SHINE on Salem 150, celebrating the sesquicentennial of our city's 1860 charter, continues (and concludes) with the 2012 entry.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Salem in 1886

World Events

  • The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, is dedicated in New York Harbor.
  • Haymarket riot contributes to the creation of an 8-hour day for workers and inspired the present-day International May Day celebrations.
  • Karl Benz, of Germany, patents first gas-powered automobile.
In Salem
The first Salem Bridge across the Willamette River was constructed by Robert S. Wallace to connect his large fruit orchards and summer home in Polk County (now West Salem) to the city. A contemporary photograph from the Cronise Studio in Salem shows the bridge in great detail.

Robert Stuart Wallace lived in Chicago and operated as a commodity broker in the Chicago Board of Trade. The pressure of trading was so intense that his doctor told him he must quit this stressful activity or he would die young. He took the advice and sold his holdings and came to Salem, Oregon in 1885. He had recently visited here and liked what he saw and decided to move here. He and his wife, Nancy Black Wallace, built a large house on the northwest corner of Capitol and Court Street. (This was later the site of the Miles home which was demolished in the 1940s for the Oregon State Public Service Building.) Robert and Nancy Wallace had three children, Lee, Paul and Ruth, and lived in this house during most of the year, retiring across the river to the orchard home in summer. Mr. Wallace died at 41, but during the six years he lived in Salem he accomplished many major projects including being President of the Old Capital National Bank on Commercial Street; in making improvements to the Salem Water Company and, in 1890, choosing a location on 12th Street for the first Salem cannery. This original Center Street Bridge was carried away in the big flood in the spring of 1890 and replaced the next year. 
Former Wallace family summer home
When you visit 
Wallace Road was then a dirt carriageway leading to the orchards and family summer home (seen above), now a part of Salemtowne. The former bank building, just north of State Street, attracts attention, looking like a misplaced medieval fortress among the modern retail buildings. William C. Knighton renovated the original facade in 1892. South of Trade Street, Wallace's Salem Water Company's ramps and smoke stacks were replaced by canneries. After their closing, the 1970s urban renewal projects transformed the area into the parks we enjoy for the several blocks east of Commercial Street into Pringle Parkway. His original cannery existed on 12th Street, across from the Kay Woolen Mill (now a part of Willamette Heritage Center). The business continued under various names until 1953 when the land was deeded back, as a gift, to Willamette University. It is now part of a student parking lot.
The wagon trail that led to the Wallace orchard property is now the heavily traveled, multi-laned Wallace Road, the backbone of north south travel in West Salem. Turning east off this highway onto Glen Creek Road, you enter Wallace Marine Park. His son donated the core of this beautiful natural landscape that anchors the west end of the renovated Union Street Bridge, contains a boat ramp, picnic facilities and hosts popular softball tournaments. With the connection across the Union Street pedestrian bridge and trestle, walkers and bikers find new trails in the park convenient for commuting across the Willamette River for work and leisure activities.

Other Events

  • The first concrete sidewalks and limited electric service improve downtown business opportunities.
  • The Pearce Building is erected on the northeast intersection of the Breyman "White Corner" at Commercial and Court Street. This traditional commercial building of red brick was transformed in the 1940s to present modern architectural style with a rounded corner. Mr. George Pearce left the property to his two daughters who became prominent local educators.
  • A " lunatic with a well-whetted butcher knife" attempts a hold-up at Ladd and Bush Bank, but is subdued by Sheriff Minto and two customers.


Firemen parade
    Firemen in a practice drill
    • A happier day for prospective customers is depicted in a photograph of the bank this year. It shows a lively scene at the corner of State and Commercial as the firemen parade with their horses and carriages. Another photograph shows a tender team for the Tiger Company competing in a practice fire drill fireman during a tournament. The number of photographs showing various activities of the downtown tournament this year shows the importance of the five companies of fireman in Salem and the respect that was given their valuable service in a town composed of wooden buildings.
    • The Salvation Army is established with open-air services near the corner of Liberty and Ferry Streets.
    • At 265 Court Street, J. J. Murphy's residence is prominent feature with multiple roof lines, turrets and porches. The family lived there until at least 1905 when George Rose purchased it. The next owner was Charles Bishop whose family owned it until the 1950s when it was willed to Willamette University. After a brief use as a sorority house, it was purchased by the First Presbyterian Church and demolished for the present church building. This residence stood on a Court Street block that had housed generations of Salem's leading citizens.
    • Oregon Pacific Steam Engine #6 was a sturdy pioneer of the local railroad this year, burning loads of wood for power. This engine continued in use until 1915.

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