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Fairview Training Center
(Oregon State Institute for Feeble Minded)
 
Oregon State Institute for the Feeble Minded was the original name for Salem’s Fairview Training Center in southeast Salem. Established in 1908 by the Oregon Legislature, it opened on December 1st with the transfer of 39 adults and children from the Insane Asylum. Up until this time mentally impaired children were sent to the only institution that could provide them with any professional care. An example is this little fellow:

"For Idiocy. – Clifford Caspell, aged 6 years, a son of G. W. Caspell of Stayton, was committed to the state insane and idiotic asylum yesterday by County Judge W. C. Hubbard. Clifford has been in such a condition since he was three months old, caused by an attack of spinal meningitis."

Harry E. Bickers of Pendleton was appointed Superintendent of that first home and had supervised the construction of the first five buildings—dormitory, administration building, laundry, a brick power house, and a barn. Construction began in March, 1908. A reporter described the main buildings as resembling "…a magnificent southern mansion."

Here were located the superintendent’s office, reception rooms, attending physician’s office (Dr. W. Carlton Smith was the first to serve in that capacity), and school rooms. Separate dormitories for male and female students were maintained, and later the children were grouped in families of 20 to 25 according to levels of intelligence.

The surrounding acreage—some 700 acres in all—were put under cultivation, under the charge of W. L. Simeral for the early years. Food supplies for the institution were produced with help from able-bodied students and any overages were sold to provide income for the school.

Despite close supervision of the school’s residents, escapes from the institution did occur; usually ending successfully with the return of the escapees in a matter of hours. More serious were periodic outbreaks of epidemics among students. Soon after its opening, the school established a cemetery on the grounds, but it was only used for five years. A cherry orchard planted in the abandoned graveyard marked its original location.

In 1935 the school’s name was changed to Oregon Fairview Home.

Until its closure in July 2000, Fairview had served the mentally and physically handicapped for nearly a century. Its few remaining residents were transferred to group homes or returned to live with their families.

Plans to utilize the abandoned grounds of Fairview include three "pedestrian-oriented residential neighborhoods" with large green spaces and a school or a campus of light commercial businesses.

Compiled and written by Sue Bell

Bibliography:
Daily Oregon Statesman newspaper, Salem, Or January 1, 1911, page 27; March 14, 1895, page 4; March 10, 1908, page 6; January 1, 1910, page 26; January 1, 1911, page 27; August 26, 1909, page 8.

Information from Dean Byrd who lived at Fairview in the 1930s when his father, Dr. Roy Byrd, was superintendent.

"Fairview Training Center – A Master Plan for Redevelopment", June 1999, pages 2,3 and 8.

 

 
Aerial view of Fairview Training Center
Aerial view of Fairview Training Center
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