Snowy Historic Places in Salem, Oregon

posted February 1, 2024 by Holly Hayes

In the winter in Salem, Oregon, there are two things we rarely see: sunshine and snow. But a couple of weeks ago, there was one glorious Monday where we had both! So I grabbed my camera, hopped in my all-wheel-drive car (there don't seem to be any snowplows in Salem), and visited some local historic places I had never visited before: a residential historic district, the Lee Mission Cemetery, and the Oregon State Hospital.

Court-Chemeketa Historic District

First up was the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District. I parked roughly in the middle and wandered around happily, admiring the wide variety of historic houses while enjoying the sunshine and trying to keep my fingers warm.

Street Signs and Scheuerman-Maurer House (1695 Chemeketa St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Street Signs and Lizzie and John Denison House (1705 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon

Ranging in date from 1860 to 1937, the most common style is Craftsman Bungalow, but there are a number of Colonial Revival and Queen Anne examples, too. Aside from looking at pretty houses, I got to pet dogs, greet their humans, and enjoy a long conversation with a homeowner who happened to be outside.

Here are some highlights from my walk around the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District.

William H. Byrd House (296 14th) - Salem, Oregon
William H. Byrd House (1887), 296 14th Street, NE. Queen Anne/Eastlake style house built in 1887 at 197 Court and moved to its present site in 1906.
Barquist House (1363 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Barquist House (c. 1895) at 1363 Court St NE. Part of the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District, NE Salem, Oregon, USA.
View from NE, B.L. and Sarah Steeves House (1694 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
B.L. and Sarah Steeves House at 1694 Court St NE (Dutch Colonial, 1926).
View from North, B.L. and Sarah Steeves House (1694 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Side view of the B.L. and Sarah Steeves House, with gambrel roof and stucco.

The National Register says the Steeves House is one of the loveliest houses in the district and I completely agree. It's also so interesting with its combination of blue wood shingles and tan stucco, the gambrel roof, and the front porch tucked into a corner.

Wiggins-Crawford House (1759 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Wiggins-Crawford House at 1759 Court St NE (vernacular Queen Anne, c. 1895. I love the Gothic vibes from the black paint.
Chemeketa Street Evangelical Church - Salem, Oregon
Chemeketa Street Evangelical Church at 270 17th St NE (Gothic Revival/Carpenter Gothic, 1894).
Watt Cottage (1470 Chemeketa) - Salem, Oregon
Watt Cottage at 1470 Chemeketa St NE (c. 1906). Contributing property in the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District, NE Salem, Oregon, USA.
Ronald and Priscilla Frizzell House (1518 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Ronald and Priscilla Frizzell House at 1518 Court St NE (Georgian Revival, 1935), with neat hedges and large brick chimney on the right side of the house.
Ronald and Priscilla Frizzell House (1518 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Ronald and Priscilla Frizzell House at 1518 Court St NE (Georgian Revival, 1935, painted white), with Palladian window and Christmas wreaths.
Walter Buchner House (1410 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Exterior view of the Walter Buchner House (Bungalow, 1914) at 1410 Court St NE. Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District, NE Salem, Oregon, USA.
Side View, Mitchell-Hill House (1808 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Side view of the Mitchell-Hill House at 1808 Court St NE (Craftsman Bungalow, 1909, painted bright yellow).
Gable Detail, Louisa Heidecker House (1795 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Exterior detail of gable decoration at the Louisa Heidecker House (Queen Anne cottage, c. 1890) at 1795 Court St NE.
Weller-Schramm House (165 17th Street) - Salem, Oregon
Weller-Schramm House (c. 1895), 165 17th Street. Turquoise blue, large two-story vernacular Colonial Revival house with a Craftsman porch.
Queen Anne Cottage (1540 Chemeketa St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Queen Anne Cottage at 1540 Chemeketa St NE (Queen Anne, c. 1905, painted pink).
Porch with Plaque, First Simpson Cottage (1820 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Detail of red door and porch with National Register plaque. First Simpson Cottage at 1820 Court St NE (Queen Anne, c. 1890).
Second Simpson Cottage (1868 Court St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Second Simpson Cottage at 1868 Court St NE (Queen Anne, c. 1890).

How cute is this little house?? The colors and the red lantern give it such storybook vibes. And I got to throw a ball for a dog while I was here.

Below is one of my favorite houses, and the one whose owner I got to chat with. It's a Colonial Revival saltbox called the Elizabeth Watt House, dating from 1904. See my comment on its article page for all the interesting things I learned from him.

