A GREAT PLACE TO BE A TOURIST Salem, Oregon
Words and photos by Dennis Begin
For snowbirds travelling along I-5, Salem is usually only a fuel stop with most people knowing little about the Capital of Oregon. Even the origin of the names Salem and Oregon are not well known. Salem is the original location where the Kalapuyan Indians lived along the Willamette River and was referred to as a “meeting or resting place”. Salem is also a Hebrew word ‘shalom’ meaning ‘peace’. As for the word Oregon, or Ouragon, the name describes the ‘Great River of the West’, now known as the Columbia River. This little city is one of my favourite places in Oregon and a great place to be a tourist.
Salem was first settled by Jason Lee, a Canadian Methodist in 1840, and later became the State Capital in 1851. This city of 160,000 is called ‘The Cherry City’, because of its cherry blossoms in the spring. The government buildings are easy to find in the downtown area. The architecture of the State Capital is described as classic art deco, with various types of marble making up the building materials. The Rotunda is finished in historic murals depicting Oregon’s history, such as Lewis and Clark and the Oregon Trail. On top of the State Capital is the statue of the Golden Pioneer or The Gold Man. The statue is 8.5 tons in weight, covered in gold leaf and is 7 m (23ft) high. There is an Observation Deck at the base of the Golden Pioneer, providing a panoramic view of the city. Guided tours are recommended.
Inside the capital building are the Offices of the Governor, Secretary of State and the State Treasurer. The major democratic functions take place in the dual chambers of the Legislature (House) and the Senate. A visit would not be complete without a walk through the State Capital Park across the street from the main entrance. Plaques throughout the park depict the history of the state. The modern water sculpture in the park is known as The Wall of Water. Address - 900 Court St. NE Salem COVERED BRIDGES The State of Vermont is well known for its covered bridges, although Oregon is not far behind. Covered bridges were constructed largely between 1900 to the 1930’s to help preserve the life of a wooden bridge. Originally 450 covered bridges existed in the state, but only 53 remain. Since Salem is split between Marion and Polk Counties, only two covered bridges actually remain in Marion County. To the northeast is The Gallon House Covered Bridge near Silverton, which is the oldest covered bridge in the state. Built in 1916, the bridge is 25m (84ft) long and crosses Abiqua Creek. During prohibition the bridge was used as a drop zone for the bootleggers, with the bridge receiving its