Located in the center of Bush’s Pasture Park, the Bush House Museum and Bush Barn Art Center were built for a Salem pioneer family. Asahel Bush, who had the house and barn built, was the founder of the Oregon Statesman newspaper and later a banker. He and his wife Eugenia purchased the land that became Bush’s Pasture Park in 1860, though she died three years later of tuberculosis. The house that is now a museum in the park was built in 1878 for Asahel Bush and his four children.

In 1953, after the last of Asahel Bush’s children had died, the park and the house (along with the barn and greenhouse) became a park and museum run by the Salem Art Association. The Association had purchased the contents of the house and opened the house as a museum with a space for art exhibits, which continues today.

A Victorian Family Home

Visitors to the museum now experience a Victorian family home with most of the original furnishings of the Bush family. Incredibly luxurious for its time, it had gas lighting, indoor plumbing, and central heating. The house’s public areas have antique furnishings, including a pump organ, portraits of the family, and furniture that would have been typical of a wealthy family of the time.

In the more private areas, both for the family and for the servants, visitors can see how differently the Bush family and their servants lived than we do now. The kitchen has many items that wouldn’t be in a modern kitchen, from a meat grinder to an icebox, but were fancy for their time. While old-fashioned to visitors, the bathroom adjacent to Asahel Bush’s bedroom was one of the first indoor bathrooms in Salem and includes all of the original fixtures.

Bush House Museum
A portrait of America Waldo Bogle and family, by Jeremy Okai Davis. The painting hangs in the new America Waldo Bogle gallery at the Bush House Museum. Waldo Bogle is third from right. Photo courtesy: Cspaced – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

America Waldo Bogle Gallery

The Bush House Museum continues to feature art exhibits, as it has since its founding. In June 2023, the Salem Art Association revealed a newly-renamed gallery. The America Waldo Bogle Gallery is a contemporary art gallery named for an early Salem resident who was one of the first Black women in Salem. A portrait of her with her family, by Jeremy Okai Davis, hangs in the gallery. Along with the picture of Waldo Bogle, Okai Davis’ commission asked him to paint portraits of overlooked Black Oregon pioneers. The outstanding results are hanging in the gallery.

The gallery has a more complicated meaning than just celebrating an overlooked Black woman pioneer. Asahel Bush was incensed at the marriage of America Waldo to Richard Bogle in 1863 because the crowd included both Black and white attendees. He even complained about it in the Oregon Statesman. Yet the Bogle family found great success despite Bush and others who harbored racist attitudes toward Black settlers. Waldo Bogle and her husband eventually moved to Walla Walla, Washington, where they ran a 200-acre ranch, and her husband worked as a barber.

Bush House Museum
The Bush Barn Art Center, formerly the Bush family’s livestock barn. Photo credit: Mollie Nouwen

Bush Barn Art Center

Now operated by the Salem Art Association, the Bush Barn (originally built to house the Bush family livestock) hosts professional gallery showings of art that change monthly. The gallery focuses on bringing in local and regional artists working now and has rotating exhibits throughout the year. The Salem Art Association is the leading arts funding for the Mid-Valley and does a variety of community art education projects. They have an artists in the schools program, art workshops, and summer camps for kids.

Bush House Museum
One of the galleries at the Art Center features contemporary work by local and regional artists. Photo credit: Mollie Nouwen

Salem Art Fair

The most important event for the Park and the Association is the Salem Art Fair, which takes place every July in Bush’s Pasture Park. Next year, the Fair will celebrate 75 years in existence, and it’s a staple of the Salem summer calendar. The Art Association takes over much of Bush’s Pasture Park with artist tents, with artists from throughout the country and in various media. In addition to the artist tents, there is a children’s area with a plethora of activities, from painting a mural to making a pet rock and spin art. The Art Fair also includes some artist demonstrations, from street art to sculpting stone, as well as musical performances throughout the weekend.

Between the Barn and its Annex are four galleries, a gift gallery, and a studio for an Artist-in-Residence. Entrance is always free, and it’s open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 12 to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Bush House Museum is open Thursday through Saturday with guided tours at 1, 2, 3, & 4 p.m. Free tickets are available at the Bush Barn Art Center.

The Bush House Museum
600 Mission Street SE, Salem

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