Step Back in Time by Visiting Salem’s Iconic Century-Old Properties
Salem has a deep history that goes back to its roots in the 1850’s when Methodist missionaries arrived and established the first permanent settlement. Before being removed by Anglo settlers, the Kalapuya tribes inhabited the area and called it Chimikiti, meaning “resting place.” Though it’s not entirely clear how Salem got its name, historians believe that it was named after Salem, Massachusetts, where Reverend David Leslie, trustee president, received his education.
Chosen as the territory’s capitol and incorporated in 1857, Salem was populated with a number of important buildings, including the capitol building which was completed in 1855, burned down the same year, rebuilt in 1893, burned down again in 1935, and rebuilt again in 1938.
Salem’s agricultural industry spurred its economic growth, marking the city as an important player in both civics and exports. Farms on the outskirts of Salem still produce a majority of the country’s Bing cherries, marionberries, and blackberries.
Deepwood Museum & Gardens – 1116 Mission Street SE Salem, OR 97302
The most notable historic property in Salem is called Deepwood – a Queen Anne Victorian home complete with five acres of formal gardens and natural areas. The Deepwood property was designed in 1894 by architect William Knighton and built by Dr. Luke Port who lived in the house for a less than two years. Since then, only two other families have resided in the house – both of which were prominent community members.
In 1968, the home was put on the market and the community began a campaign to save Deepwood from demolition. Fortunately, the city of Salem purchased the property in 1971 and added it to the National Register of Historic Places. The public can now enjoy the lovingly-maintained grounds throughout the year via guided or self-guided tours.
The Elsinore Theater – 170 High Street, SE Salem, Oregon
Built in the style of Tudor Gothic, owner George Guthrie envisioned a building reminiscent of the Elsinore castle in Shakespeare’s classic play, Hamlet. Built in 1926, the 13,000 square foot performing arts theater features 17 windows, some of which are stained glass, three sets of Flemish oak doors, dramatic Gothic archways, and seating for 1400 people.
Now a prominent performing arts space for everything from ballet and theater to live music and film screenings, the Elsinore is a much-loved Salem landmark. The town worked hard to save it from private sale in the late 1980s and added to the National Register of Historic PLaces in 1994. Recently updated with new exterior paint, lighting, a back-wall mural, new logo and website, and central air conditioning, it seems likely that the Elsinore Theatre will be around for another 90 years.
The Gilbert House Children’s Museum – 116 Marion St. NE Salem, OR 97301
Along downtown’s Riverfront Park is a stretch of three colorful historic buildings – the Rockenfield House, Gilbert House, and Parrish House, and a 20,000 square foot Outdoor Discover Center for families to wander and play. Interactive exhibits promote concepts in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Kids can explore indoor and outdoor exhibits including airplane cockpit simulators, sandboxes, mock-medical offices, farms complete with fake livestock, dinosaur fossils, and innovative outdoor jungle gyms like the oversized outdoor Erector Set.
Interested in fashioning your own unique home that you can hand down through the generations? Talk to Salem’s own Star Builders general contractor for remodels, whole home builds, additions, and commercial building.