Thursday, March 25, 2021

On the Edge of Piety Hill: Redevelopment of Holman Row on Court Street

You may recall the succession in urban development at the site of the new Police Station. First wood-framed buildings, including an early hotel; then the car dealerships; and now the municipal office building. So far, as best as I can tell, three distinct phases is the most any site in Salem has undergone. No place in Salem has had four distinct phases. We just aren't old enough.

The site for the new Veterans housing across the street from the YMCA will have had only two phases, a residential phase, and now this apartment block. And since they are both residential, maybe they don't really count as distinct, and perhaps only the part of the block with First Presbyterian itself has had two fully distinct phases. 

Still, within that residential phase there is a succession that might be a little interesting to consider. This will be only a postcard level sketch, as there are many missing or uncertain details.

Holman Row

Joseph Holman house, corner of Court and Cottage
circa 1870s or 80s (Salem Library Historic Photos)

At the moment, the first known building on the corner is the large house built by Joseph Holman. With the New Holman Hotel possibly breaking ground some time this year, on the site of the first Holman building and the Marion Car Park, the Holman name will be in the news. He had heard Jason Lee and came to Oregon in the Peoria Party of 1839. He was also involved in the Chemeketa Hotel and other civic and government initiatives. Holman probably deserves more attention.

There was a family compound here on Court Street. On his land there were houses for his children, though it's not clear whether he built them or just provided the land. Son George and daughter Mary, who married John Albert, had slightly less grand houses right next door.

North side of Court between Cottage and Winter
circa 1870 (Salem Library Historic Photos)

Albert was the father of Myra Albert Wiggins, and in 1888 he moved his house to the current site of the Emergency Room building at the Hospital, on Winter Street just above the creek, in the University Addition.

Inset from the 1890 flood (more on that here)

August 31st, 1888

It's not clear how much of an investor and developer Albert was in the addition. But you can see it was pretty big by 19th century Salem standards, wrapping around the south and east side of Willamette University and the depot.

University Addition, 1892 map at the Mill

Albert was an important banker here, and would have had money and access to additional capital, for a large land project. For nearly 20 years he was an executive with Ladd & Bush, and then in 1884/85 founded the Capital National Bank, whose Romanesque remodel in 1892 was an early design associated with W. C. Knighton, and which we prize today in the Downtown Historic District. (See "White, Furness, McNally and The Capital National Bank of Salem, Oregon" with a less appreciative look at the remodel and copying a bank in Philadelphia.)

Capital National Bank building - UO

Albert died a century ago, on December 30th 1920. He is buried in the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery. His second wife, Mary Holman, we remember as Salem's first automobile death in 1905.

December 30th, 1920

George's house remains a bit of a mystery, and maybe there will be more to say another time. He moved to Portland and Salt Lake and is less significant in our history here also. More than as a person, though, he figured as an idea in Salem history, perhaps displacing Robert Judson as "first white boy" in our origin myth.

Oct. 4th, 1924

One later account suggests he moved to Salt Lake in 1892, and that would be consistent with the next house on the lot. His death notice appeared here on July 30th, 1927, and a much longer obituary on August 7th.

Phase Two: Krausse, Murphy, Buren, Rodgers Houses

Starting in 1888, then, the whole row and block face transitioned to new families and new houses.

The second phase of residential development

The Krausses were the first, following John Albert's move of his house. Otto Krausse had married Elizabeth Dalrymple, the sister of John Albert's daughter-in-law, who had married son, Joseph Albert. So there was a family connection on the transfer of the lot. Salem was still a small town with lots of interrelatedness!

Otto Krausse house, built circa 1889
corner of Court and Winter
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

The Library's captions say this was demolished for the State Library building, but it's actually across the street from the Library and is the current site of the mid-century office building around which First Presbyterian wraps. Maybe the demolition occurred when the Library's site was cleared, but it's not on the Capitol Mall itself. The captions also date the house to 1885, but it couldn't be built until after Albert moved the house in 1888. So there are some details here that might need to be cleaned up.

May 16th, 1890

The next house was the Murphy house circa 1894, and it is particularly interesting because it may be another early house designed by W. C. Knighton, who had just wrapped Deepwood and would later do the Supreme Court Building. It is interesting, relatively speaking anyway, how much cleaner is the facade than that of the Krausse house. The emphasis is on the volumes, not ornament. The volumes are a little Romanesque, like the Capital National Bank, with much less Victorian gingerbread overall. I see an echo, anyway.

