Friday, May 7, 2010

Walking Tour Brochure Debuts, Stints Beer History and Vice

At First Wednesday, folks unveiled the Historic Downtown Walking Tour brochure.

Mostly it's pretty great.

But it's difficult to be balanced about it. So we'll try to offer a review of it that differentiates between the petty and significant, and never loses sight of the big picture.

So, the first thing we have to ask is, "Could the cover be more compelling?" We think it's a missed opportunity to grab attention.

It's interesting that the first-floor storefronts, the sidewalk zone, are all dark and obscured, and that the cars are more visible than the pedestrian amenities. For something premised on the wonders of walking, its cover image doesn't sell those wonders very strongly.

And why not pick a more iconic downtown building rather than a pair of lesser buildings? (We suppose that two of the more iconic ones are owned by the same person, and that a politics of even-handedness might have played a role in this.) We aren't a fan of the canvas and watercolor treatment, either. History is way more interesting and exciting than this gauzy view! Is this a pamphlet that will stand out among all the others in Travel Salem? It just doesn't have shelf appeal in our opinion.

The printing and paper also looks more like something from a home color printer. It doesn't look like it was turned out for a larger run at a print shop. Hopefully this means it can be improved in subsequent print runs.

In a nutshell: We would like to suggest more zip and liveliness in the next printing or iteration.

The interior is better. (But this is where we have trouble being objective!)

Where's the beer history!?

There's a few nods, to be sure. In a "Did you know?" section at the end, the tour mentions the "industrial area containing breweries and canneries" just south of Trade Street. The bit on the Adolph block (not Adolf!) mentions the Adolph Saloon. And the longer bit on the Livesley building mentions that he was a hop grower.

But the richness and depth of Salem's beer history is missing! Nothing on the Eckerlins, even though the Eckerlin is one of the buildings in the cover image. Nothing on the saloons in the JK Gill building. Most importantly, nothing on the Capital Brewery where the convention center is today. We think the brochure needs a little spice - some crime, some vice, something sensational! Tourists like a few whiffs of the forbidden!

And yet there's more. Architects are mentioned randomly. We've identified several significant buildings by Fred Legg, but none of the new identifications are included in the brochure. We are, perhaps unreasonably, personally disappointed. More generally, it might be interesting to include consistent notes about architects on all buildings where the designer is known.

So, enough with the nitpicking! The format doesn't permit broad inclusiveness; choices must be made.

What's great about it? The map in back, which is keyed to the walking tour. Just as Mayor Taylor says,
There is no better way to enjoy the historic assets of a community that walking up close to a historic building and experiencing the past. Salem abounds in these opportunities...
Yup, she's right on. The physicality of taking the brochure in hand and walking the downtown blocks. There's all kinds of great stuff that people miss! Stop and smell the roses - and Salem's got lots of downtown roses.

The brochure is a great start - but it can be even better!


  1. I hope they read your suggestions! If they're going to do it, it's definitely worth doing it right. I love to stand on the sidewalks and ogle the buildings, wondering if anyone stood on those balconies during a parade and other such things.

  2. I look forward to seeing the brochure.
    Where am I likely to find one?

    You should contact the developer and offer your services / knowledge base [for a fee and a credit tag] to add content to the brochure or publish a companion pamphlet.

  3. We expect Travel Salem has them. Ours arrived indirectly. Virginia Green over at SHINE worked on it, and we're surprised she hasn't blogged about it yet. The Marion County Historical Society - or whatever they call themselves now - was also involved.

    The budget is likely not as big as one wants - history is rarely sexy, though as you might imagine we'd like to change that - but the folks at BAM Agency have done good-looking stuff for Mary Lou Zeek, Waterplace, and Go Downtown. It's too bad they couldn't be engaged on this project.

    Your thoughts have us wondering...maybe crowd-sourcing an "underground" walking tour of Salem? Our interests are too narrow to go at it alone! It could be website and maybe a pdf. Hmm...Let's see if the idea has legs. Encourage your interested friends and associates to drop comments here!

  4. Oh...I do have this idea covered. You and I need to get together for mean a beer and chat. Maybe a group project on Historical Salem.

  5. Curious - what building(s) do you regard as a icon for Salem.

    Ie, if I want a street scene or building(s) in the forefront of a webpage banner that identifies / references Salem, historic or present, to knowledgeable persons, what street scene or building(s)would you suggest?

    You thought / input will be appreciated.

  6. You ask for a list, we give you a list! These are just in the downtown historic district, do note. (Obviously, the Capitol is the most iconic, but it's not in the historic district.)

    Salem Icons:
    Livesley Building,
    Reed Opera House,
    Ladd & Bush Bank,
    First Methodist Church,

    Other notable or especially interesting buildings:
    Masonic Building,
    Adolph Block,
    Capital National Bank

    Any of these would be superior to what is on the cover.

    (The Elsinore is iconic, but we think it's maybe over-exposed. Pioneer Trust and the Grand Theater didn't make our cut.)

    We'll have more to say in the next day or two - wait, Melina, til you see what a correspondent shared with us! It's a Salem State Centennial Guide from 1959 compiled and written by State Archivist David Duniway. It's much longer and is able to be so much richer historically.

  7. One more thought on the kind of thinking we have for a cover image. One of the most interesting architectural details in town is the "beaver dollar." It lives on the keystone of the second-story arch over the window on the Capital National Bank Building. Though the building is tiny, its Richardson Romanesque architecture totally stands out on the buildings along Commercial - indeed, it is distinctive in Salem generally.

    We aren't a numismatist, but the nomination form for the historic district says that the beaver dollar was "a $10 gold piece minted in 1849 when Oregon was a territory." That's almost as good as Champoeg!

    The building's designer was also assisted by W.C. Knighton who later designed Deepwood, the Bayne Building, the Oregon Supreme Court Building and was one of Oregon's leading architects in the early 20th century.

    So basically just in this little architectural detail you can spin out quite a bit of Salem and Oregon history. It is this attention to detail and narrative implication that an improved walking brochure should seek.

    The Capital National Bank might not be iconic enough, but we think that there's a more magical tale (romance in the Hawthornian sense - think of the way he works history's charms in the Scarlet Letter) to be spun out of a cover image.