Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lost on the Oregon Electric: Between the Masonic Building and the Grand Theater

With the Oregon Electric tracks in the news, it seemed like a good time to visit another empty lot in Salem.

Between the Masonic building and the Grand Theater, is a void formed by two lots. The buildings whose footprints are empty were never as distinguished as those on the corners of the block face, but they represented commerce, culture, and a more lively street.

Unfortunately, good photos have been hard to find, as attention has been on the corners rather than middle of the block.

But the discovery of tracks offered a different route to imagery. Thanks to a tweet from KandN, we realized that searching on the Oregon Electric would turn up a few images!

High Street, University of Washington Special Collections
High Street,
showing tops of two lost buildings
and void where hotel is today
High Street, Al Jones copy, Nomination Photos
of Grand Theater to National Register
The two-bay lot today
with hotel on right
1926 Sanborn Map showing block face
on High between State and Court
The "Central Stage Terminal and Hotel" doesn't get much attention these days (subsumed into the Grand as the "annex") but its story is interesting. From the Nomination to the National Register for the downtown historic district:
This addition to the Odd Fellows Hall (see 195 High Street NE), designed by Morris H. Whitehouse, was completed in 1921. Whitehouse was born in Portland, graduated from MIT in 1906, and entered into several partnerships. This building dates from a period when he had no partners, however. The Mediterranean style he utilized in the design of this building include round arched windows and roofing tiles. In 1935-1937 and in 1951, Frank H. Strubble made revisions to this building and the building to the north. James L. Payne made further revisions in 1952.

The Odd Fellows were responsible for having this building constructed. The Odd Fellows was one of the most successful of over 200 fraternal orders found in nineteenth-century America. The IOOF contributed, socially, to Salem by providing benefits to its members for the cost of illness and funerals, administrative training, and an array of community services (including the founding of a cemetery for all and a public reading room).

The Central Stage Terminal and Hotel company was incorporated September 10, 1921 by J.E. Lewis, L.R. Applegate, and John H. Carson. By 1925 W.W. Chadwick was president and Richard Shepard of Eugene was secretary/treasurer of the company. Transportation was a big part of the history of this building. Buses from surrounding communities and larger cities drove down the alley to the west and received and discharged passengers at the back of this building. The Central Stage Terminal and Hotel Company leased the facility for $650, and sub-leased space to auxiliary businesses, including a barber shop, a coffee shop and a cigar shop. In 1928 Chadwick moved the business across the street to the northwest corner of High and Court (the Senator Hotel), and from then on Chemeketa Lodge utilized the Hotel which remained the principle business upon which service industries depended.

The first floor of this building was used as a restaurant, a hotel bus depot entrance, and a store. The second floor contained rooms for a manager and an office, with rooms with baths and closets for hotel accommodations, lit by skylights, off a central hall in the back. The third floor was used by the Odd Fellows for a billiard room and library.
One of the lost buildings, the south one of wood, was the Fashion Stables (and later garage), some of which can be seen here. About the brick building we haven't learned much, but the Sanborn suggests it was for auto sales. Just one block north between Chemeketa and Center, at mid-century there was a cluster of car dealerships.

Perhaps there will be more to say at another time.

In any event, it is good to remember a time with a more lively downtown, and the tracks and buildings were an important part of it.

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