Located on the Willamette River, Salem, Oregon, (population 170,000) was settled around a classroom, the Oregon Institute, founded in 1842 by the Methodist Mission. The town was designated as the territorial capital in 1851 and became the state capital in 1864.
The arrival of the railroad in 1871 gave new impetus to commerce and agriculture. The wool, timber, and canning industries of the past have now largely been replaced by service companies, with the state of Oregon as the largest employer.
The brick buildings of the booming 1890s are prominent in Salem’s revitalized Historic Downtown District, in its urban business and professional center near the Capitol, and at the original school, now Willamette University.
Salem’s historical sites include the Mission Mill Museum, which preserves the structures of one of the region’s earliest settlements, as well as interpreting the industrial history of the area through the buildings and equipment of the 1889 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. The Bush House Museum represents Salem’s business history, and Deepwood Estate highlights turn-of-the-century Salem through its 1915 Queen Anne house and historically significant landscape architecture. Visitors to Salem can choose from five self-guided walking and driving tours of the area.
Each year, Salem celebrates “Sheep to Shawl” at the Mission Hill Museum. The event, which draws up to 900 visitors, highlights Oregon’s woolen history with fiber animals, sheep shearing, machinery demonstrations, and house tours. On the first Wednesday of the summer months, Salem Historic Downtown hosts entertainment, activities, and a market, as well as a walking tour of historic downtown structures.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2007.