Salem’s Jan. 31, 1937, snowstorm was one to remember

2 Feb
A car is covered in snow on Commercial Street NE, near State Street after a snowstorm on Jan. 31, 1937 left Salem covered in as much as 33 inches of snow in some locations. Salem Oregon Historic Photograph Collections

Residents in the capital city a storm produce more than two feet of snow in less than 24 hours. Some places in Salem reportedly had as much as 33 inches of snow, which started early in the day on Jan. 31, 1937, and didn’t let up until midnight. Several buildings suffered damage. Police warned residents of walking under any marquees in downtown Salem for fear of collapse.

The storm left many people stranded. Downtown hotels were full with people unable to return home, even in Salem. And a bus with 17 members of the Catholic Daughters of America from Mount Angel was among a group of vehicles stuck overnight for eight hours in a snowdrift eight miles south of Salem on Highway 99E.

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Two women are seen in front of Miller’s Department Store in the Reed Opera House in the aftermath of the Jan. 31, 1937, snowstorm. The weight of the snow caused the awnings in front of the store to collapse. Salem Oregon Historic Photograph Collections

Fall 2020 issue of HLC newsletter now available

19 Nov
Read about our photo contest winners in the fall issue of the Salem Landmark.

A look at early Salem art fairs and this year’s first virtual fair

15 Jul
Newspaper page of the 1951 Salem Art Fair.
A page from the Oregon Statesman newspaper highlighting the 1951 Salem Art Fair.

By Andy Zimmerman
HLC Commissioner

The Salem Art Fair and Festival has been tied to Bush’s Pasture Park for decades. However, the fair’s first few years and the 2020 version are different.

The first year’s event, held in 1950, was known as the Art Mart. The four-hour event was held Aug. 19 along Court Street NE on the lawn of the old Marion County Courthouse. The first fair had exhibits from 25 Salem-area artists, the youngest of which was 5. Some of the art was set up on clotheslines.

“The exhibits and demonstrations attracted a continual stream of spectators, and members of the sponsoring creative group said they were highly pleased with the response and with the several sales made by the artists,” the Oregon Statesman reported Aug 20.

The first fair provided on-site demonstrations by the artists, a fixture of the event for years to come. There was sketching as well as a demonstration of weaving on a loom by Iva Anderson. The fair also offered ceramics, lithographs, sculptures and wood forms for viewing and sale.

Roberta Lane, a ballerina model, garnered the most attention, with her paintings as well as posing for sketches by other artists at the fair, the newspaper said.

“Other exhibits which attracted considerable interest were the pounded aluminum scenes of early Oregon and the pastel abstrations of Joe Portal; the skillfully inlaid woods which painted pictures without color, by Vladie Dvorak; wood plaques and other patterns cut by him and painted by Sally Dvorak,” the Oregon Statesman reported.

In 1951, the event was held in the garden of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Kirk, who lived in the Morningside neighborhood of Salem. The art fair was open for six hours and featured exhibits and booths on the Kirks’ terrace and lawn.

The following year saw the return of the art fair to downtown Salem, this time as a two-day event at Willson Park. Some artists used the surrounding trees to display their art. In addition, the art association also sold art items from the Bush House, the Capital Journal reported Aug. 6, 1952.

The 1953 event at Willson Park was held Sept. 2 instead of the planned Aug. 26 date because of rain.

In 1954, the art fair made its first appearance at Bush’s Pasture Park, where it has become a tradition.

Another first will be this year’s fair, which will be held virtually. Like those early years of this Salem summertime staple, organizers, artists and patrons will adapt to a new place to support artists.

No risks of excessive heat or walking long distances from the car to enjoy this event. To participate, go to


‘This Place Matters’ photo contest 2020 winners announced

23 Jun

Original Leslie Middle School demolished, but some pieces saved

18 Jun

By Andy Zimmerman, HLC Commissioner

For more than 90 years, students passed through the doors of the brick schoolhouse on Howard Street SE in Salem. Today, the sounds of students and school buses have been replaced with the clanging of heavy equipment. The original Leslie Middle School building is no more.

