They say you can always go home, which couldn’t be more true for houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though their original tenants are since long-gone, the homes still stand as preserved pieces of the community’s history, and here in Salem, there are plenty of these historic houses where residents of today can see where residents of yesterday used to go home to.   

Gilbert House Children’s Museum

116 Marion Street SE, Salem

Before the Gilbert House Children’s Museum was a place where all children could come and play, it was home to a man who would revolutionize the toy industry as we know it. A.C. Gilbert was credited as the “man who saved Christmas.” Gilbert was born in Salem in 1884. He grew up to attend Yale University, where he graduated with a medical degree in 1909. To help pay his tuition, he performed magic tricks he had learned as a child, often making as much as $100 a night. This first job would set the stage for Mr. Gilbert’s future as it provoked him to develop his first toy, a box set of magic tricks he sold for only $5.

Historic Homes Salem
A.C. Gilbert, who first inhabited the Gilbert House Children’s Museum, was an innovative toy maker that would surely would approve of the house’s current use as a children’s museum. Photo credit: Ron Cooper

Soon this creative energy began to transform and grow, accumulating in the creation of the A.C. Gilbert Company, first known as the Mysto Manufacturing Company. Following his philosophy that play was essential to education and learning, he developed several scientific toy sets that enabled children to play with ideas and hypotheses, all while teaching them about the laws of physics, engineering, and nature. They were unlike anything else on the market and provided a platform for Gilbert to testify that were valuable learning tools showcasing the long-term effects of fostering inventiveness, creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving abilities to the U.S. Council of Defense in court during World War I after Congress had declared a moratorium on the manufacturing of toys as they focused on weapons.

His lobbying was successful, and thus, he saved Christmas, so to speak. Now the Victorian House on Marion Street that was once his home has been converted into a dedicated children’s museum with 16 hands-on S.T.E.A.M exhibits, a 20,000 square foot Outdoor Discovery Area and all the fun and learning opportunities a kid could want!

Historic Homes Salem
Obvious departures from a typical bungalow plan you would expect are evident in the Jones-Sherman House as the creator, Ralph R. Jones, was going by a plan from Lindstrom & Almars and making modifications as needed to fit his family’s needs. Photo courtesy: Special Collections

Jones-Sherman House

8350 D Street NE, Salem

If you find yourself on D Street, watch for this historic Bungalow/Craftsman style house built in 1913. The name Jones-Sherman House is an homage to the previous owners, Ralph R. Jones and Charles L. Sherman.

Back in the day, Jones was a contractor who was originally from Ohio. While looking to build his and his family’s personal dream home, he came across “Bungalows,” published by Lindstrom & Almars in 1913 and again in 1915, and took a plan out of the book for his own home.

The finished product was a two-story craftsman-style bungalow that featured a concrete basement, double-hung windows, and triangular brackets under the eaves. The first floor also features overlapping siding while the second floor is shingled, and the front porch is supported by brick and has a cement cap across the width of it. Originally the house was located within a beautiful orchard but has since been moved to the fringe of downtown.  

After Jones and his family moved, Sherman, a professor at Willamette University, became the second owner of the house in 1926. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Historic Homes Salem
Originally the Collins-Downing House was the only well-maintained resident remaining in Salem’s business district, pictured here before it was later moved to its new location. Photo courtesy: Shine on Salem

Collins-Downing House

1340 Chemeketa Street NE, Salem

The Queen Anne-Eastlake-style house on Chemeketa Street, known today as the Collins-Downing House, was built in 1890 by someone whose name is synonymous with Oregon history. George Collins was a successful contractor and brick manufacturer who later served as Warden of the Oregon State Penitentiary and then a Superintendent of Prisons for the State of Oregon. The completed infrastructure featured bay windows, varied siding designs, a multi-gabled roof, and a finely detailed porch, balcony supports and railings.

Robert E. Downing purchased the home sometime later, in 1895. For some time, the large house initially located at 245 Church Street NE was the only well-maintained residence remaining in the downtown business district. Following the 1980s deaths of Hazel Downing Isbell and her husband, Leonard M. Isbell, their home was moved from its original location opposite the Statesman-Journal Building to Chemeketa Street. Since then, the exterior has been restored, and the interior has been remodeled into professional offices and added to the National Register of Historic Places as of 1989.

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The Henry Fawk house was the first home to be built in Salem’s prestigious Fairmount Park Neighborhood. Photo credit: Ian Poellet

Henry Fawk House

310 Lincoln Street S, Salem

The modestly ornamented Queen Anne on Lincoln Street, known as the Henry Fawk House, features a Dutch Colonial gambrel roof with an intersecting cross gabble two-story wing and a stone chimney that serves three rooms inside the home. It had been built in 1902 on a hillside in Salem’s prestigious Fairmount Hill Neighborhood, being the first house to be built on the block.

The home was built for Henry Fawk, who ran a successful farming and stock raising operation in Pol County before moving to Salem, where he invested in commercial and residential real estate. A pristine piece of real estate then just as much as it was now when the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, its historic nomination form described it as the best-preserved two-story Queen Anne in Salem.

Historic Homes Salem
The Buggraf-Burt-Webster House was home to three noteworthy families in Salem’s history, the last to be the Justice of the Peace for Oregon Judge Daniel Webster. Photo courtesy: Groundspeak, Inc.

Buggraf-Burt-Webster House

901 13th Street S.E., Salem

The Queen Anne cottage built in 1895, known as the Buggraf-Burt-Webster House, has had several noteworthy families grace its halls with their presence. Originally the residency was built by architect Charles H. Buggraf as his personal residency, containing Eastlake details featuring stained glass windows throughout and a notable octagonal observatory peaked tower. He remained in the home until he moved to Albany in 1899.

The house’s second owner was Mary Burt, wife of Southern Pacific Railroad engineer Thomas P. Burt. Later, the home was purchased by Julia Webster for her parents, Judge and Mrs. Daniel Webster. Her father, Judge Webster, had been a law student when he enlisted in Wisconsin during the Civil War outbreak. He served all four years, eventually commanding one of the artillery batteries at the Siege of Vicksburg. After the war, he became a county judge and moved to Oregon in 1895, settling in Salem in 1902. He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1906, an office he held until his retirement 12 and a half years later in 1918.

These days the property serves as a certified public accountants office and has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places in April of 1980.

Salem is undoubtedly rich in history, with plenty of historic houses serving as tangible reminders of the families that built our beautiful community. They remind us that Salem is indeed our home and will always be.

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