Salem: Heritage All-Star Community
By Salem Historic Landmarks Commission
Salem has a long history beginning with the state’s first inhabitants living on the banks of the Willamette River and the arrival of Methodist missionaries led by Jason Lee in 1840, through the establishment of the State Capitol and the rise of the State’s agriculture and timber industries. Since the 1950s, the city’s residents and leaders have recognized Salem’s history and have actively preserved and interpreted its rich past. For example, in 1953, the heirs of Asahel Bush, a prominent businessman, donated his home to the City as a museum. Efforts to preserve the Jason Lee House, Thomas Kay Woolen Mill (now the Willamette Heritage Center) and other notable places followed in rapid succession. In the 1970s, the City established a landmark program. Today, the downtown core, two prominent neighborhoods, the State Capitol Building, and the old Mill are among 67 districts and individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The recent designation of Salem as a Heritage All-Star Community not only recognizes the city’s past, but also celebrates the collective and tireless work of individuals and organizations to preserve, interpret, and share Salem’s history and culture for the enrichment of the community. The legacy of these efforts provide both residents and visitors unique and authentic opportunities to visit art, history, and children’s museums, attend a play or concert, take a pleasurable walk, and taste Willamette Valley wines and cuisine in historic buildings and districts.
The Mayor and City Council’s recent steps to preserve historic places and promote cultural tourism reaffirm the City’s ongoing commitment to its past and future. The award-winning rehabilitation of the Union Street Railroad Bridge in 2009 and the current restoration of the Railway Express Agency Depot — one of Salem’s oldest buildings — are just two examples. For Salem, the Heritage All-Star Community designation is an opportunity to assess and celebrate not only what’s been accomplished so far, but also what can be done in the future. As a community, we look forward to meeting that challenge.
The Salem Historic Landmarks Commission is made up of City residents who volunteer their time and professional expertise to review, designate, and encourage the preservation of historic resources.