Leslie Middle School, then known as Leslie Junior High School, opened its doors to students on Sept 19, 1927. It formally opened to the public by the the Lincoln-McKinley-Leslie Parent-Teachers’ association. In the auditorium, a program of music and talks welcomed visitors.

The new school reportedly cost $88,000, and was constructed to relieve congestion from Parrish Middle School and to move back McKinley School to teaching elementary students. McKinley served as a middle school in the interim.

“This structure of 20 rooms is merely the first unit of a building which some day will be twice as large. The first unit is in a “V” shape: the completed building will be a “W” this plan being the most efficient in providing sunlight for every room and economizing corridor construction, according to the architects, James & Bartholomew,” the Oregon Statesman reported on Jan. 1, 1927.

“The building will include three English recitation rooms, three for mathematics, three for social sciences, one for Latin, one for general science with a demonstration table, one for penmanship and spelling, one for drawing, one for domestic science, one for sewing, in addition to library and office,” the Oregon Statesman wrote. “The manual training department will be housed in a separate building, giving the pupils greater freedom for this work and avoiding the noise which would be caused in the main building if it were housed there.”

The building was expanded in 1936. In November of that year, officials welcomed visitors to tour the new auditorium and gymnasium wings of the Leslie campus. Speakers included Gov. Charles H. Martin.

“A combined program of dedication and Thanksgiving will be given by faculty and students of Leslie Junior high school Wednesday morning at 10:30 o’clock,” the Capital Journal reported Nov. 24, 1936. “The dedication will be in connection with the completion of the new auditorium, which will be opened to the first assembly of students Wednesday.

“An unusual processional and recessional will feature the dedication of the auditorium. Boy Scout color bearers will start on the upper floor of the school as they progress down the corridors, students and teachers from each room will fall in behind. They will continue down to the second floor where the other students and instructors will join in the march. The entire student body will then march into the auditorium where seats will be assigned. The recessional will be in reverse order from the processional.”

Part of the program included a welcome by Mark Hatfield, the president of the student body and future Oregon governor and U.S. senator.

In 1954, the school was connected with the new South Salem High School, which was completed Sept. 1. And growing South Salem High prompted the need for a new Leslie campus about four decades later.

On May 30, 1997, Leslie hosted a party to say goodbye to the school building. Two weeks later, Leslie’s 425 students left the old building for the final time. In September, the school moved to a new building on Pringle Road SE.

The old school was then remodeled for use as the South Salem High School annex and Howard Street Charter School.

In mid-April, demolition began on the venerable school. By June, it was gone. Some items from Leslie were salvaged, including: more than 30 seats from Rose Auditorium; five transom windows; a stairway banister; ventilation grates from the Rose orchestra pit; floorplans kept in the boiler room; gymnasium flooring, which will be used in the construction of the new theater stage; two early public address speakers; phone system lights from the original school office; green bricks from the interior hallway; two locker doors; Borax soap dispenser; a bank of mirrors and lights from the drama dressing room; stage curtains and weights; a portion of stage flooring; and a truck load of bricks, according to Karma Krause, Salem-Keizer School District’s capital construction public engagement manager. Some of the items were given to the Willamette Heritage Center, and others to the Saxon Success Fund. A display will be created with salvaged items.

The site won’t be empty for long. An expanded South Salem High School will expand its footprint, with a new performing arts center, expanded career and technical education spaces, a dozen new classrooms and special-education spaces. Additional parking, a new auxiliary gym, tennis courts and two science labs also will be added. Work is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2021.

A portion of this story originally appeared in the Statesman Journal as part of the SJ Time Capsule Salem-area history column

On Presidents’ Day, a look at the Salem boy who would become president

17 Feb


Former President Herbert Hoover visits Salem in August 1955. The clock on the old Salem City Hall is seen behind him. Salem Historic Photograph Collection / Salem Public Library

Like every city, people move to Salem; some stay for awhile, others for a brief time. Only one former Salem resident, however, moved on to become president.

The Salem teenager who later became commander in chief? Herbert Hoover.

