Friday, June 7, 2019

Bearscat Baking to Open in Former Garage, now Ira's Alley

Business names are strange sometimes! The paper's got an online notice that "Bearscat Bakehouse" is going to go into the old Croissant & Co. space.

(As with "Growl Movement," what is it with this toilet jokery, even with the appeal to "cowboy" nostalgia? Apparently it works, at least in North Dakota, as they've established a successful business there and are expanding here.)

June 5th, 1919
It's great the space will be full again, and while restaurant news isn't the thing here, it turns out there's some transportation history.

Advertising the renovation, September 23rd, 1983
(The "before" dating of 1909 is too early - see below)
The building is a former garage, and was renovated with more than a little of the 1970s revival of olde-tyme style.

The building has a Ferry Street address
About the building the Downtown Historic District says:
This building, constructed c.1915, is associated with the life of Ira Jorgensen, a leader in Salem's early and developing automotive industry. Born in Cloud County, Kansas, in 1881, Ira Jorgensen came to Salem, Oregon, in 1891, with his parents, Peter and Minnie Jorgensen. Peter Jorgensen soon opened a wagon shop in Salem. Ira took up blacksmithing at a young age, and ventured into his own blacksmithing business in 1903 (after buying the blacksmith shop of John Holmes), which he continued until 1926....
The trail of ads in the paper starts in 1905, when Jorgensen is associated with a fraternal organization.

December 19th, 1905
Though his first tire ads in 1900s might look like those for cars, the tires were for buggies and wagons, and it was not yet necessary to specify them.

August 6th, 1906
Barrick Funeral Home historic postcard
This is plausible for 1909, contra the 1983 ad
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
Corner of State and High with Cook's Hotel
(match the dormers to those in the Barrick postcard)
The horses and wagons are in front of the blacksmith shop
circa 1900, could be before Jorgensen bought the shop, though
(detail, via Oregon State Library)
January 1, 1910 (Salem Hotel = Cook's)
Even in 1910 business for horse-drawn conveyance was viable and noteworthy.

Answers on a downtown a scavenger hunt
(September 8th, 1910)
But the transition to cars did happen, and it appears to have coincided with a new masonry building.

Again from the Historic District:
Five years earlier [than 1926], Jorgensen responded to the mounting ownership of automobiles in Salem (and across the country) by opening an automobile accessories (rims, springs, ties, etc.) business. Ira and his wife, Connie V. Lewis Jorgensen, a bookkeeper, bought the property at 535 Ferry Street in 1925. (At that time a two-story boarding house stood at that location, behind Jorgensen's existing auto repairing and mechanical shop on the corner of Ferry and High streets.) Ira Jorgensen continued to operate his automotive shop, fronting on High Street, through World War II.
April 11th, 1918
Here in 1918 is the first ad for the car and truck business. (This date is more than five years before 1926.) And the masonry building must date from the late 19-teens, replacing the wood-framed blacksmith building. (I think they are in the same footprint, but this may require more verification. With the Elsinore's construction, building addresses on the street shifted in the 1920s it seems. Davinci's in the Jorgensen has a 180 High address, the Elsinore at 170 High address. The modern 150 High is Hopheads, too far north towards State Street in the Bligh Building. There are a few details to clear up, yet! The Historic District keys everything to a Ferry Street address.)

The Ira Jorgensen garage is one of several early downtown garage and auto businesses whose buildings have successfully been repurposed and are still standing. And indirectly it has ties to the earlier blacksmith business and the horse-and-buggy era.

The next wave of mid-century garage and car dealerships came with forms that have been less useful, and these seem sure to be demolished when the are finally redeveloped. (Like with the new Police Station!)

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

My grandfather comes from the tradition of men like Ira moving from being blacksmiths to auto mechanics and auto tires.

His father, James Chamberlain, was born around 1860 in the area south of Dallas to pioneer parents and became a blacksmith like his father. He later moved to Central Oregon at the request of his Uncle Frank Prine to a small settlement what later became Prineville. He worked as the city's main blacksmith. It was there in 1878 my grandfather was born and brought up in the family business to also be a blacksmith.

My grandfather, John Chamberlain, moved back to the Willamette Valley near Falls City as a young man. He continued to work in the area, but as transportation changed he moved on to work on all kinds of wheeled vehicles including early automobiles. My grandfather moved to Salem in 1920 with his young family and lived on North Street and worked at local auto repair shops until WWII. He moved to his maternal grandmother's property on the Lukiamute River in 1945 where he built a log cabin....even though no pioneer in the area actually ever lived in one as sawmills came to the area in the 1830s.

My point is that automobiles and blacksmiths are intricately linked in history.