Saturday, April 8, 2017

Springtime at Deepwood

In the heart of our state capitol a tiny piece of history waits. Near busy Highway 22, behind the sprawling modern hospital, surrounded by the din of the city, Deepwood Estate remains a microcosm of Victorian Salem.

The original Queen Ann-style home stands proudly in five acres of gardens and woodland. Occupied by three different families between 1894 and 1968, the beautiful house retains much of its Victorian flavor. Tours of the house give visitors an up-close look at exquisite stained-glass windows, period furniture, and original paneling. One can also sneak a peek at such niceties as a servant's stairway, a pull-chain toilet, and a wooden fuse box (not the best idea, in this writer's opinion). The house also features changing exhibits of historical items from Deepwood's extensive collections. Besides offering guided tours, the home hosts special events throughout the year, including very popular teas.

Tours are only available early in the day, and a fee is charged. The gardens, however, are open from 5:00 A.M. to midnight, and they may be visited free of charge. The grounds are worth visiting almost any time of year, but during springtime they are truly at their best. After a long, wet Oregon winter, it is a palpable relief to stroll among the blooms, smell the daphnes, and listen to the robins. The formal gardens close to the house date from the 1930s and consist of a series of garden "rooms." You will find a gazebo, a tunnel of ivy, and a tiny "secret" garden tucked alongside the house. There are lawns, hedges, and wide, beautifully-manicured flower beds. Look for an ancient quince tree near the carriage house; it is now held up by chains and a metal framework. Caught in a rain shower? Head for the greenhouse, which is filled with a variety of unusual plants.

The edges of the formal plantings flow into a natural woodland. Spring finds this area awash with wildflowers, and a maze of pathways provides for endless wandering. It's easy to tune out the sounds of nearby traffic in this shady dell, watching songbirds and taking pictures. Follow the path down to Pringle Creek, the dividing line between Deepwood and Bush's Pasture Park, which is also worthy of a visit. While in the woods near the house you may come upon a wide, flat paved area: the old tennis court, now bereft of its net and surrounded by wildflowers.

Outside of the formal gardens on the corner of 12th and Mission, Yew Park is a perfect picnic spot. This part of the park is not technically historic, but it provides picnic tables, trees, a lawn area, and a wide, generously-planted border garden that changes with the seasons. There is plenty of parking here under the trees, and pets are welcome. Click here for directions to the Estate.

The word "salem" means "peace," but modern Salem is a noisy, busy place. There are still places in our capitol where peace can be found, though. Visit Deepwood and rewind to the turn of the last century, when Dr. Port built his home just south of the growing river town.

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