31 March 2024

Historic Houses on the Salem Waterfront


Waterfront Salem is a vastly different place from what it was when I was growing up. In the mid-1970s Front Street served an what amounted to an industrial area and was laced with disused railroad tracks. 

I wasn't even aware there was a Water Street, which is the closest street Salem has to the river, until the 80s. And even then it wasn't clear how one would get down there.

What a difference forty years makes. Not only is it a simple thing to get down to what is now a lush and inviting public space, but there's lovely interesting things to see there. Following Union Street NE one block west of Front, you bear left at the old steel bridge that used to carry a rail line across the river and is now a very nice pedestrian bridge connecting the east bank riverfront to Wallace Marine Park in west Salem. 

Between the Marion and Center Street bridges, along Water Street, is a big Victorian house which today is devoted to housing the Gilbert House Childrens' Museum. Along side of it is two other historic houses which is part of the Childrens' Museum complex.

The addresses are 450 Water St NE (on the left) and 440 Water St NE (on the right). I did bump the color up on this photo, because being adjacent to the main Gilbert House itself, I had storybook illustrations playing about in my head.

This angle, looking back the way we came, shows the Gilbert House itself, green amongst the tree.

Cheerful, charming, historic Salem. 

Oh, and it bears mentioning that the Gilbert who the Gilbert House represents is A.C. Gilbert, the man who, through his efforts, gave the world one of the landmark toys of the 20th Century ... the Erector Set. Yeah. Like the guy who gave the world the View Master, A.C. Gilbert, too, was an Oregonian.

The Height of the Eastside Street Art Renaissance, feat. Suspish


Last August, the brief renaissance of outer east Portlandia street art hit something of a zenith, most of it on the west wall of the building that the Portland Police Bureau's Sunshine Division - which is the PPB's charity public engagement arm - which is located just east of SE 122nd Ave on Stark St.

The west wall has no windows and faces onto the north parking lot of what was once was the Fabric Depot store, and is without a doubt, a honeypot no tagger can resist for long. So, when Suspish showed up on the east side again (the second appearance by the Eugene artist) it was plain that something was going to happen.

So: dateline, east of 122nd on Stark, August, 2023. We have this:

Now, I'm not necessarily a fan of graffiti either, and if you do it in Portland, in some areas, you take your life into your hands. So, if you're going to bring it, bring it memorably. Make it good, make it skillful, make it art. And our various artists who gave us this gallery-in-passing did just that.

First thing, we have on the far left here, is this:

... a big ol' blue-white-black tag, something of a signature, with FOE, East, and '23 and 2023 in various places. This took a little care and design forethought and engages the eye nicely.

Next we have ...

... another appearance from our friend Suspish. The Suspish fish is obvious; the abstract Cylopean face colored in a dusky mustard yellow is also Suspish's work, I believe. 

The mouse is some other artist's work, a johnny-come-lately to the gallery and while inspired and whimsical doesn't quite show the skill that Suspish and this next artist shows.

Speaking of the next artist, here we are:

The original work in this gallery, which I think I've posted about when it first showed up. These two were the first on the building a few months before, and the creativity and artistic skill here still delight my eye. To the credit of the Sunshine Division, they let this stand for a number of months before covering it over, and a lot of us eastbound Stark Street drivers got to enjoy them. 

I particularly adore the intensity of the dude with the spray cans. Chef's kiss here for that.

Again, the signature EAST FOE can be seen by the ear of the figure with the spray cans, so I think it was the same artist that did the big tag on the far left.

To close our gallery tour, this:

SWOOP. Another boi with a hat, and signed again, apparently, by FOE. 

The building has since been painted, and the west wall of the Sunshine Division's building hs returned to that industrial vaguely-oatmealy color. Graffiti - street art - has an expiration date. No matter how skillful it is, it's designed to leave us, as the property owner always has the last word.

Most of it is just lazy marks, but some of it, sometimes, gets really elevated. I hope Suspish comes up this way again eventually, and another visit or two from F.O.E. would not be amiss. 

They brought their A game here, and I was, curiously, happy to see it. 

30 March 2024

Salem, We Need To Talk About State Street


Salem, you need to get a grip. You got lots of problems. You might run out of money. That's bad. You might close your public library. That's appalling.

But this ...

Explain, I will.

Now, Salem has directional addresses as anyone who's ever heard me drone on about city maps and street layouts and address systems will, after all this, have by now known. And especially if you live there. And it works like this: If you're on the east side of the Willamette River but north of State St, you're NE. And if you're on the east side of the River and south of State St, you're SE. But if you're on State Street, you're neither NE or SE; it's the dividing line. Also, there's no State Street on the west side of the river, so there's no State St W, therefore, no State St E. 

It's just State St. It always was State St. 

Now, just west of Cordon Road NE, which is where town ends (both the unincorporated fringe and the city limits, where they come out that far) and on the north side of State, for years, there was a field, going up to a rail siding that ran parallel to State, and a locally-famous mushroom production facility. I lived on Abiqua Ct SE, just off State via 47th Ave SE, during some formative years during my teens, and we all knew about it

You know what mushrooms grow in. The smell got around.

