Learn the storied history of Oregon's capitol buildings
The state of Oregon has had not one, not two, but three state capitol buildings. Two of them met a sudden and unexpected end, destruction by fire. William Willson, a pioneer of Salem, donated some acres from his Donation Land Claim for a state capitol. The first, built in 1855, may have been torched in a desperate fight to move the capitol to Corvallis. A second capitol, built in 1873, was patterned after the US Capitol in Washington, DC. This capitol, adorned with a beautiful copper-clad dome, faced west toward the Willamette River. On April 25, 1935, a fire started in a basement storage area. It quickly spread to the whole structure, and within four hours, the entire thing lay in ruins. After an exhaustive design process, a new capitol was built in the midst of the Great Depression, topped with a golden pioneer.