National Park Service Lists Salem Civic Center in Salem and Dallas Cinema in Dallas in the National Register of Historic Places

Posted on December 16, 2022

Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. – 12/15/22 2:59 PM

SALEM, Ore. – The Salem Civic Center Historic District and the Dallas Cinema in Dallas are among Oregon’s latest entries in the National Register of Historic Places. Oregon’s State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation (SACHP) recommended the nomination at their June 2022 meeting. The National Park Service — which maintains the National Register of Historic Places — accepted the nominations.

The Salem Civic Center Historic District is located on four-city blocks just south of the commercial downtown in Salem, Marion County. Constructed between 1970 and 1972, the property has five contributing resources – the Central Fire Station #1, Mirror Pond and Pringle Creek, City Hall Parking Garage, City Hall (including City Council Chambers), and Plaza Fountain – and two non-contributing resources – the Public Library and Library Parking Garage – within the nominated property boundary of 12.85 acres.

Following World War II, Salem was rapidly growing, and the 1897 City Hall Building was no longer sufficient to house city services and meet the evolving needs of Salem government and increased expectations of civic engagement and participation in decision making. For over two decades, the community completed multiple studies to determine the best approach for a new civic center, and Salemites ultimately showed their strong support for the construction of a new complex that would unite all city services while also providing accessible public spaces.

The district represents the ideals of Salem’s community planning and development in the late 1960s/early 1970s and is an important local example of Brutalism architecture. The Salem Civic Center was considered modern, functional, accessible, and for everyone’s enjoyment and use. The Salem Civic Center represents what Salemites wanted in their government and community, and how they wanted it to look, as they ventured into the future.

The Dallas Cinema is located downtown Dallas, Polk County in the heart of Dallas’s downtown core. It overlooks the Polk County Courthouse Square to the south and is surrounded by blocks of historic commercial structures constructed from the late 19th to mid-20th century. This two-part commercial block building, designed in the late 19th Century American Movements: Commercial Style, was built in the 1890s as a furniture store.

The building was converted from a furniture store to a movie theater in 1948 reflecting a unique, and relatively short-lived phase of movie theater design during the immediate post-WW2 years. When converted, the theater incorporated Art Moderne details and dramatic neon marquee lights to evoke Hollywood glamour in the downtown of this small Oregon city.

At the time of its construction, the Dallas Cinema showcased the latest in movie-viewing technology and catered to the comfort of movie viewing with concessions, comfortable seating, and air-conditioned interiors. Its prime location in the downtown core afforded it the opportunity to be both an economic anchor for downtown businesses and an entertainment/social anchor for Dallas residents.

The Dallas Cinema is one of Oregon’s 121 historic theaters and is one of the longest continually operating movie theaters known in the state of Oregon.

The Dallas Cinemas was one of eight historic theaters in Oregon to receive a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office for repairs and preparing the nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. The grants for historic theaters in Oregon were part of National Park Service (NPS) grant that the State Historic Preservation Office received in 2020. The NPS grant program fosters economic development in rural communities through the rehabilitation of historic buildings in those communities.

The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

This effort is in line with Oregon’s Statewide Preservation Plan that seeks to increase the number of listings in the National Register. It also supports the goals to increase access to Oregon heritage that are part of the Oregon Heritage Plan.

Properties listed in the National Register are:

  • Recognized as significant to the nation, state, or community;
  • Considered in the planning of federal or federally-assisted projects;
  • Eligible for federal and state tax benefits;
  • Qualify for historic preservation grants when funds are available;
  • Eligible for leniency in meeting certain building code requirements;
  • Subject to local laws pertaining to the conservation and protection of historic resources.

State law in Oregon requires local governments to offer a minimal level of protection for properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places; the decisions about how to accomplish that goal reside with local governments, which also have the authority to create and regulate local historic districts and landmarks.

More information about the National Register and recent Oregon listings are online at oregonheritage.org (listed under “Designate”).

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