The story of Deepwood begins in 1893 when Dr. Luke A. Port bought the west undivided portion of a six acre block in the Yew Park Addition in Salem, near Mission and 12th Street totaling approximately 4.2 acres. Luke and Lizzie Port had two children; Flora May (Alpha) and a son, Omega. The Port Family hired William C. Knighton to design their home, his first residential commission. Knighton would later become Oregon’s first state Architect, designing the Oregon Supreme Court Building and the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
The home was built for a cost of $15,000 when the average home of the area cost $1,000. Although the home was completed in 1894, the Port family was never to reside in the home. Prior to its completion while traveling by ship to study chemistry in Germany, son Omega died when his ship capsized during a hurricane. Wife Lizzie and daughter Alpha moved to Los Angeles and Dr. Port sold the home to George and Willie Bingham in 1895. George Bingham was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1880 and practiced in Lafayette and McMinnville, before settling in Salem in 1885 where he served Salem as the District Attorney and later as the District Attorney for the Third Judicial District. The Bingham’s made Deepwood their home for 28 years developing the natural gardens with roses, an orchard, grape arbor and vegetable gardens. George Bingham died while serving on the bench, followed later that year by his wife Willie. Alice Bingham Powell, daughter of George and Willie sold the house to Clifford Brown in 1924.
Clifford Brown was the son of a prominent Salem family well acquainted with the Bingham family. He married Alice Bretherton in 1908 and the couple lived at Deepwood until his death by drowning in 1927. Alice lived in the home as a widow, commissioning landscape architects Elizabeth Lord & Edith Schryver to design the gardens. By 1930, Alice was calling the house and gardens “Deepwood” after the children’s book “The Hollow Tree and Deepwoods” Book by Albert Bigelow Paine, a favorite of her sons. In 1935, when the gardens were nearly complete, she had the name Deepwood formally registered as a legal farm name. The longest resident of Deepwood, Alice Bretherton Brown married Keith Powell, widower of Alice Bingham, remaining in the house until their health required relocation in 1968. The city of Salem acquired the home in December 1971 and the Friends of Deepwood, a 501(3)(c) organization, was organized in 1974 to manage the estate.
The mission of Deepwood is to preserve the historic integrity of the house and gardens as a living museum and estate for public education and enjoyment. During the past several years, the Friends has replaced all of the carpet in the home with historic wool carpeting, recreated the Tennis Court,and restored the Deepwood Kitchen and Alice Brown Suite. For pictures and information about the recent Alice Brown Restoration project, click here.
For more about the history of the estate, please join us for a tour.