Welcome To Salem, Oregon
Salem is a city located in Marion and Polk Counties in Oregon. As of the 2010 census, Salem had a population of 154,637, making it Oregon’s third largest city. Salem is the capital of Oregon and is located an hour from the Cascade mountains to the east, an hour from the ocean beaches to the west, and an hour from Portland - Oregon's largest city.
The city offers an excellent K-12 school system and five institutions of higher education, and over 13 more public and private universities and colleges within a 70-mile radius of Salem. Salem’s educational institutions provide undergraduate and graduate programs and workforce training, as well as contributing to cultural events and art that enrich the community.
Also is Salem are a wide array of restaurants, hotels, and attractions including historic sites and museums, events from sports tournaments to Arts Fairs, theater and music. From our vibrant downtown, several parks and our historic district are within walking distance. Over 1,600 acres of park land invite residents and visitors alike to enjoy the outdoors.
The Native Americans who originally inhabited Salem, the Kalapuyans called the area Chemeketa, which means "meeting or resting place" in the Central Kalapuya language (Santiam). The original Kalapuya pronunciation of the word is Chim-i-ki-ti. When the Methodist Mission moved to the Chemeketa plain, the new establishment was called Chemeketa, but was more widely known as the Mill because of its situation on Mill Creek. When the Oregon Institute was established, the community was known as the Institute.
When the Institute was dissolved, the trustees decided to lay out a townsite on the Institute lands. It is uncertain who chose the name "Salem" for the new town, but it is believed to be one of two people: trustee David Leslie from Salem, Massachusetts, or William H. Willson who in 1850–1851 filed the plats for the main part of the city. There were many names suggested and even after the change to Salem, some people, such as Asahel Bush (editor of the Oregon Statesman), believed the name should be changed back to Chemeketa.
The name Salem is derived from the semitic words (Arabic salam and Hebrew shalom) for peace. The Vern Miller Civic Center which houses the city offices and library has a public space dedicated as the Peace Plaza in recognition of the names by which the city has been known. Salem is also thought to be the original name of Jerusalem used in Genesis 14:18.
It is estimated that the Willamette Valley area has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. The Kalapuyan peoples would gather on the plateau east and south of the current downtown area in the winter and establish camps. They fished and harvested in the streams and fields of the area. One staple of life was the camas root and periodically the Kalapuya would set fires that would clear and fertilize the meadows where it grew.
The first people of European descent arrived in the area as early as 1812; they were trappers and food gatherers for the fur trading companies in Astoria, Oregon.
The first permanent American settlement in the area was the Jason Lee Methodist mission (1840) located in the area north of Salem known as Wheatland. In 1842, the missionaries established the Oregon Institute (the forerunner of Willamette University) in the area that was to become the site of Salem. In 1844, the mission was dissolved and the town site established.
In 1851, Salem became the territorial capital after it was moved from Oregon City. The capital was moved briefly to Corvallis in 1855, but was moved back to Salem permanently that same year. Salem incorporated as a city in 1857 and with the coming of statehood in 1859 became the state capital.
Oregon has had three capitol buildings in Salem. A two-story state house, which had been occupied for only two months, burned to the ground in December 1855. Oregon's second capitol building was completed in 1876 on the site of the original. The Greek revival-style building was based in part on the U.S. Capitol building. The building received its distinctive copper dome in 1893. Tragically, fire claimed the second Oregon capitol building on April 25, 1935. The third and current Oregon State Capitol was completed on the same site in 1938. It is recognizable by its distinctive pioneer statue atop the capitol dome that is plated with gold-leaf and officially named the Oregon Pioneer.
Agriculture has always been important to Salem and the city has historically recognized and celebrated that in a number of ways. In 1861, Salem was chosen as the permanent site of the Oregon State Fair by the Oregon State Agricultural Association. Salem is nicknamed the "Cherry City", because of the past importance of the local cherry growing industry. The first cherry festival in Salem was held in 1903 and was an annual event, with parades and the election of a cherry queen, until sometime after World War I. The event was revived briefly as the Salem Cherryland Festival for several years in the late 1940s.
Salem's citizens have been fortunate to have such a variety of beautiful park areas. In 1950, there were eight park areas totaling 113 acres. The park system has grown to 46 developed parks encompassing over 1,600 acres. The City's park system includes 34 neighborhood-oriented parks that meet the basic close-to-home park needs, along with our community and large urban parks which provide a larger variety of park facilities and areas for Salem's many organized recreation and leisure activities.
For a complete list of parks in Salem click here.
Salem is home to numerous events that are held annually and semiannually. These events range from magnificent seasonal festivals to specific events that are only held in Salem. Discover what Salem has to offer you by clicking here.
No matter the season, there’s plenty to do in and around Salem. Whether you’re visiting for pleasure or business, you’ll enjoy the region’s many attractions. The Salem Heritage Network (SHINE) and Discover-Neighborhood-History (DISCOVER) provide information and events for Salem's historical sites and neighborhoods. You will also find colorful gardens, unique children’s activities, historical museums, and wineries reminiscent of France waiting for you.
For a complete list of attractions click here.
For more information on Salem, OR visit the official website by clicking here.
For the Salem Chamber of Commerce website click here.
For the Salem official tourism and meeting website click here.