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