We had two days off from our kayak tour host duties and headed to Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park – and on the way we passed through the town of Silverton, Oregon. What a great surprise!!
Silverton is located on the eastern edge of the Willamette Valley, at the base of the Waldo Hill which are foothills of the Cascade Range. Silverton is a National Historic District and a very cute, walkable town.
The town was originally centered around a large Oregon White Oak which is no longer standing. The oak tree had been a meeting spot along the Santiam Trail for the local Native Americans. Unlike many Western Oregon towns that are laid out in a straightforward North-South grid – Silverton’s main road follows the course of its namesake, the Silver Creek and leads visitors to Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park, Oregon’s largest state park (see our related post on this fabulous park).
The first permanent settlers in the area were part of a wagon train that left Independence, Missouri in 1843. When the group reached Oregon City Daniel Waldo, his family and 68 head of cattle continued to the Waldo Hills. They erected a cabin in December (December?! Whoa!).
Silverton is also the home of the Oregon Garden, an 80 acre botanical park. Located next door to the Oregon Garden is the Gordon House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home open to the public in the Pacific Northwest.
Each summer, Silvertonians celebrate their most famous citizen in the Homer Davenport Community Festival and parade. Mr. Davenport was a political cartoonist and writer from the United States. He is known for drawings that satirized figures of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Although Davenport had no formal art training, he became one of the highest paid political cartoonists in the world. Davenport also was one of the first major American breeders of Arabian Horses.
The first bank robbery and chase scene in the movie Bandits (starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton) was filmed in Silverton. The Palace Theater in the Silverton Commercial Historic District is a movie theater constructed in the early 1900s. Originally called the Opera House, it has been showing motion pictures to the public since at least 1909. The Palace Theater has survived two fires, one in 1935 that destroyed a large portion of downtown, and the other in April 2012. The 2012 fire was mostly limited to the concession area, although the smoke damage was extensive and caused at least one other business to temporarily close.
One of the current co-owners of the theater is the mayor, Stu Rasmussen, the first openly transgender mayor in the United States. A great walking town, Silverton has many nice stores, restaurants and live music.