Creations in Silverton

A typical rainy day in Oregon, as viewed from the patio of Oregon’s only Frank Lloyd Wright house.

For my birthday I spent the weekend in Silverton, Oregon. Saturday I hiked a trail of waterfalls. Sunday I reveled in the creative spirit of the region, and luckily that included reveling in spirits.

I did not know there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house anywhere in Oregon until planning this trip. And even then, I read on a “Things To Do” list that it was nearby, but I didn’t know where. To my surprise, it is on the grounds of the Oregon Garden, an 80-acre botanical garden, walking distance from where I was staying. So first thing in the morning, Pedro and I wandered across the grounds and took photos.

The Gordon House. Designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Located in Silverton, Oregon.

As far as I can tell, this is the only house designed by Wright in Oregon. It was originally constructed in Wilsonville for Evelyn and Conrad Gordon, and completed in 1963 (after Wright’s death). The next owners were not impressed and were going to tear it down. Luckily for lovers of architecture, it was saved and moved to the Garden in 2001. The Gordon House is currently available for rent for small catered gatherings, and the two bedrooms upstairs can be rented for an overnight stay. It is closed for tours because of the pandemic. I am totally interested in staying there one of these days!

Next we made the short trip to Mt. Angel, and the Benedictine Brewery. Yes, the beer is brewed by monks on the site of the Mt. Angel Abbey, using water from their own well, and hops grown on their own land, in the true sense of farmhouse brewing. COVID-19 restrictions prevent indoor seating, but there is a covered awning outside with portable furnaces between tables to keep visitors a little warmer.

We were meeting Tara there, since T had a birthday gift for me and the trip to Mt. Angel is much shorter from Corvallis where they are going to school, than making the drive to Rainier.

I sent this screenshot to Tara, who responded, “The beer…it’s making me….interested in organized religion…”

It was cold outside, but we were dry and the beer was good and we stuck it out. Pedro ordered a pint of Dark Night, and I ordered a flight to share with Tara. This is how I ordered: “I want to try the Black Habit…and uh…how about all the Saints?” “You got it,” the woman behind the counter said, “Don’t want to leave out any of the saints.” “I don’t want to risk implying a favourite,” I said. She poured me samplers of Saints Benedict, Gabriel, Michael Helles, and Raphael. The Black Habit was outstanding. So was the Dark Night. I liked those much better than the lighter beers. Other patrons came, drank a beer, and left. We stayed and had another.

Tara’s birthday gift to me fit in with the creative theme of the day. It’s a hand made sushi set from an Etsy seller. I love the design, the colours, and the texture of the pieces.

It was great to sit and chat with Tara. I’ve missed my kiddo so much during the pandemic. Tara was uneasy about meeting us, and listed all the friends that have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19. They felt better when I explained we would be outdoors the entire time. The tables are on a hill overlooking the fields of what would be hops in a different season. You can tell where hops are grown because they need high wooden frames with twine strung along the tops and between supports, to hold the vines when they grow. Sorry I didn’t get a photo. It’s very distinctive. But even with barren frames, and leafless trees on the borders of the fields, the view of the valley was lovely. We didn’t meet any monks. During the pandemic, for safety reasons, the monks are isolating and not interacting with the public at the tasting house. We did see a monk going for a walk. Maybe it was his habit.

We bought bottles to take home, Tara said goodbye, and we told ourselves that despite the pleasant location, there was more to do in the area than enjoy a brew or two. Or three.

Silver Falls Timber Company painted in 2003 by David McDonald. It shows two “pond monkeys” moving logs to the mill in the background.

As a way to promote their city, the Silverton Mural Society was formed in 1992. The Society commissions and sponsors murals, then takes care to maintain the murals, and re-paint and touch up when necessary. I think there are 31 total. I downloaded an app to find more information about each one, but the app does not contain a map that shows the location of all of them, just 30 different maps showing the address of each one. I looked all over the Internet, contacted the Chamber of Commerce, but simply could not find a map of the murals until I asked the front desk at the Oregon Garden Resort, where I stayed. They had one! Thank goodness. Seems like if the murals are a tourist draw, then maps of the murals would be an obvious accessory.

It was overcast and raining the entire time, but we had fun running around the streets of Silverton, on a “Mural Scavenger Hunt” as Pedro called it. There is plenty of information on the app about each mural, but I’ll leave most of that out in the interest of keeping this post shorter. We did not have time to get all of the murals, so we decided to skip all of those that are concentrated in the center of town, and got the ones on the periphery. That means, of course, that I’ll have to go another day to get the rest. Yay!

On the side of the Roth’s market, this mural pays tribute to a local grocer who commissioned this mural. It was painted in 2015 by David McDonald. Orville Roth was an active member of the community and a donor to the Mural Society.
The Mammoth is the name of a large camera built around 1900 for the purpose of high resolution images. Painted the year the Mural Society was established, in 1992, by David McDonald.

Somewhere in between the Red Sox and Our Twentieth Century, we took a wrong turn and got lost in an alley during our scavenger hunt. It was serendipitous, since alleys have multiple uses, particularly when one has spent the previous three hours with the Saints.

Commerce and art blend here, when Rite Aid commissioned this mural for the side of their building. Painted by Larry Kassel in 2016.

That was all we had time for. Fun murals, huh? The grey day sort of made the colours glow, which was nice. The Mural Society spends most of its income on maintenance, they say, so that is another reason for the vibrant colours. I am looking forward to my next trip over there to capture the rest. After that final mural, we left Silverton and went back to our respective homes with their respective cats – all cats having formed the opinion that human birthdays are no reason to leave cats home alone.

