Long before the Oregon Garden took root on the outskirts of Silverton in 1997, there was Silverton itself, a nationally registered historic district and one of the most genuinely charming small towns around. But who knew? Locals, of course, who relished living in a town where everyone knows one another, and where the Silverton Pet Parade (May 17, 10–11:15 a.m.; Main and Water Streets) is one of the year’s big events, and where a penny in a parking meter still buys you 12 minutes.
“I had guests who called it ‘Whoville,’ ” says innkeeper Sheila Rosborough. A native of Great Britain, Rosborough moved to Silverton in 2000 and bought the 1890 Wolford Hotel, transforming it into the elegant five-room Water Street Inn (421 N. Water St.; 866/873-3344), a delightful place to stay if you spend more than one day in town. Rosborough laughs about her new 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 were built―and with more than a toe in the 21st century: you’ll still find antiques, but increasingly the town’s merchants are leaning toward contemporary art and artful furnishings. Lunaria Gallery (113 N. Water; 503/873-7734) is a co-op showing two dozen local artists’ works. Silver Creek Gallery (closed Sun–Tue; 119-A N. Water; 503/873-6767) displays Northwest oils and watercolors as well as wood, clay, and glass pieces.
Also downtown is the Garden Connection (115 N. Water; 503/874-0100), the gift shop for the Oregon Garden―the landmark two-year-old botanical display garden at the outskirts of town. Down the street, the Cottage Gate (413 S. Water; 503/873-9024) is stuffed with new and used shabby- 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 chili on the back deck overhanging Silver Creek. The Oregon Tea Garden (closed Sun–Mon; 305 Oak St.; 503/873-1230) serves simple lunches as well as an elegant multicourse “silver tea.” Best of all is 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 and strawberry-rhubarb tiramisu.
Not a bad lineup for a town that, just a few years ago, was considered merely the gateway to Silver Falls State Park, 11 miles down the road. Silverton is becoming a destination in itself, and its palpable hometown pride is still one of its best assets, Rosborough says. “The people of Silverton love their town,” she adds.
Getting to Silverton
WHERE: Silverton is about 14 miles east of Salem, at the junction of State 213 and State 214. From I-5 at Salem, take exit 256 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.