State Forester's Compound - Salem ORView of the Oregon Department of Forestry compound with the State Forester's Office on the west bank of Mill Creek
Historically identified as the Oregon State Forester’s Office Complex, the Oregon Department of Forestry Complex was developed by workers from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
The Historic American Buildings Survey described this complex as a significant example of New Deal-era planning and development. It includes 4.5 acres originally utilized as the state headquarters for the Civilian Conservation Corps and 7.25 acres purchased for the Oregon State Forester’s Office and forest service supplies. Although new construction exists, the lay-out, buildings and landscaping are a legacy of WPA and CCC work and the collaborative contributions of the US Forest Service and Oregon State Forestry.
When the Oregon State Capitol burned on April 25, 1935, the state’s forestry department lost its home as well since it had been located in the Capitol building. The state headquarters of the Civilian Conservation Corp was already built and operating on the eastern outskirts of Salem when the state acquired land adjacent to it for the State Forester’s Office and for warehousing of supplies and equipment for the state fire patrol system. The CCC administrative building, now named the Forest History Center, and the CCC camp buildings were completed in April 1937 by members of the CCC.
After the land across Mill Creek from the CCC headquarters was acquired, CCC workers prepared the site for construction by using debris from the destroyed Capitol building to fill in low, marshy areas on the west bank of the creek for the State Forester’s Office. Skilled WPA workers began construction of the State Forester’s Office while CCC staff built the more utilitarian Forestry Department’s supply depot structures, including: the Automotive Shop, Motor Pool/Break Room, Forest Management building, and Forest Practices building.
The skill of the WPA crew is still apparent in the administrative building, the State Forester’s Office and the landscaping of the site. Workers used basalt and local flagstone in the stone work of the site’s curving paths, a stone wall along State Street, and stone retaining walls along the banks of Mill Creek. The WPA crew also constructed a concrete equipment bridge linking the CCC camp and the State Forester’s Office. Designed by State Bridge Engineer Glen Paxson, the 96-foot Mill Creek Bridge still has its basalt bridge piers at either end of the structure. At one point it was clad with logs to give the impression of a wooden structure in keeping with the National Park style design used for the lodge-like State Forester’s Office and the complex over-all. There is no record of when the logs were removed. The WPA workers completed landscaping for the complex in 1940.
Although only the State Forester’s Office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, recognition of the Oregon Department of Forestry complex’s significance has been recorded in Oregon’s listing of cultural resources. After the buildings were recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey, a number of the original buildings have been demolished. This is primarily due to the fact that the original buildings served maintenance and warehousing needs while the current use of the compound is primarily for administrative purposes. A management plan for the Department of Forestry (DOF) guides maintenance and construction for the complex in keeping with its importance as DOF’s administrative headquarters.
Historic American Buildings Survey Pacific West Regional Office (2004) Oregon State Forester's Office Complex HABS OR-186: Photographs and Written Historical and Descriptive Data. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/or0533
Project originally submitted by Judith T Kenny on January 15, 2020.
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