Salem Monthly bids adieu to historic offices
The fast paced modern world often makes just yesterday feel like ancient history. But think back 147 years ago to 1859, when Oregon became the 33rd state in the Union. Imagine being present at that beginning, and remaining consistently active in the growth of Salem since then.
The walls of Boon’s Treasury on Liberty Street NE tell that very tale. Designated in the National Registry of Historic Places since 1975 for its participation in historical events as well as its architecture and engineering, the building is a treasure you can enjoy today. In fact, Salem Monthly called the upper story to the building home until very recently.
In the early 1800s trappers working for furriers based out of Astoria settled along the fertile Willamette River.
In the Wild West, land was obtained the old fashioned way: you laid claim to ownership through possession. To encourage settlers to populate the Oregon Territory, the Donation Land Act of 1850 granted every unmarried white male of legal age 160 acres. To own land in a new area was to own the promise — and the profits — of the future. That promise drew settlers across thousands of miles to “wild” territory.
Two families in particular were active in development of the area where Liberty and High become Broadway Street. John. D. Boon arrived in Salem with experience as a public man and entrepreneur, which led to his election as the Treasurer of the Oregon Territory, and later the first State Treasurer of Oregon. John B. McClane came to Oregon in the 1843 wagon train with a military background to explore new territory and build the good life. He would serve as county treasurer, participate in governmental relationships with the Native Americans, and even spend a little time looking for gold in California.
It would seem that Boon jumped a portion of McClane’s claim during McClane’s absence while traveling east. This started a dispute that would be battled in the courts for 13 years.
Woolen mills provided activity and promised future growth on Liberty Street, a wide dirt thoroughfare. Alfred and Sarah Wade saw promise in the area and came to open a boarding house. Buying a portion of the disputed McClane/Boon land in 1860, they paid both potential owners to avoid any future problem. As their business housed workers for the mills, Boon built a two story building next door in which he opened a mercantile to cater to the renters’ consumer needs. Growing towns in this period were often devastated by fire, so the building’s design included a state-of-the art feature described as fireproof: it was built out of brick. What pint-drinking music lovers now know as Boon’s Treasury was born.
The first challenge to the building would be the flood of 1861, an event that literally changed the course of the Willamette River. The building survived, obviously. After the death of Boon in 1864, William Lincoln Wade, son of Alfred and Sally, moved into the space with his own general merchandise business, “The Green Store.”
In 1885, a 10-year-old orphan boarded a train in Iowa, headed for a new life in the west with his uncle, a Quaker named John Minthorn in Newberg, Oregon. The boy befriended Murray Lincoln Wade, a schoolmate and son of William Lincoln Wade. While playing in Wade’s father’s store, the boys carved their initials into the bricks, an activity that is tantamount to tagging a bridge today. The orphan known as Bert to his friends carved “HH” for his proper name: Herbert Hoover.
Through the late 1800s Salem boomed, and bore witness to the exciting advances of emerging modern life. By 1900, Salem boasted a population of almost 28,000 people, with a lifestyle many likened more to a New England town than the outpost for the toughened explorer it had been 50 years earlier. Boon’s Treasury continued to house Wade’s mercantile and be well maintained.
The 1933 repeal of Prohibition made a juice joint quite the lucrative venture, and around this time a hop grower by the name of Fred Karr transformed the building into a beer hall. This change in vocation for the building would last through the 1900s and beyond. Karr’s Tavern continued well into the 1970s until the property changed hands and was operated as Boon’s Treasury.
In 1998, McMenamin’s acquired the business, which was still operating as a tavern hosting live music along with its offerings of food and beverage. Working their magic, the McMenamin’s crew maintained the care of the building while providing it with a feel that is at once unique but also unquestionably McMenamin’s.
Take a stroll past Boon’s Treasury for a look at something that has stood in place for over 140 years. Touch a brick and feel the energy contained within walls that have seen almost seven generations of Salem’s population pass nearby.