HISTORY OF SALEM: New names for downtown lanes pay homage to the city’s first steel building, a theater that burned down
As part of the Salem Reporter Local History Series, Jacqueline Heavey, Chair of the Salem Main Street Association Design Committee, explains the story behind the new names of Wexford Alley and Fortune’s Corner.
The Wexford Theater in 1911 (Oregon Statesman, January 1, 1911)
In 2019, the Salem Main Street Association asked residents to suggest names for the alleys in the city center and vote for their favorites. About 600 people weighed in. As part of Salem Reporter’s Local History Series, Jacqueline Heavey, chair of the project’s design committee, explains the story behind the chosen lane names with historic photos. Read the first volume here, which includes information about Electric Alley.
The city recently placed all road signs in downtown Salem.
Alley two is bounded by Liberty, Chemeketa, High and Court streets. The winning name, with 63% of the vote, was Wexford Alley. This lane was named for the Wexford Theater which was located at 467 Court Street NE
Judge PH D’Arcy, a prominent Salem developer, built the Wexford Theater in 1910. It has been described as one of the most advanced theaters on the West Coast and special attention has been paid to ventilation, which had been “so perfected that the house is cool on the hottest days and has fresh air all the time.” However, the Salemites were only able to enjoy the theater for a few years, as the theater burned down in 1915. D’Arcy replaced the Wexford with a new building called the New Wexford Building in 1916, although instead of a theater, the Geer-Krueger Co. became the building’s new tenant.
Part of a January 1, 1911 article in the Oregon Statesman on the installation of a new pipe organ by the Wexford Theater.
Lane Three is bounded by Front, Court, Commercial, and State Streets. The winning name, with 56% of the vote, was Fortune’s Corner. This alley was named after the two bank buildings in this block and a store called Fortune’s Corner.
Architectural drawing of the National Bank of the United States building presented in 1909. (“$ 100,000 worth of fire-retardant steel blocks erected in this city as an office and bank building,” Capital Journal, July 24, 1909 )
This block has housed many banking companies in Salem. The National Bank of the United States opened in 1909 and was the first steel building in Salem. The Capital National Bank, just a storefront north of the US National Bank, was organized in 1885, and a new building facade was constructed in 1892. The new facade, constructed in the Richardson-Roman style, is one of the most recognizable buildings in Salem. The first advertisements of the National Bank of the United States referred to the region as “Fortune’s Corner” in 1908.
A May 13, 1908 advertisement for the National Bank of the United States at “Fortune’s Corner” in downtown Salem was published in the Oregon Statesman.
Editor’s Note: This column is a feature of Salem Reporter to highlight local history in collaboration with area historians and historical organizations. If you have any comments or would like to participate, please contact Editor-in-Chief Rachel Alexander at [email protected]
JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM – We report to your community with care and depth, fairness and precision. Receive local news that interests you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $ 5 per month. Click on I want to subscribe!