Top 20 Oregon Trips

Willamette Heritage Center

Willamette Heritage Center

Tour an authentic 19th century wool mill in Salem Oregon.

The Willamette Heritage Center is a five acre campus with an original wool mill, and restored missionary houses from the 1840's.  

The Thomas Kay Woolen Mill operated from 1895 to the early 1960's and was a key employer in Salem, until the availability of synthetics shrunk the demand for wool products.  What makes this mill special is that the entire manufacturing process was powered by water.

Allow 3-4 hours to tour the museum and missionary houses, and to visit the gift shop and cafe at the Willamette Heritage Center.   

Where is the Willamette Heritage Center?

The Willamette Heritage Center is in Salem Oregon, an hour south of Portland (1313 Mill Street SE, Salem, OR 97301). Check ticket prices and hours

Tour the original wool mill, once entirely powered by water.

Learn about the manufacturing process for the beautiful wool products produced by the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, including tweeds, blankets and wool flannels.  It ran until 1962, until its wool products were displaced by polyester.

The tour begins along a narrow waterway where water was once channeled from the river to a giant turbine that powered machinery in the factory.  Once inside the factory you will be taken through two floors of the original wool mill, and learn about every part of the fabric making process. This is an excellent tour and the wool mill has been meticulously preserved.

Explore 19th century Missionary buildings.

The guide will then take you on a fascinating tour inside the adjacent houses, built by some of these first missionaries in Oregon. 

These fully furnished houses provide an insight into daily life in the mid 19th century.  See three of the oldest wooden frame houses in the Pacific Northwest, including the Jason Lee House (1841), Boon House (1847), and Methodist Parsonage (1841).  There's also a 20-minute video documenting the life of the first missionaries in Oregon responsible for founding Salem's Willamette University. 

This is the first house ever built in Salem, constructed in 1841 for the Reverend Jason Lee.

What else can I see near Salem?

  1. Visit the historic Bush House, Deepwood Estate or Gilbert House Children's Museum in Salem.
  2. Kids can have fun at the Enchanted Forest Theme Park (9 miles south of Salem). 
  3. Adults can enjoy the tasting room at the Willamette Valley Vineyards with gorgeous views (10 miles south). 
  4. The stunning Oregon Garden is beautiful in all seasons.  Combine it with a visit to the Oregon Garden Resort (15 miles east).
  5. Visit spectacular Silver Falls with a nature play area for kids (23 miles east).

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