Though the wild west isn’t nearly as wild as it used to be as the days of guns, gold, and cowboy glory have since come and gone. Still, even though the boots have been hung up, remnants of these rough and rowdy days remain, reminding us how the west was won.
McMenamins is Preserving Northwest History While Serving Handcrafted Brews
Here in Salem, one particular company is dedicated to keeping the past in the present to celebrate and connect us all with the people and events that have helped define our region. Family-owned and operated McMenamins hasn’t just been serving famous handcrafted beer, wine, cider, spirits, and coffee since 1983. They’ve also purchased several historic properties across the Pacific Northwest after extensively interviewing and researching each one they secured while compiling materials to identify and commemorate these properties and surroundings.
So far, McMenamins has accumulated 52 properties, all of which are steeped in art, history, and a sense of place, with locations ranging from neighborhood pubs to historic hotels where live music and talks of days gone by are the norm as you step into the past of what once was and what shall always be. Thanks to McMenamins’ fantastic preservation efforts, you can get lost in the past at places like Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, White Eagle Saloon, and Salem’s very own Boon’s Treasury!
John D. Boon Started Boon’s Treasury in the Mid-1800s
Before Boon’s Treasury was known for its food and drink, it was recognized for its goods and services as Boon Brick Store. It was owned and operated by John D. Boon, a direct descendant of wilderness pioneer Daniel Boone himself, who left Ohio in 1845 to spread the tenets of Methodism by working for the mission established in present-day Salem.
A preacher famous for his red flannel shirt and “strong religious emotion,” his honest, forthright character led to his election as Oregon’s Territorial treasurer in 1851. It would be a job he would keep well into the 1860s, leading him to earn the titles of the last treasurer of the Oregon Territory and the first of the state of Oregon as it transitioned to statehood. During that time, Boon also started his own general store on what was then called Boon’s Island, only the second in Salem and the first brick building in that area of the city.
Boon conducted both state and public business from his brick building on Liberty Street. The story goes he kept two sacks on hand — one for government monies and the other for shop operations. He operated the store that was called a “favorite trading place” in a local newspaper article until his death on July 17, 1864.
William Lincoln Wade Takes Over and Opens Wade’s Hall
After the untimely death of Boon at the age of 47, William Lincoln Wade took it upon himself to infuse his good fortune into the Liberty Street store. The same good luck had already led to his discovery of a 15-pound gold nugget during the California Gold Rush.
He maintained the sterling reputation that Boon had created for his business, now operating as a local grocery store. He even took the store’s role in the community a step further, opening the second floor as available space for public gatherings. Deemed Wade’s Hall, the second floor, would serve as a hotspot for political orations, social galas, club meetings, and the like.
Wade’s young son Murray could be frequently found galivanting about the property, usually with his newfound friend Bert Hoover who moved to Salem with his adoptive family. It was always fun and games between the two, although they could get into quite a bit of trouble. In one escapade, Murray even went so far as to strand poor Bert on the roof of the building, which he thought was a hoot!
Despite the prank, the boys remained lifelong friends, even after Bert became known in the history books as Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States. In fact, one can even find an “HH” that a certain someone carved into the side of the building during his teenage years all those decades ago if you know where to look or who to ask.
As for Murray, he kept up with his silly antics to become a notable cartoonist best known for his drawings of Oregon legislators. He also drew portraits of popular celebrities of the time, many of which used his sketches for promotional pieces in “Variety,” the theatrical trade magazine. They say that Wade most likely had more of his work in the magazine than any other artist of the day.
The Old Liberty Street Building Transforms Once Again, This Time as a Local Watering Hole
After 75 years of being the city’s local general store, the old Liberty Street building took up yet another role in the Salem community it diligently served. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, former hop grower and bowling academy director Fred Karr took over the building and transformed the old state treasury into a beer parlor.
The famous brick building would operate as Karr’s Tavern well into the end of the 1970s, when new owners renovated and reopened the now-local landmark as Boon’s Treasury, adding a touch of its original history with the new name to what had become the favorite neighborhood pub.
It was then that live music was introduced into the old joint, and a series of famous jazz artists would grace the establishment with their presence over the ensuing years, including the first modern jazz pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines. Other cultural icons would also be drawn to the pub over the following decades, including the likes of Jack Nicholson and other cast members of the film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as filming was taking place at the nearby Oregon State Hospital in the winter of 1975.
McMenamins Takes Stewardship of Boon’s Treasury
It was in 1998 that McMenamins took over Boon’s Treasury, which it has remained with ever since as they preserve this now historic two-story Italianate-style brick structure that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. They’ve made a few changes over the years, including the addition of original and vintage artwork and lowering the once-standing counter to provide a more relaxed, seated bar experience.
Still, the sterling reputation that Boon himself created all those years ago remains intact in what is now the oldest continuously operating commercial building in the state of Oregon, with more than 15 decades of dedicated service to its lifespan. It remains a worn-in, welcoming place for warm conversations and good times as always, with an added bonus of interesting music, an historic atmosphere, delicious food, and handcrafted brews thanks to McMenamins’ vast selection on tap. It was a favorite hub then, it’s a beloved hub now and is sure to be a much-loved hub in the Salem community for decades to come!
McMenamins Boon’s Treasury
888 Liberty St NE, Salem