World War II created a booming economy in the United States.
The econo-mies of cities and towns across the country grew
explosively during World War II and, especially, after the
war. Between 1939 and 1945, goods produced in the United States,
many of which went to support the war effort, jumped from
$91 billion to $167 billion. During the same period, per capita
disposable in-come increased by one-third, reaching $1,669
in 1945 for each man, woman, and child. Corporations and individuals,
as well as state and local governments, were able to save
a total of $58 billion by the end of the war, which contributed
to a boom of enormous proportions immediately following the
The return of veterans after the war greatly expanded the
male work force (from 55 million in 1945 to 67 million in
1960), and contributed to an enormous increase in population.
New homes and entire subdivisions sprang up every-where across
the country, including in Salem. Individual incomes soared
as well for most segments of the work force (except for farmers,
whose income dropped substantially between 1952 and 1960).
Never before had so many ordinary Americans experienced such
affluence. More marriages, children, and disposable income
translated into an insatiable demand for goods and services.
Changes in Salem during the 1940s reflected the National
and local economic boom, as well as downtown commercial property
owners' efforts to counteract the emerging trend to construct
suburban shopping centers with abundant park-ing for cars.
Between 1940 and 1950, the population in the larger Salem
metropolitan district jumped by more than 25%, from roughly
32,400 to 43,100, the largest percent increase in the state
capital's population since the 1890s. By 1949, Salem's trading
area population had increased to 215,000 (from 100,000 in
World War II Comes To The Fair
With the country engaged in World War II, the 1942 fair
was scaled back to include only 4-H displays, livestock exhibits,
and 27 county displays; it was not considered an official
State Fair. During 1943 and 1944, operation of the fair was
suspended entirely, and the grounds leased to military units
as a place to bivouac. In the summer of 1943, at the request
of the Willamette Valley Cherry Growers, the Fairgrounds became
a labor camp for the Mexican workers needed to harvest the
The increased flow of money and people into Salem's downtown
commercial district could be seen in visible changes made
to buildings. New buildings of modern design and function
replaced a few of the district's aging edifices, which had
fallen into disrepair. On the eve of United State's entry
into World War II, sisters Dorothy and Helen Pearce replaced
the Wade & Pearce Com-pany Building (at 305-321 Court
Street) with a smooth-surfaced, Modernistic- style retail
Building expansion as well as remodeling also occurred during
the prosperous post-World War II period. Around 1950, the
Hughes-Durbin Building (at 160 Liberty Street, NE), constructed
in 1916, received a third-story addition and a facade modernization.
One block to the west, the elaborately decorated, Italianate-style
Breyman Brothers Block at 174-188 Commercial Street, built
in 1874, was totally modernized in the late 1940s so that
the smooth exterior surface and window placement mimicked
the Modernistic style.
The Steusloff Building at 399 Court Street experienced a
similar transforma-tion in 1947-48 when the long-time owners
modified this Queen Anne building with a Modernistic exterior.
Nearly all modernization efforts involved the remo-val of
decorative detail, resurfacing of the exterior facade, and
updating of the ground-level storefronts. Importantly, the
placement of windows above the first floor was usually left
intact. These and a few other buildings that were remo-deled
in Salem's commercial district during the 1940s convey a sense
of the shared National history of economic prosperity and
dynamic growth that took place in the Oregon's state capital.
Compiled by Monica Mersinger
Nomination report, National Register of Historic Places,
Historic Downtown Salem application, July, 2001
Branaugh, Barry; and Dayna J. Collins, Susan Gibby, LaVerne
Marker, Mark McKinney. "The Oregon State Fair: A History."