Elizabeth Watt House (1568 Chemeketa St NE)  - Salem, Oregon
Elizabeth Watt House (1568 Chemeketa St NE)  - Salem, Oregon
Elizabeth Watt House (1568 Chemeketa St NE) - Salem, Oregon
Plaques, Elizabeth Watt House (1568 Chemeketa St NE)  - Salem, Oregon
House number and National Register plaques on the porch of the Elizabeth Watt House (Colonial Revival saltbox, 1904) at 1568 Chemeketa St NE.

One of the district boundaries is Mill Creek, which some of the houses overlook from their backyard. I was delighted to find a cute little pedestrian bridge over the creek, just outside the district.

Court Street Bridge over Mill Creek - Salem, Oregon
Mill Creek and A.C. and Olga Haag House - Salem, Oregon

Lee Mission Cemetery

My next stop was a place I'd been wanting to visit for a long time, but was waiting for good light — the Lee Mission Cemetery. It was absolutely beautiful in the snow and sunshine, as I'd hoped it would be. The only downside is that some graves were under the snow — I'll have to go back on another sunny day for those.

Gate Arch, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
American Flag and Jason Lee Marker, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Jason Lee Marker, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon

The oldest burials here are members of Reverend Jason Lee's Methodist mission in Oregon. Born in Quebec, Jason Lee was the first Protestant missionary to the Pacific Northwest and played a significant role in the development of Salem. He died on March 12, 1845, while visiting his sister back home in Quebec. In 1906 his body was moved to the cemetery named for him.

Diamond Square, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Diamond Square, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon

This area of the Lee Mission Cemetery, known as Diamond Square, is where members of the mission originally buried elsewhere were re-interred. Unfortunately, Jason Lee's original gravestone was destroyed by vandals and the modern replacement was under the snow when I visited.

Lucy Thompson Lee, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lucy Thompson Lee, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon

The oldest burial in the cemetery is Jason Lee's wife Lucy Thompson. Born in 1809, she graduated from seminary as valedictorian in 1838, married Reverend Lee four months after meeting him in 1839, then sailed with him from New York — all the way around Cape Horn — to the Pacific Northwest in 1839. What an interesting and adventurous woman. Sadly she died in 1842, three weeks after the birth of her daughter, Lucy Anna.

Avenue Between the Cedars, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Cedar Tree, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon

In addition to all the historic graves, I was interested to find that a section has been set aside for contemporary Roman Catholic burials. They are lovingly and colorfully decorated by mourners.

Catholic Section, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon
Hennessy, Lee Mission Cemetery - Salem, Oregon

Oregon State Hospital

After the long walk in the historic district and crunching my way around the cemetery for a good long time, I was ready to head home for a belated lunch and warm up in front of my computer.

Thankfully, my route home took me past the Oregon State Hospital, which is a historic district on the National Register and pretty famous in these parts, but somehow I had never visited it. So I turned off Center Street as soon as I could and walked back up the hill to continue my photo tour.

Parking near Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon
Parking spot on a side street near the extensive grounds of the Oregon State Hospital. On the right is the main building; out of sight on the left is the Dome Building.
J Building (Cascade Hall), 1883. Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon
Kids sledding in the grounds of the Oregon State Hospital. I saw some snowboarders, too.

A beautiful set of deep-red buildings with expansive grounds, this psychiatric hospital was built in 1883. It played a starring role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson. Many hospital staff and patients participated in the movie, both onscreen and behind the scenes.

Oregon Film Trail Sign, Dome Building - Salem, Oregon

Today the hospital includes a Museum of Mental Health, which tells the often-disturbing story of mental health treatments over the last 150 years and preserves several original hospital rooms. I'll definitely return another day to check that out.

Museum of Mental Health, Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon

I first visited the huge main building, which is officially the Cascade Building but better known as the "J" Building for its shape. This is where the museum is located. Designed by Salem architect Wilbur F. Boothby, construction began in 1880 and it opened to patients in 1883.

J Building, Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon
J Building, Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon
Fountain, Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon
J Building, Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon
J Building, Oregon State Hospital - Salem, Oregon

Across Center Street is the Dome Building (officially the Receiving Ward), designed by famed Portland architect Edgar M. Lazarus and completed in 1912. He is best known for designing the iconic Vista House overlooking the Columbia Gorge. I found the Dome Building very beautiful, especially the graceful canopy over the stairs.

Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Facade Detail, Dome Building - Salem, Oregon
Side View, Dome Building - Salem, Oregon

You can see all the photos from this day on the Images tab of this post.

previous: A Sunny, Snowy Spring Day at Crater Lake

Article Info

Page Title
Snowy Historic Places in Salem, Oregon
Added By
Holly Hayes
Date Published
February 1, 2024
Last Updated
February 7, 2024