Circa 1890 view of the west side of 200 block of Commercial St. with harness shop sign visible on roof above the location of E. S. Lamport’s business.
WHC 1998.004.0004

Recently, a descendent of the Lamport family paid a visit to the research library at the Willamette Heritage Center hoping to pinpoint the location of his harness shop in downtown Salem, circa 1890s.  And while we did not have a wide selection of original source material related to the family, we were able to peruse the old Sanborn Insurance maps and access historic newspapers online to dig up some interesting material. But first, to set the stage if you will, a little information about the family’s history.

Edward S. Lamport was born 2 July 1845 in Woodstock, a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada. He served in the Civil War with Company F, 1st Connecticut Cavalry.  After the war he followed Charles Deliber, an army friend, to Binghamton, New York, to learn the trade of a harness maker. Upon the completion of his apprenticeship, he followed his brother out to the Oregon Territory where we pick up his trail in Salem, November 1869. He married twice. First to Mary E. Campbell of Salem on 13 February 1874 and then Lily Brown Stevens of San Francisco on 24 November 1886.  He was the father of four children, three of whom lived to adulthood.

The Lamport family is easily tracked through city directories, census records, and online historic newspapers where we find continuous ads for Lamport’s saddlery or harness shop until his death in 1912.  One such ad directed at farmers and liverymen boasts, “it will be to your interest to call upon me before purchasing elsewhere, as I have the largest and most complete stock in the city. Prices reduced to suit the times….Thanking the public for their liberal patronage in the past, I shall endeavor by strict attention to business merit continuance of their favors in the future. E. S. Lamport”

At this point we pull out the 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Salem to verify the physical address of the shop based on information from the 1893 city directory.  We find it within the “old” Starkey block running along the west side of Commercial Street between Court and Chemeketa Streets. The harness shop is at 289 Commercial NE, sandwiched between Gilbert & Patterson grocers on the south, and a gentleman’s furnishing and clothing store on the north.

At this point a side question arose on the part of our family researcher. What was above the shop? Did the family live there?  It is clear from historic photographs and maps that the building was constructed with a second floor. We turn back to online newspapers to fill in the information gap.  From an article published shortly after his second marriage in 1886 we read that Lamport fitted up a suite of seven rooms over the harness shop for his family including new carpet, paint and furnishings. So, at this point in time we presume that the family occupied the rooms above the store.  Though by 1893, according to the city directory, their home residence is another location.

We also come across a rather sensational June 1894 newspaper article tied to the harness shop with the headline, “BIG DAMAGE BY FIRE – THE OLD “STARKEY” BLOCK IS PARTIALLY BURNED.” The fire broke out at 5:15 am in the store room of Gilbert & Patterson, the grocer that occupied the corner shop.  Nearby resident Mrs. William Anderson was the first to notice the smoke rising from the roof of the building. She and passerby Fred Steusloff investigated and found the interior of the building full of smoke. Steusloff ran to the engine house to report the fire.

The fire department responded with their Silsby steamer and hose wagon.  Chief Andrew Cross determined that the hottest point of the fire was the southwest corner of the main storeroom. A location with a convenient skylight.  They directed one stream of water from the room, through the skylight and another through the rear entrance and a reserve engine was called in for additional help.  Gradually the smoke began to clear and within two hours after the alarm had been given, the fire department had it under control.

Thanks to detailed reporting at the scene, we have an additional glimpse at the use of space on the second floor.  We learn that Mrs. Frank Cooper, the invalid occupying the apartment over the harness shop “was carried out through the hall just as the smoke began to get quite thick therein and taken on a cot to the residence of Squire James Batchelor on Court Street. Her household effects were removed with some damage, but soon as the fire was quenched, they were replaced and the feeble woman carried back during the afternoon.”

Edward S. Lamport operated his saddlery and harness shop until his death in 15 May 1912 at the age of 66. He was buried in Pioneer Cemetery.  Only a portion of the historic Starkey block remains to present time. If you look closely along the west side of Commercial St. between Court and Chemeketa you can spot the remains of the historic cast iron arcaded front on the ground floor, along with the pineapple motifs crowning the columns.  An enduring landmark to the Lamport family as well as the city of Salem.  It is now occupied by the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation.

This article was written by Kaylyn F. Mabey for the Statesman Journal newspaper where it appeared on Sunday, October 20, 2019.