Photo: White House Restaurant, Salem. WHC 2013.13.58

June 19 – August 22, 2015

The restaurant industry is one of the oldest in Salem. Before the
advent of modern conveniences, food preparation took a lot of
work. Wage workers without family support and visitors to the city
relied on restaurants, sometimes on a daily basis, for meals. Even
Salem’s early prisoners were fed daily through contracts with local

More than providing necessary meals, restaurants play a vital role
in our community’s social interactions. They facilitate business
transactions, courtship, leisure and celebrations. They also hold a
special place in our memories, as the lines at last summer’s
limited reopening of Bob’s Hamburgers at the fair can attest.
Despite its long history, the restaurant business is tough work.
Long hours, low margins and fickle fads have meant a
continuously changing industry landscape. Think of the
restaurants you went to 10 years ago; how many of them are still
in business today? Thousands of restaurants have operated in
Salem, but finding evidence of their existence proved a little more

This exhibit looks at some of the stories of restaurants and the
people who have made them possible. It is by no means a
complete account. Please help us document the stories we’ve
missed by sharing yours at the end of the exhibit.

Sponsored by Bank of the Cascades

Preview a digitized version of the exhibit here: