The many parts of Salem (Overview entry) from where the statue atop the Oregon State Capitol Building is visible makes it useful for orientation. A man standing, left hand gripping a coat thrown over his shoulder while the other dangles a large axe, body facing north and head looking west, the piece's official name is "Oregon Pioneer." Even though it's hollow, the statue weighs 8.5 tons. Often called the "Golden Pioneer" or "Gold Man", the 23K gold sheathed bronze statue stands 22-feet atop a 23-foot marble plinth placed 140-feet above the ground. For his last re-gilding, the donated funds were mostly collected by school-kids around Oregon.
With limits on the height of buildings, allowing sunlight to reach the street (called Day Light laws), this is what passes for a tall building. A 121-step spiral staircase rising from the building’s fourth level gives access to an observation deck and some of the best views available in Salem with tours there every 30 minutes on weekdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Something else you will see are the solar panels on the roof that made this the first State Capitol to power its lighting through alternative energy. They also provide the nightly illumination of the Gold Man.
This white marble (Capitol History) building replaced one that burnt in 1935, replacing the original which burnt in 1855. The interior is decorated with several types and colors of marble and murals depicting scenes and personages from Oregon history; including 33 stars commemorating its admittance order to the Union. At Christmas time free concerts are given in the rotunda by school classes from throughout Oregon. All students are included unless they wish otherwise. South of the rotunda are gallerias where changing monthly art and history displays will be found and the Gift shop with Oregon and Salem themed items. Café Today can be found on the ground floor.
Favorite detail: Most metal doorknobs (the originals) have the state seal molded into them.
The grounds contain artworks, including 5 large relief carved panels depicting moments from Oregon history by sculptor Ulric Ellerhusen, designer of the Oregon Pioneer; a raised pool with fountain, gazebo, lots of squirrels (I once counted 50 on a brief walk through the grounds on my way elsewhere), and broken Corinthian columns survivors from the fire of 1935. To the north is the Capitol Mall (pdf map) with it's fountains and plantings, and two-blocks beyond at Union and Summer Streets is Waldo Park the world’s second smallest park, a Redwood in a 12 x 20-foot plot of land.
Public viewing galleries abut both senate and house, but the Oregon Legislature only meets biennially in odd years. Citizen’s Guide to the process.
Capitol: Monday-Friday 8am-5:30pm, 503-986-1388, directions,
Gift shop: 8am-4.30pm, 503-986-1391
Café: 8am-4pm, 503-585-4266