Born in Iowa in 1874, Hoover moved to Oregon in 1885 to live with an uncle, John Minthorn, and his family in Newberg after the death of his parents. They later moved to Salem in 1888, and Hoover assisted in his uncle’s real estate business, the Oregon Land Company. He lived in a house on Highland Avenue NE. Hoover left the Cherry City in August 1891 to attend Stanford University in California.

Hoover was elected president in 1928, serving one term, before losing his re-election bid to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. The famous dam outside of Las Vegas bears his name, and locally, so does an elementary school in North Salem.

He last visited Salem in August 1955. The photo accompanying this story was taken during that trip.


Salem’s time in the NFL, hosting the New York Giants

2 Feb

NY Giants McEwan 2006.002.0963.06

Members of the New York Giants are seen in Salem during training camp in the 1950s. Photo 2006.002.0963.06 / Willamette Heritage Center

The Super Bowl is upon us, another season of the NFL is at its end. There are allegiances for every team, and it’s no different in Salem.

However, for those old enough to remember, Salem had its own moment in the sun with an NFL team. For three years in the 1950s, the New York Giants — yes, those New York Giants — held their training camp in Salem.

In 1954, 1955 and 1958, the Giants spent six weeks each year on the football field at McCulloch Stadium and the surrounding athletic fields at Bush’s Pasture Park. The players lived at Baxter Hall on Willamette University’s campus.

Residents could see such famous players as Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Pat Summerall practicing twice per day, as well as two assistant coaches running those practices who would later become hall-of-famers in their own right: Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi.

Each season, the team held a scrimmage at McColluch Stadium, giving local football fans a chance to see the pros up close.

Even though the Giants were in Salem on a temporary basis, they became members of the community, with players and coaches taking part in Salem Downtown Lions Club, Jaycees, Knights of Columbus and Rotary Club events as well as participating in other activities to benefit local groups. Landry and Lombardi also led coaching clinics for local football coaches. Team owner Wellington Mara and coach Jim Lee Howell were given keys to the city during a Salem Senators baseball game in 1954, where the team was also introduced to fans.

Although their time in the Cherry City was brief, it surely led to the Giants having a fan base in Salem.

Salem’s first outdoor living lighted Christmas tree was among nation’s first

25 Dec


The Norway spruce at the old Marion County Courthouse is decorated in 1947. 78.13.1 / WILLAMETTE HERITAGE CENTER

Salem has a long history of celebrating the holidays with a lighted, living Christmas tree for residents and visitors to enjoy. 

Today, people flock to Riverfront Park to see an ever-growing fir. More than a century ago, it was a Norway spruce on the grounds of the old Marion County Courthouse. And that tree was unique. 

In 1913, residents gathered to celebrate what was called the first outdoor-lighted Christmas tree in the United States. 

An Oregon Statesman editorial from Dec. 5, 1913, which discussed decorating a tree for the public to enjoy on Christmas eve, might have been what spurred the Cherrians, a civic-minded Salem group, into action. 

“Sparking with red, blue, green, and yellow electric bulbs, the tall and graceful tree loomed out of the darkness as if touched by a fairy’s magic wand and send a thrill of delight through the hearts of the youngsters assembled,” the Oregon Statesman reported on Christmas. The gathering drew 2,000 people.

The tree, planted in 1882 by Judge J.J. Shaw, was on the southwest corner of the courthouse property, near State and High streets. 

The spruce was decorated every year through 1949. In 1950, a 40-foot-tall Douglas fir was set up and decorated next to the honored tree, as the city couldn’t safely get to the top of Norway spruce. However, the tradition returned for one final time in 1951. 

The tree was cut down in 1952 to make way for the new courthouse.     

Old Marion County Courthouse Christmas tree, 1947.

The spruce decorated in 1947. WILLAMETTE HERITAGE CENTER

Deepwood celebrates 125 years of history

20 Nov

Deepwood BD 1

Children participate in an egg-balancing game during a party celebrating Historic Deepwood Estate in August. The home turned 125 years old. Photo courtesy of Friends of Deepwood

By Andy Zimmerman, Salem HLC Commissioner

In August 1894, a doctor and his wife moved into a stately new home at 1116 Mission Street SE in Salem. To mark the occasion 125 years later, historic Deepwood Estate celebrated with a day of free parties with a nod toward history.