16 thoughts on “Creations in Silverton

    1. I know, right?! Apparently, the only way to get crisp focus in large photos was to build a bigger and bigger camera. The one featured here was the biggest. The Chicago and Alton Railroad Company commissioned it to take a photo of their newest luxury train. It was moved on its own railroad car and could take up to 15 men to operate. Today, a better camera fits in our back pockets. And only takes half a brain to operate…

    2. . . . good thing, too, because that’s all that so many people have available. I hear newer cameras will just operate on their own, bypassing the user altogether. (joke)

  1. First, Happy Birthday Crystal. You are still just a kid, you know. 🙂 Sounds like the beer was an excellent way to celebrate. We order flights whenever we are in a new brewery. Always fun. I tend to like the darker brews and Peggy the lighter ones but I’ve been converting her. The house that Peggy grew up in was designed by one of Wright’s apprentices. Looked somewhat similar but has now been torn down. As you know, I love murals. It’s great when they become tourist attractions. It’s also great for artists, giving them income and practice.
    Thanks for offering to help Tony. Much appreciated. –Curt

    1. Thanks for the Happy Birthday wishes! I keep catching myself telling others I’m 50. I’ve already forgotten that I’ve turned 51, showing that I just don’t feel any older. Thanks for confirming it for me! Yes, flights are a great idea when you don’t know what the beers are like at a new brewery. I tend to love the ales and lagers, but at the Benedictine Brewery, the dark beers were far and away better than the others. Interesting that Peggy has a Wright connection. The one at the Oregon Garden seemed very small. I think, with this series of homes, it was the architect’s intention: to build a practical, affordable house for a small family of modest income. We think we spotted a tiny kitchen through a doorway, and that probably would have been my main complaint if I lived here….but it might be compensated for by that amazing living room with floor to ceiling windows on both sides. Light, light, light.

      I’m glad that you remembered my experience with VA, and asked me for input. I hope that I can be of help to Tony.

      1. I confess I have developed a taste for IPAs. Apparently lots of other folks have as well, the way they dominate grocer store shelves. 🙂

        We are hoping Tony takes advantage of your generous offer.

        On another note, your quilting material has arrived. It’s all about dragons and will be big enough to be a bed spread. 🙂 Peggy has started cutting materials. I think I heard her mentioning three days worth. Grin.

        She wants to know what you favorite color is to use it as backing. –Curt

      2. I am SO excited!! My favourite colour is green, but I’m going through a purple thing. So either purple or green. 🙂 I received an email from Tony. He seems ready for the next chapter of his life to begin already.

      3. Great. The quilt is purple and has lots and lots of dragons doing dragony things. Peggy will likely do the back in green as a complimentary color. Glad you heard from Tony. Appreciated. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Ha ha ha!! I didn’t think of that, Derrick, but you are right. The bold, swirly colours might be a bit much after multiple beers. Pedro and I tried the set out over the weekend and made sushi rolls, and then used the little bowls for soy sauce and wasabi. It all worked nicely and no one got dizzy.

      Yes, the town was a gallery, that’s a good way to put it. And sort of a game, too, since the murals were not always in a place that a casual passerby would see. I imagine residents see them as they go to the hardware store and the dentist, but as visitors, we had to go looking. I am surprized at how many there are, and I’m looking forward to another trip to go find the rest of them.

  2. Those murals are lovely, Crystal. I definitely never need an excuse to go on a ‘mural scavenger hunt’ – such fun. I also adore craft breweries and distilleries . . . although this one harks back to the origins of beer brewing. There is a great book called The Brewer’s Tale by William Bostwick, which offers a fascinating insight into the history of beer. Cheers!

    1. Yes, Jolandi, the murals are all so nice. I read that they are painted by local artists who congregate in the Silverton area for some reason. I like that this Mural Society provides them work, and an audience. Sponsoring a town full of murals is a great idea to increase tourism in a town, I think. Thank you for the tip on the book (still haven’t finish Turn Left at Lenin’s Statue…I’m so spoiled by audiobooks it’s hard for me to sit down and read a real book), and it sounds like something I’d like. On their website, the Benedictine Brewery does specifically talk about the origins of brewing, and farmhouse brewing in which all the ingredients come from their own land. They also state that they brew while honoring God, and thus keep the work within the realm of their calling, which I imagine is also a traditional practice, since holy men have been making beer and wine since records of them began.

      1. I love that the monks are doing it “within the realm of their calling”, Crystal. Honouring their present and their past. Beautiful. And serving the community in the process.
        I’m not in the habit of listening to audio books, but I do listen to podcasts when busy cooking or doing other mundane tasks, so I completely understand. At the moment, I only read a bit just before I go to sleep, so finishing a book takes me quite a while. 🙂

  3. What a great post! I loved the tone, the monk beers (and Tara’s response!), the murals and like you enjoyed reading the little bits, trying to figure out where they are from. Half of them sound like Bob Dylan. I find “We will bury you” most poignant. I had to google it and now I see that it’s Russian. 😀 You certainly do birthdays well. And you’ll be back, yay!

    1. You played the game too! I couldn’t get them all. I am pretty sure “They can have any color, as long as it’s black” is about cars. I found The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. JFK, Neil Armstrong and Star Wars. What a mix of references! One I didn’t know was “NUTS!” I just now looked it up and it’s a great story. The Germans had the Americans surrounded in a Belgium town in 1944 and sent a letter to the US Commander to surrender or they would take the town and the Americans in it. The Commander’s first reaction was “Nuts!” Then, when no one could think of a suitable response to the Germans, they decided to officially type up the word “NUTS!” in a memo, and send it back to the German Commander. ha ha ha!!

      Birthdays are my favourite holiday of the year. The one day when I can let my ample ego free and let her soar. So yes, I always try to do something special.

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