|Undated sketch of Royal Court Apartments|
University of Oregon (but they've removed the link it seems)
Just on that alone, though, it appears this was a significant commission for Salem.
The legend on the drawing says the building was "for Adam Engel," who was an even greater mystery.
Now we can fill in some of the blanks.
|December 4th, 1927|
The ad copy also centers the name of the builder, Adam Engel, as if he were widely known, even something of a "brand," and portrays him as a magnanimous benefactor:
I have been planning to give to the city of Salem an apartment, up to date in every way, and at the same time, in reach of every wage-earner to afford to live in...I came to Salem six years ago. I worked for the people and with the people and tried to satisfy them at the same time. Since that time I have built 186 homes in Salem, the Engel Court Apartments, and now the Royal Court Apartment.You might also recognize the name "Giese-Powers" from the goose and ghost sign in the "Electric Alley" in between Liberty and Commercial and between Court and Chemeketa. It is formally designated a mural in the City's public art collection.
But what about the Engel Court Apartments and all those houses?
Engel first shows up in Salem newspapers in the Spring of 1922 with a want ad for "6 first class carpenters" and "no union men." The address was for a small cottage on High Street near the future site of South Salem High School. It's not clear if that's what he was building or if that was his office.
By 1924 he was running display ads for his home building activity and with a home office clearly designated.
|August 24th, 1924|
|1420 Fifth Street NE as it appears today|
|Half-page ad, January 1st, 1925|
Mr. Engle [the spelling shifts throughout] has a thrifty habit which makes paying rent look to him like an almost criminal waste of money when by his plan of home building the householder can buy a home for practically what the rent amounts to. His patrons may select their own lot and their own plans for a home. By making a small payment down on their contract with Mr. Engle he will build the house complete and turn it over to the householder at a nominal monthly payment which puts a good home within the reach of every family which is paying from $40 to $60 a month rent.It appears this was the model he learned in California and that it may have been novel here. It's not clear whether he had individual investors, if banks were backing him, or whether he had enough wealth of his own to capitalize all this.
When a stranger comes into town and is able to leverage business activity like that, there's always more to the story.
Just a year later, he moved into apartments.
|January 1st, 1926|
|Now the "Capitol Court," formerly Engel Court Apartments|
A year later Engel was on to something much more ambitious.
|Front page news, March 30th, 1927|
As we saw, things were delayed a couple of months, but it appears the finished project fulfilled the initial concept.
Six years later, Engel sold the building to William Walton. (See this short biography from January 1967 in a note on a gift to Willamette University and the naming of Walton Hall.)
|May 31st, 1933|
|Apparently the Royal Court is not regarded as historic|
About Engel, there is of course a history to all his single detached homes, and maybe there will be more to say on that another time. Mostly they appeared to be modest cottages, but there was one note about a fancier house very near the current site of Morningside Elementary School, and that might have an interesting story. There's an Adam Engel in Belcrest who seems to be about the right age, and maybe there will be more to say about him also.
But even with those loose ends, it is very nice now to have a history for the Royal Court Apartments.