Well, in the decades since, the mushroom plant has gone, and the rail line with it, and at long last the area along the west side of Cordon Road NE going north from State Street in the direction of Auburn Road is finally being filled in with a housing tract. New streets going in, new houses going up, little old Snailem inching its population ever closer to 200,000. Some of the street blades have already gone up. and here's one sharked from Google Street View:

State St NE, the sign says. And this is wrong, Salem, and you know it.

Why is that a problem, you might ask? Wouldn't the north side of State Street be NE? Well, like I said before, State Street is neither NE nor SE, and it's not E because there's no W half. Besides, most blades along State St just look like this:

This is 47th Ave SE and State, just a few blocks west of that (this corner is in unincorporated Marion County, which has shifted to a street blade format nearly identical to that used within Salem city limits over the years). Just State St. Just like it always has been.

Like eliminating the leading-zero district here in Portland and making it S, labelling State St as NE or SE depending on which side of the street you're on fixes a problem that doesn't really exist and erases a charming local address custom. 

Now, Salem, I know you're short of money and all, so all you have to to is stick a piece of green over that NE there. 

But however you do it, get a grip here.

I say this because I care.

The author is available as a highly-opinionated consultant on designing street naming and address systems due to his obsession of it over the course of more than four decades. Contact for rates.

28 March 2024

Toes of the Mountains


The course of Oregon State Highway 213, a road which technically begins at PDX and goes to Salem, dances along what I've come to think of as the Cascade Piedmont.

Anyone reading this probably understands that the word piedmont, literally translated, means 'foot of the mountains'. There's a region in the deep South that they call 'piedmont', the fall line where streams in Dixie emerge from the foothills of the Appalachians and spread out across the plains on their way to the Atlantic Ocean.

 The Cascade Piedmont I am terribly fond of is nowhere near as extensive but I think just as remarkable.


Highway 213 dances in and out of the toes of the Piedmont quite nimbly. Much of the time, as you close on and go south of Molalla in the direction of Silverton, it's obvious ... to your left, the land is notably hilly, on the right it flattens out and gives great views of wide and deep farmlands stretch to the distance-diminished Coast Range thirty or forty miles west.

And when it comes to a hill, it skirts around its middle.

Despite the fact I've called Portland home for more years in my life than anywhere else, I still feel a strong connection to this ground, this particular soil. It's emotional, but real; I was born along the Cascade Piedmont, and I have a father and a brother who are buried in its ground. 

Much the way a young duck is said to imprint on the first face it sees as a parent, I must have done same with this ground.

Nothing like it anywhere else. I guarantee this.

27 March 2024

The Church at Second and A


The subtraction of the century-old Eugene Field School building from the landscape of city-center Silverton has opened up sight lines that young me never even comprehended existed.

If you look grid-east and a s'kosh north from the corner of Park and Water Streets, the lack of a rather substantial building opens a line of sight two city blocks long.

The big white historic-looking building, which is the Trinity Lutheran Church, is at the corner of N. 2nd and A Streets. Google Maps says this is at a range of about six-hundred and thirty feet from Yours Truly, the photographer. N. 1st Street crosses the middleground at where that chain link fence is. The red brick building wit the multi-colored windows is the First Christian Church. The green space in the foreground is the lawn on the south end of the new Civic Center block.

When it comes to church in Silverton, if you want it, you got it. More church than you can shake a steeple at.

In looking around the town of my youth, I'm amazed at how wide my perception of the world has become. These places are mere minutes away in a walk, but since I couldn't directly see them when I was young, they may as well have been halfway around the world. Perspective widens with the altitude of age; it opens the world at the same time drawing it closer in.

Escher would approve of that, I think.

The Hitching Post at Water and Park


This is a thing that exists in Silverton that refuses to explain itself.

Located at the northeast corner of Water and Park streets, on the north edge of downtown, it keeps its own counsel. It saw Eugene Field School come and go; it's watching Silverton's new fancy Civic Center sprout from the former schoolyard. 

It appears to be of the same vintage, if one can read such a thing on a small concrete obelisk with a hitching ring embedded, as the Stark Street Milestones here in Portland, possibly a minimum of a century old.

It's the only one like it in Silverton. 

And it will not explain itself to you. It owes you no justifications or apologies.

It does kind of miss the school building, though, as do I.

26 March 2024

Oregon Back Road in the Cascade Foothills


The past few pictures were from within Silverton. This was part of the road on the way there.


State Hwy 211 is a highway that runs from Estacada to Molalla. As soon as it leaves Estacada it ascends into the Cascade foothills that surround the town and in no time you're more than 1,500 feet ASL, what dwellings and farms there are fall away, and it's a two-lane paved road through thick forest.

There are some gorgeous views to be hand just from the car.  I got a couple more for when I have more time to post.

But this one charms because of the curve of the road, the minimal evidence of other highway engineering, and the power lines illuminated to remind one of spider webs. It's at once near civilization and remote, nowhere and anywhere, and demonstrates why just a trip between two towns in the back roads of the Cascades piedmont is like a tiny vacation.