“Everyone seemed to have a great time having fun while experiencing games, entertainment and food all tied to the late 1800s through early 1900s,” said Yvonne Putze, executive director of Friends of Deepwood, the group which manages the house. “We had historical explanations next to all the foods and drinks, (and attendees) learned about when they first became popular in the U.S., often related to World Fairs. The kids had lots of fun playing old fashioned games and learning about why kids first played them. Who knew the history of hopscotch would be so interesting to kids? There were also historical signs with photos of the families who had called Deepwood home. It was a joy to see so many people having fun with a historical celebration.”

Celebrating 125 years of Deepwood hasn’t been restricted to one day. Friends of Deepwood has turned it into a year-long event, with special monthly three-course teas, each with a different decade theme. They began with the 1890s, the decade when Deepwood was constructed, and ended with the 1960s, the last decade when it was a private home. Through November, items from the 1940s-60s will be on display at Deepwood, which is something of a rarity, Putze says. Additional events are planned in 2020.

Dr. Luke Port, and his wife, Lizzy, were the first owners of the William Knighton-designed house, which was named Deepwood by owner Alice Brown in 1935. The city of Salem has owned the property since 1971.

If you haven’t visited Deepwood and its surrounding gardens recently, you will notice a few changes.

“Over the past few years, we have started rotating items on display much more often to offer people a reason to visit throughout the year not just once,” Putze said. “Plus, we have the home decorated as it would have been in the Victorian through the 1930s from late November through new years week. Many of the holiday decorations have been handmade using patterns that Victorians would have used and others are antiques in our collection.

“We’ve also been fortunate to add more children’s items to our collection in the past two years and that’s an area of our collection we would love to continue growing. People especially enjoy seeing the toys.”

The downstairs master bedroom, which once was a gift shop, is on display again. An upstairs room that was used as storage has transitioned into a servants room.

On the grounds, the lower terrace and retaining wall was rebuilt using much of the original brick, and a pergola was added over the terrace like there was from the early 1900s-50s, Putze says.

Friends of Deepwood are planning for the future while looking toward the past.

“We have a piece of the original carpet that was in the upstairs and we’d like to replace the non-era carpet that’s currently on that floor with a reproduction of the carpet the Bingham family had installed,” Putze said. “Of course, that will require a grant or other special dedicated funding, but I believe it will become a reality.

“Finding ways we can interpret the home as it originally was offers our visitors more of an accurate glimpse of life for the families who called it home. Since only a small number of items in the home belonged to any of the original residents, it would be nice to add another major feature that is true to how it originally appeared.”

For more information about Deepwood, including hours and events, go to

New chapter begins for downtown Salem corner

10 Oct

Some residents remember the southwest corner of State and Commercial streets as the home of the Murphy Block, others remember the furniture stores (Hogg Bros. and McMahon’s), and many can’t forget the subsequent fire that destroyed the building. In the future, the site will be known for the Nishioka Building, a mixed-use project that will include housing. A groundbreaking event was held Oct. 4.

Construction recently began on the building, which is expected to be completed in late 2020 or early 2021, will include a brick facade. The corner was home to the Murphy Building, named for John Joseph Murphy (1832-1907), who served as a justice of the peace in the Champoeg District in the 1860s, a state legislator, Salem mayor, and as Marion County Sheriff.

The Murphy Building likely was constructed in 1854, and it was the second or third-oldest brick building in Salem at the time of its 1940 demolition. It served as the home for professional offices as well as Perry’s Drug Store, which was on the first floor from 1904-40. The second and third floors served as the Capitol Hotel from 1909-40.

The building was demolished in 1940 and replaced with the New Murphy Building in September 1940. Hogg Bros., an appliance and later a furniture store, was among the first tenants.

Hogg Bros. was sold to McMahan’s in the 1980s. The building was destroyed in a four-alarm fire on Aug. 10, 2006. The property has remained vacant until the recently.