While Oregon’s state capitol building is one of five art deco designed capitols (Alaska, Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Dakota … the last three we have visited) it is unique in its combination of Egyptian and modern Greek design.
The building is the state’s third
The First Territorial Capitol, in Greek-Revival style was nearly completed in late 1855 when, on the evening of December 29, 1855, a fire destroyed the first capitol building and many of the territory's public records. Arson was suspected but no one was ever arrested. The site of the burned-out capitol building remained a pile of stones for several years after the fire. A downtown building, Nesmith's Building served as a temporary capitol from 1859 until 1876.
The second capitol, built between 1873 and 1876, was a two-story structure with an additional first level that was partly underground. The government began using the building in August 1876, before the dome was built. On April 25, 1935 at 6:43 pm, a custodial engineer called the Salem Fire Department to report smoke. Citizens helped to remove items from the smoky building, but when firefighters arrived, they ordered everyone to leave the structure, which was soon engulfed in flame. Among the helping citizens was twelve-year-old Mark Hatfield, who later became governor. A strong updraft in the hollow columns enclosing the dome's eight supporting steel lattice girders pulled the flames through the rotunda to upper stories and the intense heat burned even the copper dome.
and was completed in 1938 making it the fourth newest capitol in the United States.
The new capitol was 164 feet wide, 400 feet long, 166 feet in height, and contained 131,750 square feet of usable space. The exterior was finished with Vermont Marble. The lobby, rotunda, and halls were lined with a polished rose travertine stone quarried in Montana. The rotunda's staircases and floor used Phoenix Napoleon marble quarried in Missouri and have borders of Radio Black marble that, like the exterior stone, is from Vermont.
An early complaint about the structure was that the copula resembled a "paint can" rather than traditional domes on other capitols, including the earlier Oregon structures. It was even called a "squirrel cage", lacking in majesty. Additionally, the public was slow to admire the gold “Oregon Pioneer” atop the dome.
In April 2002, the building became the first state capitol in the United States to produce solar power through the use of 60 photovoltaic panels generating 7.8 kilowatts. One-third of the power is used to light the Oregon Pioneer at night; the remaining electricity is sent into the power grid.
Two huge reliefs border the stairs to the front of the Capitol.
The entrance doors
An interesting note about Oregon’s state flag …
It is the only state flag which has a different back side.
In the center of the Rotunda floor is the Oregon state seal, cast in bronze.
Looking up a dome rises 106’
Four large murals grace the Rotunda,
Two murals line the staircases leading to the Senate Chambers
While two others line the approach to the House Chambers.
Over the entrances to both Chambers is the seal of the Oregon Territory before its statehood.
The Governor’s Ceremonial Office
A flag which traveled to the moon on Apollo-11 and four very small specimens of Moon Rock, presented to the State by President Nixon
The Senate Chamber
Mural behind the Senate President depicting the March 17th 1859 announcement Oregon had become a State on February 14th 1859 … it took that long for the approval to be wired to St. Louis from Washington, DC, sent by Pony Express toe San Francisco, forwarded by boat to Portland and then carried overland toe Salem.
The House Chamber
Some other interesting items:
We were able to climb the 121 steps to the outside observation level just below the golf Oregon Pioneer where we had an unsurpassed view of the city and even had a hazy view of Mt. Hood, some 78 miles to the east.
and the spire on the Salem United Methodist Church, ay 185', the only building in Salem taller than the capitol.
Around the Capitol Grounds
Dr. John McLoughlin (October 19, 1784 – September 3, 1857) was a Chief Factor and Superintendent of the Columbia District of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver from 1824 to 1845. He was later known as the "Father of Oregon" for his role in assisting the American cause in the Oregon Country. In the late 1840s his general store in Oregon City was famous as the last stop on the Oregon Trail. He was the first person to govern the Oregon Territory from 1824-1842.
Jason Lee (June 28, 1803 – March 12, 1845), a Canadian missionary and pioneer to United States, and was the first of the Oregon missionaries and instrumental in the American settlement in the Oregon Territory.
The Circuit Rider depicts "one of Oregon's pioneer Circuit-riding Methodist ministers" and commemorates "the labors and achievements of the ministers of the Gospel, who as circuit riders became the friends, counselors and evengels to the pioneers on every American frontier.
These Corinthian column segments originally were part of those that graced the west and east entrance porticos of Oregon’s first state house. The bricks used for the inner core construction or these columns and for the building were made by convicts at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Limestone fluted veneer facings came from Douglas County quarries
Unfortunately, like all too many cities, Salem is not immune to homelessness.
The Oregon State Hospital
was established in 1883 as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, is the primary state-run psychiatric hospital in the state of Oregon since 1995. The 620-bed facility is best known as the filming location for the Academy Award winning film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. The aging facility has been criticized as providing substandard mental health care.
The hospital’s museum’s many exhibits were both extremely educational and disturbing.
During an investigative report by the Oregonian, which won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize, it was discovered that the unclaimed remains of more than 4,000 patients who died at the hospital were stored in copper urns in a hospital basement until 1976. They were then placed in vaults around what had been a fish pond. It was called the Memorial Circle. A headstone was placed there in 1984 to honor all who had died at the hospital.
They were moved due to water damage, which is blamed for the verdigris patina and corrosion found on them in 2004.
A website with a list of all the unclaimed remains, and posted it online with what information is known. There are birth dates, death dates, names and possible spellings differences for names. The list includes state hospital patients as well as workers and members of the community who might have been cremated at the state hospital between 1914 and the early 1970s. Close to 1,000 sets of remains were claimed.
Working with Fisher Funeral Home in Albany, the remaining remains have been double-checked six times before being transferred to new ceramic vessels that will be added to the columbarium wall.
As additional remains continue to be claimed, the ceramic vessels are removed, as can be seen by the empty holes in the wall.
However, the original copper urns have been preserved in a building adjacent to the memorial.