Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More on This Year's Century Buildings: Court Apartments and Roth Building

You already knew about McKinley Elementary School's 100th anniversary. There's a few more buildings in Salem also celebrating 100 years this year. Here's a few notes on some of them.

One of the largest building types in or on the edge of the "missing middle" of housing density is the small, streetcar scaled apartment block of a century ago.

Salem has very few of these remaining, and it happens that one of them is 100 years old this year.

Court Apartments - Jan 1st, 1916

Detail of the "middle"

Today, via the google at Court and Cottage
According to the paper's 1915 year-end wrap in real estate,

Despite the fact that the year has been a pretty hard one in some respects, Salem has added a quarter of a million dollars worth of buildings to its list. Of these the three story brick apartment house at 685 Court easily leads. It is a beautiful building and is splendidly planned with heat, light and all modern conveniences. It was built by Geo. P. Rodgers and Charles H. McNary at a cost of $40,000, and is substantial evidence of their faith in Salem's future.[*]
Because of ADA stuff and parking requirements, a building like this is almost certainly illegal to design and construct today. But it surely meets a need for walkable mid-level density, and is a basic building type that deserves an updated revival in official code. (Certainly in Portland the larger and somewhat later designs of Elmer Feig and his peers are very high in demand and have shown themselves to be a very useful building type. But these clearly don't count as "missing middle.")

The YMCA purchased the building in 1972, and a few years ago the peace mosaic was applied to its base.

Rodgers was mayor from 1907 - 1910, and McNary of course was US Senator from 1917  - 1944. At the time the building was planned and built, he was a Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court.

Roth (Fred Legg, left) & McGilchrist (George Post, center)
after renovation - via CD Redding
Another important pair of buildings celebrating 100 years - in especially fine style with the renovation - is the McGilchrist and Roth block (though we'll fudge a little, as the McGilchrist really wasn't finished until 1916):
Liberty street also has gained two fine buildings, that of the Roth Company a two story brick on the east side of Liberty between State and Court, the lower floor of which is occupied by the Roth Company with its big grocery stock and the upper floor has been leased and beautifully furnished by the Y. W. C. A. Its cost was $18,000.

The other is in course of erection by the Wm. McGilchrists, Sr. and Jr. It is located at the corner of State and Liberty, and all its space it is understood has already been engaged. This it is estimated will cost $20,000.
The paper also lists the Moore building at 409 Court Street, but other sources say it was finished in 1916.

Some other notable commercial buildings seem likely to have been demolished and are no longer around. Most of the housing built in 1915 is one- and one-and-one-half story construction of modest size, many with costs of around $1000.

As a comparison, year-end advertorial on the Vick Brothers shows both the growth in cars as well as underscores how expensive they remain. In 1911 it says a Ford cost $875, and in 1916 one will sell for $493.25.

If a nice, but small new house could be built for around $1000, that's still basically "half a house" for a car! Cars were still luxury goods at this time.

January 1st, 1916
A newer Vick Brothers garage from 1920 still stands at the corner of Trade and High.

Vick Bros., 1920, by Fred Legg
Very amusing is that right next to the Vick Bros. piece is this note: "Please don't let us vote," anti-suffragists beg senators.

January 1st, 1916
The placement on an "auto" themed page, between an article on Marion County road building and the Vick Bros., seems like an implied appeal to a relatively wealthy and conservative audience. Oregon had already given votes to women in 1914, so this is an interesting and not a little ambiguous cameo of reactionary sentiment.

Virginia Green's historical digest for 1915 also has more on the year.

* The image caption has correct middle initials for both of them, George F. and Charles L.

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