Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lincoln v. Statehood for the WCTU

100 years ago, the newspapers devoted many more column inches to the centenary of Abraham Lincoln's birth than to the 50th birthday of Oregon. I was surprised by this. But when you consider that there were still Civil War veterans alive in 1909, and that even in the Statehood celebrations, descriptions of the time leading up to Statehood emphasized sectional tensions and the question whether Oregon would be a free or slave state, and when you consider the number of dead, it's clear that the events of 1861-1865 and the persistence of the Union cast a much longer shadow than the events of February 14, 1859.

One of the Lincoln celebrations was the "Lincoln Temperance Meeting" held by the Women's Christian Temperance Union at 7:30 on February 12, 1909. The WCTU had their hall in the southeast corner at the intersection of Commercial and Ferry. It was at 201 South Commercial (before the address change of 1904 it was 199 South Commercial).

You can see the WCTU Hall on this Sanborn map from 1926-7. The map is rotated so the N-S axis runs horizontally, with north to the right. Trade street today follows roughly the arc of the rail line and connects to the Front street bypass.
The intersection of Ferry & Commercial is hallowed in Salem's past. It was also pretty boozy.

Thomas Cox, who is buried in the lovely cemetery at Ankeny Vineyard had Salem's first store on the northeast corner of the intersection. The marker that used to be there is gone, alas.

On the northwest corner was the Holman Building. It served as the Capitol building during early years of statehood. A parking garage stands there today. (Because of its great antiquity circa 1950, it is regarded as an "historic contributing" building in the Downtown Historic District.)

On the southeast corner was the Marion/Chemeketa/Willamette Hotel (be sure to zoom in!). And down the street the Capital Brewery (here's an image from the 1940s that shows the brewery). The convention center is there today.

The Burke Block isn't quite as old, but it is at least from the 1890s. On the map it is labeled "Auto top works" and "Battery repairing," and contained 267-259 south Commercial. Today the Burke Block holds the Salem Downtown Liquor Store! Here's a picture of the Burke Block from Robert D. West's Places in Salem Historic Downtown site.

The WCTU Hall was in the Nesmith Building. In the time right before and right after statehood, in 1858-9, just before the Government started meeting in the Holman Building, the Territorial and then incipient State Government met in the Nesmith Building. The Nesmith Building became known as the Smith Block. In these two photos (here and here), the northernmost bay, with three arched windows, held the WCTU Hall. The WCTU maintained the hall there until the early 1940s.

Today, Umpqua Bank sits on the site.

For more on the Nesmith Building see this article from Marion County History and this from Salem Online History.

As a bit of side trivia, the triangular building labeled "Daniel J. Fry's Public Storage" was demolished in the 1930s, and a new concrete building erected on its same footprint. I will need to check this, but I believe that replacement building is the one that will itself be demolished next week for the Boise Cascade redevelopment project. [confirmed - The Statesman today has an article on Mayor Taylor's "State of the City" address, and they name the building to be demolished as the Fry Building.]

[update 2 - over at the SHINE blog they've got some pictures of the Fry warehouse over the years. They've also got a couple more that aren't tagged. Check 'em out!]

[update 3 - well, lookee here! In today's paper, the 10 Feb 2010 Statesman, is news that Virginia Green has managed to place an historical marker at this intersection! Well done, Virginia! (Photo: Timothy J. Gonzalez | Statesman Journal)]


  1. This blog is fascinating ~ like a new window into the neglected structure of downtown Salem history!
    Especially glad to see more about the Holman building and Thomas Cox's store ~ we have to get that sign back up on his former store location.
    Keep up the good work and let's get together on more research.
    Thanks for commenting on SHINE.

  2. It would be great to get the Cox sign back up! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I'm working on "SHINE on Salem 150" as a feature of that web/blog to celebrate our 150 years of a city in 2010: one day on the website for each year. I'm up to 1897 and want to show Capital Brewery and do a little article on that business at around that time ~ wanna help?

  4. Heh...I just saw your note here. Sorry I didn't respond promptly... But the marker is terrific!