Discover a jewel of a town near Salem, Oregon

Bonnie Henderson

Long before the Oregon Garden took root on the outskirts ofSilverton in 1997, there was Silverton itself, a nationallyregistered historic district and one of the most genuinely charmingsmall towns around. But who knew? Locals, of course, who relishedliving in a town where everyone knows one another, and where theSilverton Pet Parade (May 17, 10-11:15 a.m.; Main and Water Streets) is one ofthe year's big events, and where a penny in a parking meter stillbuys you 12 minutes.

"I had guests who called it 'Whoville,' " says innkeeper SheilaRosborough. A native of Great Britain, Rosborough moved toSilverton in 2000 and bought the 1890 Wolford Hotel, transformingit into the elegant five-room Water Street Inn (421 N. Water St.; 866/873-3344), a delightful place to stayif you spend more than one day in town. Rosborough laughs about hernew home, saying, "All these people smiling and greeting you― it's like we're stuck in the '60s."

Stuck in the '60s perhaps, but with a leg in the 19th century― when some of downtown's brick-and-stick buildings werebuilt ― and with more than a toe in the 21st century: you'llstill find antiques, but increasingly the town's merchants areleaning toward contemporary art and artful furnishings. LunariaGallery (113 N. Water; 503/873-7734) is a co-op showing two dozenlocal artists' works. Silver Creek Gallery (closed Sun-Tue; 119-A N. Water; 503/873-6767) displaysNorthwest oils and watercolors as well as wood, clay, and glasspieces.

Also downtown is the Garden Connection (115 N. Water; 503/874-0100), the gift shop for the OregonGarden―the landmark two-year-old botanical display garden atthe outskirts of town. Down the street, the Cottage Gate (413 S. Water; 503/873-9024) is stuffed with new and usedshabby- and not-so-shabby-chic furnishings and gifts.

Come mealtime, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.At Mac's Place (201 N. Water; 503/873-2441), eat burgers and homemade chilion the back deck overhanging Silver Creek. The Oregon Tea Garden (closed Sun-Mon; 305 Oak St.; 503/873-1230) serves simplelunches as well as an elegant multicourse "silver tea." Best of allis Silver Grille Café& Wines (dinner only, closed Mon-Tue; 206 E. Main St.;503/873-4035), a destination in itself, with locally procured,exquisitely prepared foods such as rosemary-scented leg of lamb andstrawberry-rhubarb tiramisu.

Not a bad lineup for a town that, just a few years ago, wasconsidered merely the gateway to Silver Falls State Park, 11 milesdown the road. Silverton is becoming a destination in itself, andits palpable hometown pride is still one of its best assets,Rosborough says. "The people of Silverton love their town," sheadds.

Getting to Silverton

WHERE: Silverton is about 14 miles east of Salem, at thejunction of State 213 and State 214. From I-5 at Salem, take exit256 and follow signs to Silverton.

FYI: The Oregon Garden ($7; 879 W. Main St.; 503/874-8100) is open 9-6 daily.CONTACT: Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce, (503) 873-5615.

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