Lents because I am in Oregon history buff,” Dagel said, pointing to a couple of Oregon impressionist paintings that hang on his wall.

“Because of my shop’s name, many people call me ‘Mr. Lents’,” Dagel observed. “I’ve had customers constantly inquire how this community became named ‘Lents’ – including Lents Park, and now Lents Town Center.”

To that end, Dagel worked for a couple of years to uncover the history of what is said to be Portland’s oldest annexed neighborhood. “I started digging in, researching, talking with people, doing some work through the Oregon Historical Society in getting more and more information.”

This archival photo, included with Dagel’s story, is a view of town toward the intersection of SE 92nd Ave. and Woodstock Boulevard.

Getting to know more about Oliver P. Lent, and the generations of his successors, was the part of the project that captivated him, Dagel said. “I discovered that Lent was quite an accomplished man. He was a Justice of the Peace, carved rock for the old Rocky Butte Jail and courthouse – you name it, he was involved in it. I was amazed at what an astute and hard-working individual he was.”

The result of his work led him to gather photos and write his information into a story called “The Founding History of the Lents Community”.

To make this fascinating historical story available to all, Dagel said, he’s published it in the blog section of his business’ website. To open that page: CLICK HERE.

Is the history of Lents complete?

“Actually not,” Dagel responded. “There’s a space for a sculpture, in a traffic triangle west of SE 92nd and Foster Road.  I’ve always been hoping that there would be a statue of Oliver Lent there.

“I think Lents Town Center needs a monument to its founder.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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