Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lost Cider Houses: An Apple a Day Can't Keep Time Away

Buried under the Pringle Parkway and the tennis courts at Willamette University you might find traces of the early cider industry in Salem.

Unlike many historical places in Salem, though, the cider house sites themselves are also among the most intensely redeveloped in Salem and show almost no signs of the past.

Emily's terrific note in the SJ (and the follow-up) about the revival of cider making Salem made us think of the early days naturally enough. As with so many things, what's old is new!

It is possible that the first fruit processing plant in Salem made cider, and so it's no coincidence that the Salem History entry on canneries starts with a note about cider.

Still, there's not much history written on apples and apple-growing in Salem. Most of the attention has gone to cherries and prunes. The development of the Salem neighborhoods and the city limits is in many ways a history of prune orchards, especially in south Salem. Salem badly needs a history of its fruit and fruit processing facilities - especially the canneries. (Naturally, we think breweries count as "fruit processing facilities"! - wineries, too. Sometimes fruit comes to market in bottles instead of baskets!)

One of the things that was interesting about Emily's note was the comparison it brought to mind between the St. Innocent winery and Wandering Aengus cider house. St. Innocent used to be located in the industrial park near the Kroc Center. A few years ago they moved to a new winery located in the middle of the vineyards in the Eola Hills.

Wandering Aengus has wandered in the opposite direction, moving into Salem from a facility in the Eola Hills near Bethel Heights not far from St. Innocent's new site. The new cider house will be in an industrial park near I-5.

Why is this? We suspect it has something to do with fruit sourcing and logistics: How much of the cider apple harvest comes from Hood River? If it's a significant proportion, locating in the industrial park and with access to the Interstate makes all kinds of sense. It's also true that the City of Salem offered incentives for this local business.

The center of gravity for food processing used to be near the rail station and Willamette University. The rails were the interstates for the 19th and early 20th centuries, the millrace and turbines or waterwheels their power grid.

Gideon Stolz and the Early Cider Houses

In 1879, a few years after the first rails arrived, and a year after Asahel Bush finished his house, Gideon Stoltz (photographed in 1924) built the first cider house in Salem. Like the early breweries, the cider house made a beverage much safer to drink than the creek and river water so often tainted by sewage and infected with cholera and typhoid. In 1886 the cider house incorporated as the Pacific Vinegar & Pickle Company.

This clip from an 1895 Sanborn map (click on most images to enlarge!) shows the location of the cider house. The amount of change in a little over a century is staggering - or at least we are staggered.

At the top is trade street, part of the Pringle Parkway now. You see a double line down it, representing a rail line. There are also three waterways - from the top, the Mill Race, a "stream of mystery," and what we now call Shelton Ditch, just before it merges with Pringle Creek at the Church Street Bridge.

The end of the stream of mystery can be seen behind a City of Salem pump house at the corner of Bellevue and Church. Over it is a little wooden bridge, and at the confluence of it and Shelton Ditch is a seat, a boulder set in a concrete round. We've puzzled over the boulder often, and whether the designers intended it as such, we think it's a fine memorial to mystery! The stream is gone, paved over and perhaps culverted now. (Image from Pringle Creek Urban Renewal report.)

You'll also notice on the map that Shelton Ditch isn't yet ditched, and it meanders all over. The east-west streets have also been realigned and Cottage street totally disappeared in the Parkway. You can also see houses and a good bit of open space. It's not quite rural, but towards the edge of the city.

Though this photo shows Salem a little west of the spot, it will give you a feel for the density of development in the early 1890s. Liberty for example doesn't go through between Ferry and Trade, and it's just a fenced field. In the middle ground, you can see the intersection of Trade and High. In the distance, hardly discernable, is the first cider house. The foreground is the area that today has the downtown Fire Station and Pringle Plaza. Trade street isn't very wide, just a dirt track - and it meanders near Church street!

Here's the modern view of the first cider house and stream of mystery sites.

In 1891 Stolz moved the company to Portland, but he cashed out in 1894 and started the Gideon Stolz Company in 1897.

