Exploring a History of Historic Preservation in Salem
By Brandon Spencer-Hartle
On Saturday April 28, the Historic Preservation League of Oregon brought together preservationists new and old to celebrate where we’ve gone and where we’re going as a statewide preservation movement. The League, now celebrating its 35th anniversary year, held the event at the Willamette Heritage Center over cake, beverages, and a slideshow of past preservation efforts from across the state.
With remarks from Ian Johnson and Kimberli Fitzgerald with the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission on preservation successes and challenges in Salem, a succinct “State of Preservation in Oregon” overview by League Executive Director Peggy Moretti, and a town hall conversation about preservation needs in the field, the event captured a discussion of issues ranging from education and design review to incentives and best practices. Elisabeth Walton Potter, author of A Past for our Future, provided a keynote talk about the inception of the preservation movement in Oregon and the unique role that the Willamette Heritage Center—with its collection of saved 19th Century buildings—played in the early years of the movement to protect Oregon’s significant places. While attendees each received a complimentary hardcopy of A Past for our Future, the League announced at the event that the publication has been made electronically available to the general public on the University of Oregon’s Digital Collection.
The event served as a reminder that the early years of the historic preservation movement have gained significance over time and that there remains a considerable need to document and interpret the story of the movement here in Oregon. No place better exemplifies this added significance than the Willamette Heritage Center, a place where the preservation story itself is fast approaching the 50-year mark.
The League was honored to hold their preservation celebration in conjunction with the Heritage Conference and looks forward to taking stock in our past—and planning for our future—throughout the remainder of their 35th birthday year.
Brandon Spencer-Hartle is the Historic Preservation League of Oregon’s Field Programs Manager. As a recent graduate of the University of Oregon, he has a special interest in Oregon’s pioneering preservation projects—many of which admittedly predate him.