Things to do in Salem: Oregon State Capitol

The Heart of Salem’s History

No visit to Salem, OR is complete without stopping by the Capitol, where important decisions affecting the lives of millions of Oregon residents happen every day. Even if you’re not a local, the Capitol building in Salem is still rich with history that’ll help you have a deeper appreciation for the city of Salem and the state of Oregon. The Capitol has so much to offer to visitors of all ages.

The History of the Oregon State Capitol Building

Pop quiz: has the capital of Oregon always been Salem? Nope! It moved from Oregon City to Salem to Corvallis, then back to Salem. The state Capitol building has burned to the ground and been rebuilt twice. The very first Capitol building in Salem was constructed in 1854. However, a mysterious fire burned it down only 11 days later and had to be rebuilt.

The second Capitol building stood from 1876 to 1935, until it also burned to the ground. Most historians suspect it was an accident and don’t think it was foul play. Finally, the third Capitol building — the one which stands in Salem today — was built in 1938. It was the height of the Great Depression, so Oregon needed help from the federal government to finish it. The building is considered a landmark of Modernist Art Deco design.

Programs and Events at the Capitol

As Oregon’s seat of legislative power, the Capitol building is an important place. It’s home to many big events in Salem, including Concerts in the Park, basketball tournaments, and other fun civic events. You can also take a tour of the building year-round, as well as tour the tower in summer. The Capitol also arranges school tours and programs for educators. If you want a memento of your visit to the Oregon State Capitol, you can also stop by (virtually) the Capitol Store.

While the building itself has plenty for visitors to see, the grounds of the Capitol Mall are also a lovely place to take a stroll or have a picnic in the warmer months.

Plan Your Visit

The Oregon State Capitol is located at 900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301, right in the heart of Salem. It’s only a few blocks from the Willamette River and Waterfront Park. The Capitol’s opening hours follow the legislative session, and is open from 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday-Friday.