The Wexford Theater in 1911 (Oregon Statesman, Jan. 1, 1911)

In 2019, the Salem Main Street Association asked residents to suggest names for downtown alleys and vote for their favorites. About 600 people weighed in. As part of Salem Reporter’s local history series, Jacqueline Heavey, chair of the design committee for the project, explains the history behind the chosen alley names with historic photos. Read the first installment here, which includes information about Electric Alley.

The city has recently placed all of the alleyway signs in downtown Salem.

Wexford Alley

Alley two is bounded by Liberty, Chemeketa, High and Court Streets. The winning name, with 63% of the vote, was Wexford Alley. This alley was named for the Wexford Theater which used to be located at 467 Court St. N.E.

Judge P.H. D'Arcy, a prominent Salem developer, built the Wexford Theater in 1910. It was described as one of the most advanced theaters on the West Coast and particular attention was paid to the ventilation, which had been "so perfected as to keep the house cool on the warmest days and have fresh air continually." However, Salemites were only able to enjoy the theater for a few short years as the theater burned in 1915. D'Arcy replaced the Wexford with a new building called the New Wexford Building in 1916, though instead of a theater, the Geer-Krueger Co. became the building's new tenant. 

A portion of a Jan. 1, 1911 article in the Oregon Statesman about the Wexford Theater installing a new pipe organ.

Fortune's Corner

Alley three is bounded by Front, Court, Commercial, and State Streets. The winning name, with 56% of the vote, was Fortune's Corner. This alley was named for the two bank buildings in this block and a store which was called Fortune's Corner.

The United States National Bank building architectural drawing presented in 1909.(“$100,000 Fire-Proof Steel Block Being Erected in this City as a Bank and Office Building,"Capital Journal, July 24, 1909)

This block has been home to many banking businesses in Salem. The U.S. National Bank opened in 1909 and was the first building made of steel in Salem. The Capital National Bank, just one storefront north of the U.S. National Bank, was organized in 1885, and a new building facade was constructed in 1892. The new facade, built in the Richardson-Romanesque style, is one of the most recognizable buildings in Salem. Early advertisements for the United States National Bank referred to the area as "Fortune's Corner" in 1908.

A May 13, 1908 advertisement for the U.S. National Bank at "Fortune's Corner" in downtown Salem ran in the Oregon Statesman.

Editor's note: This column is a feature from Salem Reporter to highlight local history in collaboration with area historians and historical organizations. If you have any feedback or would like to participate, please contact managing editor Rachel Alexander at [email protected]

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