25 March 2024

Water Looking North From Main


A look at Water Street, downtown Silverton, looking north from Main.

History still lives in small Oregon towns and, maybe I'm biased, but more so in Silverton than other Valley cities.

All these buildings were aging before anyone of us looking at it were even born. 

I had a pathetic childhood in Silverton that made me want to go elsewhere (eventually I got my wish). Well, time does heal wounds. Who wouldn't love this scene, or at least feel warmed to it? 

At the moment I can remain cozily in the midst of my beloved Portland and see Silverton when I can find the time. Best of both worlds, really.

24 March 2024

Curly's Legacy Cooler


On the west side of South Water Street there's a charming little coffee dive (and I mean that in the most affectionate way) called the Silverton Coffee Station. 

It occupies what was once a filling station and auto garage, but if you know what to look for, that shouldn't be a surprise. The gas pull-through and the garage are separate buildings on the west side and south side, respectively, of a cement platform which is one way these properties were situate on the right bank of Silver Creek, which runs behind all the buildings on the west side of Water Street downtown.

The current service area is inside of what was once the garage, and this is where I spotted a certain historical gem.

The wordmark on the front, Curly's Dairy, represents a bit of greater Salem history that, in Portland, is approximated by the not-late but still lamented Alpenrose, though Curly's never got as big as that, but as a local staple, it was every bit of present. 

The main office was along Mission Street SE, on the south side, around about 23rd St SE. I just visited the approximate place where it was on Google Street View just now, and there is no trace of the dairy; that whole corner of town has been redeveloped beyond of the recognition of anyone who grew up in that area between 1978 and 1982. 

One suspects Curly's no longer exists or, if it exists at all, as IP owned and marketed by some out of state company nobody's ever heard of an whose name you'd forget in an instate if you did hear of it. But this gem remains, and keeps ice creams cool in a coffee spot where you can also find Allan's Coffee, which also makes it a location of notable worth. 

Silverton's Small God


This was seen on the property of the Silverton Coffee Company, on South Water at Lewis:

And this, on the doorstep of the Palace Theatre, which I have just rhapsodized about:

Know ye of Bobbie the Wonder Dog? 

In August of 1923, a Silverton family visited Indiana with their Scotch Collie/English Shepherd mix in tow. During that visit, the dog, as the legend has it, was attacked by other dogs and ran off. The family, not able to locate their pooch by the time they had to return, did so, undoubtedly with hearts heavy with the knowledge that they'd never see their dog again.

Except he turned up again in Silverton n February of 1924, showing every sign of having physically endured a trek of at least 2,500 miles just to get back home to Oregon.

I've always said Oregon has this pull on natives. But then, if I found myself in Indiana, the first thing I'd probably do is try to leave, so there's me for you.

Well, in the way that things went viral in the 1920s this did, and not only was Bobbie a local hero but became a national celebrity for a short time, and in doing so cemented his fuzzy visage indelibly into local history.

And, as one can see, not only is he celebrated in one of Silvertons many murals, but also in at least two figurines, one about two blocks away from the other in Downtown, and making himself an excellent candidate for the patron spirit of the area: Silverton's own charming and relatable small god.

Silverton: dog is their co-pilot.

The Palace Theatre, Silverton, At Dusk


The gem of town shines out as it once did, brilliantly at dusk, at Oak and Water Streets in downtown Silverton, Oregon, the kind of theater that's still the kind of place were you can walk in and imagine kids streaming in to get imagination fuel, for adults to come for entertainment. 

This is the Palace Theatre, Silverton, Oregon, year 2024.

There has been some sort of entertainment venue on this corner for more than 100 years. Before the Palace, it was the Opera House, which was destroyed by fire in 1936. 

The past few years for this old cinematic matron have been, if the news reports I've seen are an indication, a bit rocky. In 2012, fire seriously damaged the lobby. The venue got back on its feet, then the owners, one of them the inimitable Stu Rasmussen, had to give the business up. The succeeding owners were not able to keep the place alive and she closed again, and then the current owners came in and really pulled out the stops to get the place back into the swim.

The Palace re-opened for good this last winter with a run of the Timothee Chalamet Wonka film and has returned to stay.

The facade is a warm and cherished memory and, paint scheme tastefully highlighting its Art Deco design notwithstanding looks quite like it did when I was a lad, including the marquee ... although they do get bonus points from YT for that splendid sign centered in that facade. 

We much approve.

23 March 2024

Falls Mural On Main St, Silverton


Another Silverton mural, of which I'll have a few in the next several articles, which is found on the north side of East Main Street between the end of the bridge over Silver Creek and the intersection with Water Street:

Silver Falls State Park is the gem of the state parks system, the crown jewel, the largest single state park ... it's to Oregon State Parks what Yellowstone is to the National Park system as far as a star player goes, and if you're in Silverton, it's not just in your back yard, it is your back yard.

If it weren't for photographer June Drake getting the ball rolling back in 1902, it might never have been, but then ... Silverton was always a town for photographers.