Sometimes the reality of Oregon’s history feels deeply surreal. Having grown up in Salem so close to the State Hospital, Fairview home for the mentally disadvantaged, Hillcrest Reformatory school, more than a few prisons, only a thirty minute drive away from Camp Adair where a contingent of the US Army lived, worked and trained from 1942-1946, and the home of serial murderer Jerry Brudos, I’ve always been exposed to the things that make me ask questions.
All histories have their infirm elements.
At the time Oregon became a state in the Union, it was the law to build all state institutions at the capitol city. Some of the first state buildings in Oregon were the prison, the hospital, the reform school, and so on. Salem is still the host of countless state-owned/operated structures, hosting the revenue department, the Oregon Library, the department of forestry, etc.
Many of them have been empty for two years during the pandemic.
I wonder about many things. I remember when our third grade class took a tour of the capitol building and some of its underground tunnels. I remember horsing around with friends near the state hospital and accessing a door which led us to a labyrinth of tunnels leading us under Center Street. Surreal
I’m curious – are those state buildings really empty? How about the tunnels? I don’t know why they wouldn’t be, but It’s nice to know the kid in me who wonders if such things still exist.
This is a photo of a memorial at the State Hospital in Salem. These canisters contained ashes of the unclaimed who died while in the hospital between 1914 and the 1970’s. The ashes were removed from the more than 3,500 canisters and placed in a columbarium to await being claimed by family.
Living in the state capitol can be hypnagogic.