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Gilbert House
The commodious house built at the intersection of Marion and Water Streets on the east bank of the Willamette River for Andrew T. Gilbert in 1887 is significant as one of two outstanding large-scale examples of Queen Anne architecture in Salem and as the only substantial historic house remaining in the downtown core.

The house is significant also for its association with I. N. Gilbert. I. N. Gilbert, father of A. T. and Frank Gilbert, was the first clerk of Marion County U. S. District Court, and County Surveyor. He laid out and platted the Territorial road from Salem to Foster’s at the end of the Oregon Trail in 1846, and he made the first plat of Salem. The elder Gilbert made his home next door to that of his son, at the corner of Marion and Front Streets. His house is no longer standing.

The architect and builder of the house was C. A. Robert, who was born in Quebec Province in 1854 and had been a student of architecture at Sherbrooke College. Robert came to Salem the year this house was designed and built, and he obtained a contract to design and build the office, bakery, laundry, and bath house at Chemawa Indian School, just north of the city.

A. T. Gilbert, for whom the house was built, was senior partner with his brother Frank in the Salem banking house of Gilbert Brothers, 1879-1901. Starting as bankers and brokers doing general agency business, they became a general banking establishment in 1885. A. T. Gilbert was a trustee of Pacific University in Forest Grove in the 1890’s. A. T. Gilbert has a distinguished nephew, the son of his brother and partner Frank Alfred Carlton Gilbert, founder of the A. C. Gilbert Co., world renowned toy manufacturer and inventor of the Erector set, a metal construction toy.

The City of Salem purchased the house in 1985 as part of its future Riverfront Development Project. A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village acquired the Gilbert House through a no-cost lease and restored it with grants from the Meyer Memorial Trust and the community. The Museum opened on December 15, 1989.

Some fast facts about A. C. Gilbert, toy manufacturer and nephew of A. T. Gilbert original owner of The Gilbert House.

1884: Alfred Carlton "A.C." Gilbert born in Salem, Oregon.

1900: Attends Pacific University at Forest Grove, Oregon.

1907: John Petrie begin manufacturing Mysto Magic sets.

1908: Breaks world record for pole vaulting, wins gold medal for vaulting in London Olympic Games; Marries Mary Thompson.

1909: Graduates from Yale with a degree in medicine; With John Petrie establishes the Mysto Manufacturing Company.

1913: Erector Set introduced at toy fairs in New York City and Chicago.

1916: Polar Cub fans introduced.

1917: Opens the world’s largest toy plant; first chemistry sets marketed.

1918: Appeals to Congress to allow toy manufacturing during WWI and saved the toy industry.

1920: Gilbert Company issued broadcasting license for their own promotional radio programming.

1935: Introduction of Gilbert’s microscope set.

1938: Gilbert purchases rights to American Flyer trains.

1941: Gilbert Hall of Science opens in New York City.

1942: Gilbert Company joins war effort, manufacturing flares and range indicators for anti-aircraft guns.

1943: Gilbert Company receives first of four Army-Navy "E" awards for its participation in the war effort.

1946: American Flyer "S" gauge trains introduced

1954: A. C. Gilbert steps down as president of A. C. Gilbert Company.

1964: A. C. Gilbert dies, held 150 patents

1967: A. C. Gilbert Company closes.

Researched and written by Paul Porter


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