The second Stoltz Cider House (image here, also at top taken from the opposite side of the building) was built at Bellevue and Summer. Willamette purchased the property in the 60s or 70s and today there are tennis courts.

Stolz was also on City Council. In his 1927 History Robert Carlton Clark writes:
In 1901 [Stolz] became a member of the city council, serving as chairman of the committees on health and police; was reelected and served two terms as chairman of the committee on streets and public property, being also a member of the accounts and current expense committee and the fire and water committee. His most important service for the city was rendered during the administration of Mayor Rogers, when he fought courageously and persistently for the paving of the streets, none of which had been done prior to that time. He was also a strong advocate of better sewerage facilities and the development of the city water system in fact, he is known as the father of good paving in this city and in every possible way has worked for a betterment in local conditions, realizing that the future growth of the city depended largely upon its improvements.
(See Gaston also.) Stolz died in 1938 and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

Curiously, the Gideon Stolz company became a beer distributor, and now the Oregon Department of Transportation Traffic Signals group uses the office!

Salem Apple Growing

We would like to know more about how Stolz sourced his apples. By 1900 it seems the apple industry was already entrenched around Medford and Hood River. There must have been enough smaller apple orchards nearby in Salem, though, to supply the cider operation.

Here's an excerpt from a January 2nd, 1902 overview of the apple industry in the Oregonian.
The reason why the Willamette Valley is not a large producer of apples for export comes down from a former generation. Farmers of the Valley have not yet learned, or, perhaps, have not directed their efforts toward growing apples on a large scale. This same disposition is seen in other methods of husbandry, and will be recognized by any one who reflects on it. It pays to pack and ship apples to an outside market only when they are grown on a large scale. There are many varieties of apples in the Valley, of excellent quality, but the growers who produce a given kind in large enough measure for export are less than the number of fingers on one hand.

When the pioneers came to the Willamette Valley they planted just enough trees for family needs, or for the economic conditions of the time. Their sons have inherited this habit. The old orchards are preserved as heirlooms as if with religious devotion. They have become asylums for apple pests, and all the ills that the fruit is heir to. When they have been uprooted and renewed, they have been replaced mostly on the same plan of old Oregon. The tourist sees this even from the car window, exemplified in crooked, scraggy, gnarled trees, bent with the burden of years, clinging to the remnants of life like old men past their day.

But although little or no Valley apples go to the Eastern States or Europe, it is believed that the quality of fruit, of which this district is capable of yielding, will cope with the fastidiousness of the export trade. The problem is to produce the half dozen best varieties in sufficient quantity for shipment. Of course, this problem includes preservation of the apples from the pests which afflict it, the destruction of the orchards which now breed these pests, and the study of how to care for and mature and pack the fruit. In each of these respects Valley farmers are woefully deficient.

Influence of Climate.

It is contended by some experts that the Valley is not adapted to the production of the best apples, such as come from Hood River, and the Medford district. Its damp climate and low elevation is cited against apple culture. Foothills are said to be the most congenial environment of the fruit. Where the climate is more rigorous than in the Valley it imparts hardiness to the apples, making them more solid, more enduring and more tasteful. Experts agree that the humidity of the Valley is very deteriorating on the fruit. A merchant said, several days ago, that the very best apples on earth, packed in the most preserving manner if kept In his store one month, would sell only at third or fourth-grade prices.

Union County has a reputation for high-grade apples, and many carloads have gone East from there. It is believed that Wallowa County, when transportation facilities shall be more available, will also enter prominently into the production of apples. Elsewhere In the Northwest Northern Idaho and the Palouse country yield excellent fruit. In many places of the Northwest the codling moth has not yet made Its appearance. It is going around fast, however, and is catching up with the virgin districts.
We have an inquiry into Wandering Aengus about heritage apple orchards around Salem, but they have been busy, and we have not heard back. We hope readers might know more about old apple orchards nearby.