J J Murphy house, midblock
Old St. Joseph's steeple in background
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

July 3rd, 1894

There is a good bit of confusion on this house. In her SHINE historical digest, Virginia Green suggests the Murphy house was "moved to Willamette University to be the president’s residence. (1880-1955)" In his 1943 Chronicles of Willamette, Robert Moulton Gatke doesn't appear to reference the house as President's residence, and the 1880 date in SHINE is before the house was built. Another entry on the move of the 1928 First Presbyterian Church suggests the Murphy house was demolished around 1963 for a church annex (but the Murphy house again dated too early, this time "before 1886"). The captions in the Library's Historic Photos collection aren't very clear, either. There are several uncertainties here. (See update below for resolution to some of them.)

J. J. Murphy died in 1907 and is buried in the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery.

June 20th, 1907

the 1895 Sanborn map

The Joseph Holman house appears to have disappeared around 1907 also. It's not yet clear why, whether by fire, moving, or other demolition. The lot was also divided in two at that time or thereafter. 

December 2nd, 1899

It is interesting to note that niece, Myra Albert Wiggins, temporarily had an art studio in the house, advertising it in October, November, and December of 1899.

Max Buren house, after Columbus Day Storm
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

In the burial record for Max Buren is a citation from the morning paper on October 19th, 1907:

FINE NEW RESIDENCE -- Max O. Buren Is Building at the Corner of Court and Cottage Streets.

Max O. Buren, of the furniture firm of Buren & Hamilton, is having erected at the corner of Court and Cottage streets a splendid new residence. This makes the third fine residence to be erected on that quarter of the block this summer, giving that portion of the city a very creditable appearance. Mr. Buren's house will at once attract the eye of passersby as being of a unique and pleasing style of architecture, and may be classed among the English half=timbered styles of today.

A particularly noticeable feature of the exterior of the building will be the stucco work on the upper story. Large chimneys, occasioned by grand old fireplaces, broad eaves, low, well-sheltered porches and quaint windows will be other noticeable features.

The dimensions of the house are 38 X 60 feet and besides nine nice large commodius rooms, an ample garret and a cement lined basement are provided. A sleeping porch from the second story will be another new departure. Every modern appliance and convenience in the way of gas, electricity and plumbing of every description will be installed.

Pugh & Legg are the architects of the building, the erection of which is in the hands of Contractor F. B. Southwick.

Walter D. Pugh and Fred Legg designed many buildings in Salem. The house may have been demolished circa 1963 at the same time as the Murphy house.

The final house in the second phase is the Rodgers House, built around 1911, and designed by George Post, who would go on to do the Carnegie Library, McKinley School, and the McGilchrist block. And there's another family connection: Mrs. Rodgers, Blanche Albert, was the daughter of John Albert and Mary Holman, and the sister of Myra Albert Wiggins.

George Rodgers house, when the Chamber was in it
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

December 30th, 1911

The Library captions a photo:

This beautiful two-story building had previously been the home of George F. Rodgers, President of the Salem Paper Company, with a Court Street address across from Willson Park and the Capitol grounds. The Chamber's address placed it on Cottage Street. The Chamber of Commerce occupied it until 1995 when it was bought by the Y.M.C.A. and burned in 1997.

Earlier photos of the corner do not show the single-story sidecar bolted on the the two-story house, and that is likely a later addition. The big portico also seems to be a later addition.

Cities have Churn

So here we have multiple instances of the loss of large houses associated with prominent citizens. In our current mode, we might designate them as "local landmarks" or even try to place them on the National Register of Historic Places. And, it's true, they are all in varying degrees impressive and lovely houses. (In "The Children of Piety Hill," Virginia Green looks at the section one and two blocks east, taken over by the office monoculture in the Capitol Mall.)

The Joseph Holman house site today

But it is in the natural order of things for a city to change. The real loss is not the loss of a house, but the sterile fallowness of the graveled or paved empty lot. Urban lots should be built on! Buildings and the human lives, commerce, and culture that occur in and around them are what make a city. Not empty lots, not surface parking lots.

We have this idea sometimes that everything old is worth preserving, and this is not always true. It has seemed also like we spread our preservation resources too thinly, not allocating enough to the really important, and allocating too much to the inessential. Historic preservation has partially succumbed to mission creep as crypto-exclusionary zoning and a way to deny the historic reality of change and dynamism in cities.

Here, it will be great to see across the street the new YMCA and on this corner a new apartment block for Veterans.

Addendum on the Murphy House, March 2nd, 2024

Here's some on the Bishops' purchase of the Murphy house, and then a note on its demolition in 1955. The paper then mistakenly claims the Bishops had it built.

October 11th, 1923

October 7th, 1955

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added a definite date for the demolition of the Murphy house.