Any tour guide is going to give you the classic things to do in Salem – take a tour of the capital, go to the riverfront carousel, and, if you have children, stop by the Gilbert House Children’s Museum. Things should certainly be on your list – but here are five more than are too often overlooked.
A few people realize that “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” was inspired by Oregon State Hospital – the movie, with Jack Nicolson, was filmed there. Even fewer know about the OSH museum, which includes a ward from the time period, life on the ward, and rotating exhibits.
With it’s acres of rolling hills, woods, and the Bush House Museum, most people notice Bush Pasture Park. What they miss is the Guidance of youth statue in the middle-south corner of the park, right before the hill slopes down toward the baseball fields. Guidance of youth, which depicts a pioneer family lead by a young boy, was erected in 1959 to commemorate the 100th year of Oregon statehood. The first choice for the memorial was a nude woman called “Venus Victorieuse”, which was rejected by the public, so a second contest was held, with this statue as the winner.
A ten-minute walk from Bush park leads you to the Willamete Heritage Center, which includes the original Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. The mill produced fine woolen blankets and fabric for more than seventy years, and employed this author’s great-uncle – Ed Seamster – who lost a finger there. The mill closed in 1962, but the Heritage Center includes a complete tour along with four other buildings. The Mill is the only museum of it’s type west of Missouri and includes a water-powered turbine still capable of generating electricity from the millrace. While you are there, catch lunch at the nearby Million Mill Cafe.
Unlisted in any public document, you can find the governor’s mansion, also known as Mahonia Hall, at 533 Lincoln Street S. There is a private walking path on the outside of the mansion for the especially brave. Do not try to pass the gate; it is secured.
A little more than a half-hour drive east of Salem is Silver Falls State Park, the home of a beautiful waterfall and hiking trails. The waterfall is handicap accessible.
Deepwoods Mansion, Reed Opera House and The Halley Ford Museum are all worth a look if you have the time. Take a dinner cruise on the Willamette Queen and enjoy your your time in Salem, Come and explore this beauty by yourself. Leave a comment to tell me what I missed!