Salem for History Buffs

Oregon’s second largest city and state capital offers a lush setting alongside the Willamette River with rich sightseeing for history buffs. Once called Chemeketa by the Native Americans who lived here, Salem is believed to have been inhabited for over 10,000 years. It wasn’t until 1840 that the first American Settlement was established and 1851 that Salem became the territorial capital. So if history is your thing, you’ll be sure to love these top cultural institutions in Salem.

Capitol Building

Built in art deco style in 1938, the Oregon State Capitol covers three city blocks and includes Willson and Capitol parks. Incredible artwork can be seen throughout the exterior of the building by sculptor Leo Friedlander, including depictions of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea, with a map of their expedition’s route on the reverse and another of pioneers and a covered wagon, with a map of the Oregon Trail.

capitol building

Live Theatre

Salem is renowned for its live theater, most especially at Elsinore Theatre, a historic landmark featuring recitals, concerts, films, and plays. Elsinore Theatre also has the largest working pipe organ on the west coast, a keepsake from its days as a venue for silent films in the early days of cinema.

Other productions can be seen at the Reed Opera House by Salem Repertory Theatre and the Pentacle Theatre, established in 1954.


Salem’s downtown area is home to the Mission Mill Museum, five-acre site featuring a working woolen mill and Hallie Ford Museum of Art, housing collections of both art and historical artifacts with a focus on Oregon related pieces of art and artists.

Just for kids, the A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village offers interactive exhibits in the sciences, arts and humanities.

Have a unique interest in machinery and power equipment? Visit Antique Powerland, a novel heritage site built for power equipment like farm machinery, trucks, trains, construction equipment and their engines.