In 1845, Joseph C. Avery settled a land claim at the mouth of Marys River where it flows into the Willamette River. In 1849, Avery opened a store at the site, platted the land, and surveyed a town site on his land claim, naming the community Marysville. It is possible that the city was named after early settler Mary Lloyd, but now the name is thought to be derived from French fur trappers' naming of Marys Peak after the Virgin Mary.
In 1853, the legislative assembly changed the city's name to Corvallis, from the Latin phrase cor vallis, meaning "heart of the valley." Corvallis was incorporated as a city on January 29, 1857. The town served briefly as the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1855 before Salem was eventually selected as the permanent seat of state government.
Corvallis is located at an elevation of 235 feet. Situated midway in the Willamette Valley, Corvallis is about 46 miles (74 km) east of Newport and the Oregon Coast, 85 miles (137 km) south of Portland, 30 miles (48 km) south of the state capital, Salem, 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Albany, about 10 miles (16 km) west of Interstate 5 at its closest point, and 48 miles (77 km) north of Eugene/Springfield. Oregon Route 99W, a secondary north-south route, also runs through Corvallis. U.S. Route 20 (which leads to Newport) and Oregon Route 34 (which leads to Waldport about 56 miles (90 km) to the west) both secondary East-West routes run through Corvallis from the Oregon Coast. Corvallis is at river mile 131-132 of the Willamette River.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.30 square miles (37.04 km2), of which 14.13 square miles (36.60 km2) is land and 0.17 square miles (0.44 km2) is water.
Location of the Albany-Corvallis-Lebanon CSA and its components:
Like the rest of the Willamette Valley, Corvallis falls within the dry-summer subtropical climate zone, also referred to as cool-summer Mediterranean (KöppenCsb). Temperatures are mild year round, with warm, dry sunny summers and mild, wet winters with persistent overcast skies. Spring and fall are also moist seasons with varied cloudiness, and light rain falling for extended periods. Winter snow is rare, but occasionally does fall, and amounts can range between a dusting and a few inches that does not persist on the ground for more than a day. The northwest hills will often experience more snow. During the mid-winter months after extended periods of rain, thick persistent fogs can form, sometimes lasting the entire day. This can severely reduce visibility to as low as 20 feet (6.1 m). The fog will often persist until a new storm system enters the area. This fog could be seen as a type of tule fog.
Rainfall total within the town itself is surprisingly variable. This is due to Corvallis lying right on the eastern edge of the Oregon Coast Range, with a small portion of the town inside of the range. Rainfall amounts can range from an average of 66.40 inches (168.7 cm) per year  in the far northwest hills, compared to 43.66 inches (110.9 cm) per year at Oregon State University which is located in the center of Corvallis. Occasionally, rain can be seen falling in the northwest of the town, whereas it's just overcast, or even slightly sunny on the southeast portion of the town. This is due to the orographic lift of the prevailing cloud systems through the pacific northwest losing moisture and dissolving back into the air as it exits the coastal range.
Because of its close proximity to the coastal range, Corvallis can experience slightly cooler temperatures, particularly in the hills, than the rest of the Willamette Valley. The average annual low temperature is 4 degrees less than that of Portland just 85 miles (137 km) to the north. Despite this, temperatures dropping below freezing is still a rare event.
As of the 2000 U.S. Census the median income for a household in the city was $35,437, and the median income for a family was $53,208. Males had a median income of $40,770 versus $29,390 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,317. About 9.7% of families and 20.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.2% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.
There were 22,283 households of which 20.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.3% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.82.
In the city the population was spread out with 14.9% under the age of 18, 32.4% from 18 to 24, 22.9% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26.4 years. For every 100 males there were 98.7 females.
Corvallis lies in the middle of the Unchurched Belt. A 2003 study, released once every 10 years, listed Benton County (of which Corvallis makes up the majority of the population) as the least religious county per capita in the United States. Only 1 in 4 people indicated that they were affiliated with one of the 149 religious groups the study identified. The study indicated that some of the disparity, however, may be attributed to the popularity of less common religions (ones not included as an option in the study) in the Pacific Northwest.
The campus of Oregon State University, which is the major local employer, is located near the edge of the main downtown area. Other major employers include Samaritan Health Services,AVI BioPharma,CH2M HILL,SIGA Technologies, Evanite Fiber, ONAMI, and Hewlett-Packard, whose printer cartridge manufacturing and prototyping facility is located in the northeast area of town. Because of this relative concentration of employment and the need for diversity, the city launched a website to attract creative industry to the region by branding it with the slogan "Business is Good Here".
Corvallis, Oregon was ranked #48 on the 100 best places in the USA to live and launch a business by Fortune Small Business 2008. This places Corvallis as the second best place in Oregon to launch a business, after Portland (#6). Bend (#87) and Eugene (#96) were other Oregon localities ranked in the top 100.
Helen Berg served as mayor of Corvallis for three terms from 1994 until 2006. She holds the distinction of being the first female mayor of Corvallis, as well as the longest-serving mayor of the city to date. Two members of the Corvallis city council are members of the Green Party. The current mayor is Julie Manning.
Corvallis is part of the Eugene radio and television market.
Long-distance bus service is provided by Greyhound. It stops at the Greyhound station in downtown Corvallis (station ID: CVI.)