And to finish, here's an apple poem from 1909, given at the 3rd annual Albany Apple and Fruit Exposition. Who knows whether the problem of relabeling was real or local hype...but it's fun to imagine the "strapping fellows" singing!
The Stalwart quartet of Salem was a great hit at the Albany apple show and were called back time and again. They had to change their program in some respects and it included one original song that sets the Willamette valley fruitgrowers wild when it is presented by four big, strapping fellows, weighing upwards of 200 pounds each, and themselves fine products of the rich soil and mild climate.

Here's the ditty composed for the occasion:

Southern Oregon raises very fine melons,
This we all know very well:
But for all othei kind of farm produce
We've got 'em all skilled to hall-elujah!

Chorus -
Hall-elujah! Hall-elujah!
For apples, peaches and pears,
You bet your life we're there,
With hops and prunes to spare.

Hood River is a lovely place,
Everyone knows full well;
But when it comes to raising delicious apples
We've got 'em all beat to hall-elujah!

Chorus -

California buys Oregon fruit,
This we all know full well;
And they brand California on the end of the box,
Now isn't that meaner than all-elujah!

Chorus -

1 comment:

  1. Here's more on early Salem area orchards. It appears the orchards and industry declined badly in the last quarter of the 19th century.

    Fruit orchards start with Henderson Luelling, who brought the first "traveling orchard" to Oregon.

    In "The Beginnings of the Apple Industry in Oregon," Agricultural History, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct., 1937), pp. 322-343, Joseph W. Ellison writes that a descendent, Alfred Luelling, told George Himes in 1910 that Henderson brought the following apples in 1847:

    "summer apples, - Sweet June, Red Astrachan, Golden Sweet, Summer Pearmain, Summer Bellflower;
    autumn apples, - Gravenstein, Red Cheek Pippin, Seek-no-Further, Rambo, King of Tompkins Country;
    winter apples, - Golden Russet, Yellow Bellflower, Baldwin, Lady Apple, White Pearmain, Northern Spy, Esopus Spitzenberg, Winesap, Yellow Newton Pippin, Jenneting, Tulpehocken."

    Not long after, Ralph Carey Geer started a nursery in the Waldo Hills, south of Silverton and east of Salem.

    In 1886 Hubert Howe Bancroft says,

    "Ralph C. Geer was the pioneer nurseryman of Marion County....Geer planted apple and pear seeds to start his nursery in the red soil of the Waldo hills, which he found to be excellent for his purpose. His father also put an equal amount of apple and pear seeds in the black soil of the Clackamas bottoms, but was disappointed in the returns, which were not equal to the Waldo hills, where R.C. Geer has had a fruit farm and nursery for more than 30 years."

    And in his 1926 History of the Silverton Country Robert Horace Down adds detail:

    "'Fruit Farm,' the nursery of Ralph C. Geer in the Waldo Hills, was one of the earliest attempts to promote fruit raising in the Oregon Country. In 1851, Mr. Geer was securing his trees of Luelling and Meek at Milwaukie, the pioneer nurserymen of Oregon. This year he had 8000 apple and 1000 pear trees, in all 60 varieties. Mr. Geer's tree catalogue for November, 1851, showed that he had on hand 42 varieties of apples...Apple trees 3 to 7 feet high sold for 50 to 60 dollars per hundred...[by 1858 the company had grown and was called] R.C. Geer & Co, announcing on hand 75,000 apple trees."

    In time the apple industry withered here. In 1904 E. R. Lake wrote "The Apple in Oregon" and said:

    "The ebb of the apple crop in Western Oregon was during the eighties and early nineties. The decline had been rapid during the decade preceding 1890. With the loss of the California market, which was being supplied largely with the local product; the introduction of the codlin-moth; the appearance of scale and other fungous troubles; the premature breaking-down of many of the old orchards, due to lack of care in tillage and pruning, and to unsuitable sites, and the consequent decline in quality and appearance of fruit, the apple industry of Western Oregon which, only a few years previously had been the boasted pride of the Pacific Coast, winked-out, leaving a marvellous display of decrepit, moss-covered, fungus-ridden, worm-infested prematurely old apple trees, that should rightly have been in their prime."