Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old Postcard Wednesday--Marion County Courthouse, Salem, Oregon

 



I have already shared some of these postcards from a packet of 15 historic postcard reproductions of places in Salem, Oregon. For the sheer beauty of the photograph, this one is my favorite in the packet and I thought it was deserving of being presented to you super-sized.

Quite a bit of my personal history is right around this area. My grandparents and uncles lived in Salem for a matter of months in 1914 prior to moving on to Berkeley, where my mother was born and we think she was probably conceived in Salem, in a house that was about 12 blocks from the Courthouse shown here. Whether or not that particular timing is true, and I believe it is, it is a given that my grandparents and uncles knew --and most likely fully appreciated-- this same scene. I find that remarkable.

The Courthouse building I know (and where I have served jury duty one time) is the one that replaced this old beauty, described in Salem Online History (click the link to read the full-page history fact sheet):
An architectural historian once described Marion County¹s ornate 1873 Courthouse as a wedding cake. Following its 1952 demolition, some felt it was replaced (by) a cake box. Marion County has had three courthouses, all in the same location. The story of the Marion County Courthouse, is the story of the growth of a State.

Some months ago I posted a postcard with an image of the vintage Oregon State Capitol building shown in the background here. It, like the Courthouse, was replaced by a newer structure. However, that was necessitated by the Capitol being destroyed in a fire unlike the Courthouse, which was systematically torn apart to make way for the new (again, I refer you to the link above). In the past I worked inside the third-and-latest Capitol building in one of my jobs, and all around it in various other buildings (not built at the time of this postcard image).

Note the federal post office in between this beautiful Courthouse and the old Capitol building. My husband works in that spot these days.....not in the same building, however. I got really confused when I read that the building shown here later became Gatke Hall on the Willamette University campus, because Willamette is situated over to the right opposite the Capitol. Wikipedia filled in the confusing gaps for me:
Gatke Hall is the second-oldest building at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, United States. A two-story structure, it was originally built in downtown Salem in 1903 across the street from the Marion County Courthouse and served as a post office. . .
. . . In 1938, the (Beaux Arts styled) building was moved to its present location at 12th and State Streets on Willamette University's campus. The building was moved intact on rollers down State Street in a process that took six months. Once on campus the structure served as home to Willamette’s law school. Gatke was placed at the same location as the original campus building built in the 1840s. That three story building originally housed the Oregon Institute, but burned down in 1871. In 1939, the College of Law moved into its new home.  [Source: to continue reading, Wikipedia]
This is not a post about the College of Law at Willamette University. However, a personal history note is that my ex-husband's acceptance into that law school was what brought me to Salem in the first place! By then the College of Law had moved from the former-federal-post-office-turned-Gatke-Hall, into its own fine building in the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center. Old Gatke Hall now serves as administrative offices.


The building not mentioned on the back of the postcard, but that is a Salem historical landmark still standing today, is the building on the right with the tall spire:
In spite of a national depression and other severe difficulties, the church with the tall white steeple was completed in 1878. Now both a Methodist landmark and an enrollee on the National Register of Historic Places, First United Methodist Church is cherished for its pioneer heritage. [Source: to continue reading, Salem Online History]


The strange but beautiful starkness of the area in this old postcard image simply captivates me. I am used to the trees and other foliage now growing in these blocks, and, where I do not miss all the buildings I am used to seeing, I do miss the familiar greenery. This may sound strange, but the photograph here of the Courthouse and its architectural comrades stirs in me feelings similar to those I have when viewing an Andrew Wyeth painting or an Ansel Adams nature photograph.

The photo below is what the area looks like today. The view is taken from the Capitol Building looking in the opposite direction of the old photograph above. You will recognize the spire of the First Methodist Church. Willamette University campus stands just to the left of this scene, as it is across the street from the Capitol. The fountain and park area is on the Capitol grounds. My husband's office is in the building toward the top across the street from the Capitol grounds. That is the marble building that replaced the federal post office shown in the old postcard, the building now known as Gatke Hall that was wheeled over to the Willamette University campus.

The white marble building across the street (toward the top) from my husband's office building is the Marion County Courthouse of today, the one that was built after they demolished the gorgeous picturesque beauty in the old postcard.





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10 comments:

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

what a shame to see such a fantastic building demolished - from the gothic design i could almost imagine Quazimodo swinging from the belfry - albiet in the wrong country

I've never been asked to do jury service, though my dad's done it 3 times i think. Mostly its sitting about all day waiting to see if the trial goes ahead or not by all accounts. Not like 12 Angry Men then, which is a great film incase you've never seen it :)

Lydia said...

Pixies~ I did see that movie but it was a long time ago. I would like to see it again...maybe a winter-viewing. My jury day was a drug trial...a young man who was arrested dealing in a downtown park. It was pretty cut-and-dried and we found him guilty. I was summoned one other day since, and it was what you described: sitting around all day only to be let go at 4:50p.m. But I met some interesting people to talk with!

Cracked me up imagining Quazimodo (swinging over the ocean?). What a beautiful, beautiful building it was...

izzy said...

Did they tear it down because it was too expensive to fix??? Our old school that became town hall-is in a central location- But repairs and age are outstripping service- it is closed for now...

Hattie said...

That building is French looking to my eye, like a kind of squared off Louvre with a steeple added. Quite pretty. It's too bad it was torn down.

ds said...

Such a shame to have lost that building (why do I have visions of Escher???); it is beautiful.

Lydia said...

izzy~ It seems they were into the mid-20th century craze for all things new. The Courthouse that replaced it really is dullsville!
I hope your old school can be saved.

Hattie~ I wish I knew French architecture in order to understand what you see. I'm sure you have something, as I trust your impressions!

ds~ Yes, Escher too! I had not seen it but I do now that you bring it to my attention. :)

Catfish Tales said...

Such a beautiful place. My middle brother was born in Beverton, and my parents always regretted moving on from your lovely state. It reminds me so much in climate and landscape of many regions in Ireland. Cheers

Lydia said...

Catfish Tales~ It is a lovely place, and I am sure I would feel at home in Ireland because of the similarities you describe. That is just fascinating that you brother was born in B. It is a sprawling city now...

Web To Print Software said...

I would like to appreciate you the way you have shared the post with us. It is really hard to find the quality post, but you have done this job nicely man.

Lydia said...

Web to Print Software~ Giving you the benefit of the doubt that you actually read the post, thanks.

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