Local bus service is provided by Corvallis Transit System (CTS). In 2011, voters approved an additional fee on monthly water bills allowing all bus service to become fareless. The system runs a total of eight daytime routes Monday through Saturday, covering most of the city and converging at a Downtown Transit Center. Additional commuter routes also run in the early morning and late afternoon on weekdays, and mid-morning and mid-afternoon on Saturdays. When Oregon State University is in session CTS also runs the "Beaver Bus," a set of late-night routes running Thursday through Saturday.
Two other short-distance inter-city buses, the Linn-Benton Loop (to Albany) and the Philomath Connection, also stop at the Downtown Transit Center.
From 2010 to 2011, CTS has seen a 37.87% increase in ridership, partially as a result of going fareless and "the rising cost of fuel for individual vehicles and the desire for residents to choose more sustainable options for commuting to work, school and other activities" According to Tim Bates the Corvallis Transit System and Philomath Connection, had 3,621,387 passenger miles traveled and 85,647 gallons of fuel consumed in Fiscal Year 2011, a period that covers July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011. This means that riders in Fiscal Year 2011 got 42.28 passenger miles per gallon.
The city's water system contains two water treatment plants, nine processed water reservoirs, one raw water reservoir, and some 210 miles (340 km) of pipe. The system can process up to about 19 million US gallons (72,000 m3) of water per day.
The Rock Creek treatment plant processes water from sources in the 10,000-acre (40 km2) Rock Creek Municipal Watershed near Marys Peak. The three sources are surface streams which are all tributaries of the Marys River. Rock Creek has a processing capacity of 7 million US gallons (26,000 m3) of water per day (gpd), though operational characteristics of the 9-mile (14 km), 20-inch (51 cm) pipeline to the city limits capacity to half that. The Rock Creek Plant output remains steady year round at about 3 million gpd.
The H.D. Taylor treatment plant obtains water from the Willamette River, and has been expanded at least four times since it was first constructed in 1949. Its output varies seasonally according to demand, producing from 2 to 16 million US gallons (61,000 m3) per day, though it has a capacity of 21 million gpd.
The total reservoir capacity is 21 million US gallons (79,000 m3), though measures to voluntarily reduce water usage begin when reservoir levels fall below 90% of capacity, and become mandatory at 80% or below. As part of its ongoing water conservation program, the water department jointly publishes a guide to water-efficient garden plants.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency report on its “green power communities,” Corvallis is among the top cities in the nation in terms of buying electricity produced from renewable resources. Corvallis purchases more than 126 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, which amounts to 21 percent of the city’s total purchased electricity.
As of 2012 the Corvallis Fire Department is headed by Chief Roy Emery and currently has 6 fire stations.
This list excludes persons whose only connection to Corvallis is attendance or employment at Oregon State University.
2006: The Morgan Quitno Awards ranked Corvallis as the 20th safest city (of 344) in the 13th Annual America's Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cities publication for metropolitan areas of its size.
2006: Corvallis was ranked in the top 10 by Economist Richard Florida for the Most Creative Places to live with less than 250,000 people.
2006: Cities Ranked and Rated ranks Corvallis as the 10th Best Place to Live in the United States.
2007: In a 2007 report, Farmers Insurance Group ranked Corvallis as the "most secure" small city in America, based on (as reported by Insurance Journal magazine) crime statistics, extreme weather, risk of natural disasters, environmental hazards, terrorism threats, air quality, life expectancy and job loss numbers.
2007: Yahoo! Real Estate named Corvallis as one of their 10 best places to live.
2007: Moody's Economic.com ranked Corvallis 3rd in the United States Business Vitality Index.
2008: On February 18, 2008, Corvallis was named the fifth smartest city in America by Forbes Online Magazine.
2008: A September 2008 report revealed that Benton County, of which Corvallis makes up the majority of the population, is ranked 5th for longest life expectancy at birth of all counties in the United States, at 80.93 years.
2008: Corvallis is ranked among the top 20 towns to live in by Outside magazine.
2008: Country Home magazine ranked Corvallis the best Green Place to Live in America.
2011: In April 2011, the New York Times named Corvallis as the American city with the lowest risk of natural disaster.
2014: In October 2014, Business Insider ranked Corvallis #3 in its list of best college towns in the United States.
2014: In November 2014, the business website 24/7 Wall St. ranked Corvallis as the third-most educated city in the U.S.
2014: In November 2014, the Census Bureau ranked Corvallis #1 in the percentage of residents with a high-speed Internet connection.
Notable works of fiction
Corvallis plays a major role in The Postman, in which it is depicted as the center of rebuilding civilization in post-apocalyptic Oregon, due to the university, logistics, and favorable wind patterns, which render it capable of surviving nuclear war.
Corvallis plays a major role in S. M. Stirling's "Emberverse" series. It's one of the few cities to come through the Change with many survivors, and with some sort of governing infrastructure remaining from the old world. The town's name is used in the title of the third book, A Meeting at Corvallis
Corvallis was the inspiration for "Cascadia" in the Bernard Malamud novel, A New Life
Oregon State College, Outline History of Oregon State College. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State College, 1950.
David A Pinyerd, Bernadette Niederer, and Tony Vandermeer, A History of Corvallis High School. Corvallis, OR: Corvallis School District 509J, 2005.
M. Boyd Wilcox, Two to Four O'clock at The Beanery : A Journal of Observations, Analyses, Interviews, and Commentary Regarding a First-Rate "Third Place" in Downtown Corvallis, Oregon. Corvallis, OR: n.p., 2012.