Why name the alleys?
Naming a place gives it power and identity. Naming recognizes otherwise hidden or forgotten places and brings energy to those places. It’s an opportunity to honor our local history, culture, and geographic features, as well as a way to talk about and find the businesses located in the alleys and encourage more businesses to locate along them.
The Winning Names
1. Electric Alley
Named for the Electric Building (also known as Yeater or PGE Building) and the Electric Apartments that face along Liberty St. N.E.. The Portland Railway, Light & Power Co. erected the “Electric Building”, located at 241-249 Liberty St. N.E., in 1917. At the opening reception, Mrs. M.E. Hawley, official demonstrator and domestic teacher, baked a variety of baked goods for guests to “demonstrate the efficiency of electricity.” Mrs Hawley made the Portland Rose Cake, The Salem Cherry, and the new Edison Cake. Guests described the Edison as very light. In the mid-1950’s, a tenant covered the facade and the “Electric Apartments” inscription near the roofline was hidden until 2006 when a developer remodeled the building.
2. Wexford Alley
Named for the Wexford Theater which used to be located at 467 Court St. N.E.. Judge P. H. D’Arcy, a prominent Salem developer, built the Wexford Theater in 1910. It was described as one of the most advanced theaters on the West Coast and particular attention was paid to the ventilation, which had been “so perfected as to keep the house cool on the warmest days and have fresh air continually.” However, Salemites were only able to enjoy the theater for a few short years as the theater burned in 1915. D.’Arcy replaced the Wexford with a new building called the New Wexford Building in 1916, though instead of a theater, the Geer-Krueger Co. became the building’s new tenant.
3. Fortune’s Corner
Named for the two bank buildings in this block and a store which was called Fortune’s Corner. This block has been home to many banking businesses in Salem. The U.S. National Bank opened in 1909 and was the first building of steel in Salem. The Capital National Bank, just one storefront north of the U.S. National Bank, was organized in 1885, and a new building facade was constructed in 1892. The new facade, built in the Richardson-Romanesque style, is one of the most recognizable buildings in Salem. Early Advertisements for the United States National Bank referred to the area as “Fortune’s Corner” in 1908.
4. Durbin’s Alley
Named for the Durbin Brother’s Livery located at 120 Commercial St.. The Durbin Brother’s had a wooden building at the corner of State and Commercial Streets by the early 1860’s. The wooden structure burned in 1867, and the brothers built a new, brick livery near the same spot that year. The building is still there, though heavily remodeled.
5. Cherry Lane
Named after Salem’s nickname of “Cherry City” for the many cherry orchards found throughout the area. Salem’s official title of “Cherry City of the World” was given in 1907. Salem celebrated this heritage with a city- wide Cherry Fair (1903-1950) that included carnivals, dances and parades. The Willamette Valley Cherry Growers and Oregon State University became well-known for developing a new brining method for creating maraschino cherries.
6. Hops Alley
Named for T.A. Livesley, a prominent hop farmer and Mayor of Salem (1927-1931). He was known as the “Hop King” of Oregon who built the Capital Tower on this block. He also built the now named Mahonia Hall in 1924 for his family; the official residence of the Governor of Oregon.
7. George Lai Sun Alley
Named for the contributions that George Sun made as Mayor of Salem’s Chinatown that was once located on this block. George Lai Sun was the unofficial Mayor of Salem’s vibrant downtown Chinatown, a block full of medicine shops, dry good stores, food markets, and gambling and opium houses. Initially invited to help build the region’s roads, levees, dams, and railroads, worsening economic times brought scrutiny to the immigration of Chinese residents and the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 made life harder for those already here. In Salem, the City Council condemned Chinatown in 1903. Though it was never officially burned, as directed in the Ordinance, developers began pushing out Chinese residents with high rent. By the 1930’s, not many were left. In 1922, Hal D. Patton invited George Lai Sun, among many others, to speak at his fiftieth anniversary. These are Sun’s words about his time in Salem: “I like Salem because all people treat me nicely. Then my children all grow up.They can vote but I have been here so long, for fifty-four years next June, I ought to be a citizen. I ought to be voting too. I see some country-man come over to this country; he stay not very long, three or four years; he can vote. Why I be here fifty-four years altogether, why I cannot vote. I ought to be citizen too. They must make mistake, something wrong.”
8. Peppermint Flats Alley
Named for the mint that used to grow in this part of town during the historic period. Peppermint Flats is a verified historical name referencing the area of town which used to be located along the bank of an old river channel that formed a ravine-like area. In 1939, long time Salemite and attorney Carey F. Martin described the ravine as located generally along Trade St., “through the block on which Crystal Gardens dance hall [was] located and on northeasterly under the Salem Hotel and the Oregon building to somewhere about the corner of the present courthouse.” Martin was reporting on an old story that a steamboat once used this ravine to dock at the County Courthouse during the 1861 flood, a story which, according to his research, was true. Peppermint Flats was infamous for its association with the old hanging yard and questionable businesses in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Both Martin and local historian Ben Maxwell reported that the area was a target of the “moral crusades” of Governor Oswald West in the 1910’s.
To be determined by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.