It all began in 1876 with the Baldwin Brothers, James and John, as the original proprietors of the Baldwin Saloon. With the railroad right out front and the Columbia River nearby, business at the Baldwin Saloon kept the two brothers busy, as it was said to be the headquarters for the many men who worked the river and the railroad.Following the era of the Baldwin brothers, an interesting fellow by the name of Dr. Charlie Allen operated a saloon in this same building. Allen was an arrogant man who used the title “doctor”, although his previous occupation consisted of simply selling and adjusting eyeglasses.Allen insured his time spent at the Baldwin Saloon would go down in history when he had caduceus (medical insignias) included in the cast façade that trims the original front of the building. This cast iron façade was made specifically for this building by Golden State Iron Works in San Francisco.During the ownership of Dr. Charlie Allen, a brothel in a small frame building was attached to the back of the saloon. The operator of this establishment later married Allen, and they operated their businesses together.
Since those colorful times 0f long ago, the Baldwin Saloon building has served many other purposes including a restaurant, a steamboat navigational office, a warehouse, a coffin storage site for a nearby mortuary and a state employment office.In 1962, Garth and Evelyn Bonney purchased this building for their business, Bonney Saddle Shop. For nearly 30 years Garth worked at this location making quality saddles by hand, a rare and true art passed on to him by his father. Then, only months shy of Garth’s 80th birthday, the Bonneys retired, selling their building to Mark and Tracy Linebarger, new owners with an old business in mind.They restored the saloon to its original use as a restaurant and bar. ‘the renovation process, including the conversion of the unfinished basement into a commercial kitchen, took almost one full year. Finally, on December 15, 1991, the Baldwin Saloon opened its doors and welcomed history all over again.
Today’s Baldwin Saloon certainly doesn’t have the bawdy atmosphere of its predecessor. The interior has a simple, yet elegant look that radiates warmth and comfort. Rich mahogany and golden oak booths and tables are complemented by various brass fixtures throughout the restaurant. Beautiful turn-of-the-century oil paintings are all around, and the original brick walls and old fir floor have been uncovered and given new life.
Inside the Baldwin Saloon are several old fixtures of interest. The most talked about is an 18-foot long mahogany backbar made in the early l900s. It features large columns topped with scrolls and the original mirror is trimmed with stained glass panels.
A large pendulum clock with local historic significance now hangs in the Baldwin Saloon. In 1879, this clock hung in the Umatilla House, another historical building which carries much of The Dalles’ early history. This unique clock was made in the early 1800’s and is inscribed “This clock belongs to Judd S. Fish”, who was one of the owners of the Umatilla House. Another clock like this one, but still in its original wood encasement, can be seen at the Fort Dalles Museum.
At the end of the bar is a big brass cash register that today’s bartenders use with the same enthusiasm as they did in the 1920s. To ring up a sale, the bartender must crank around the register’s arm, which in turn opens one of the three mahogany drawers the register rests on. Also on display are an old floor safe and a scale, both originally used by saddle maker Henry Kuck. Ralph Bonney (Garth Bonney’s father) and Henry Kuck were partners in the saddleshop business years ago. Kuck and Bonney Saddles was located at the corner of 2nd and Laughlin downtown The Dalles. This is where Garth first got started in the business.
Nestled up on a ledge above the dining tables is a 1894 Schubert mahogany piano. Weekend evening guests are entertained by melodies of the past sent sweeping through the building, creating a genuine feeling for the turn of the century.
The Baldwin Saloon’s history is forever in the making. As additional Englehart oil paintings are acquired and historically significant pieces are found, they will continually be added to the collection that makes the Baldwin Saloon so unique. This is a building whose spirit will live on forever.
Near the backbar was a beautifully painted photograph of a young woman named Carrie Reichwein, done by Wilbur Hayes in 1899. This intriguing piece won first place in the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905 and 1906. Carrie Reichwein was only 19 years old when she posed for Hayes. She lived in the Portland-Vancouver area, but often traveled to The Dalles to see her sister, who was married to the community’s postmaster. Carrie was know to frequent saloons, and it is believed that she feels very much at home on the walls of the Baldwin Saloon.
The Dalles is located in North Central Oregon, 80 miles (75 minutes) east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge. The Dalles has a population of 12,175. The Columbia River Gorge has always been one of Oregon’s primary centers of trade and commerce. Long before Oregon or the United States, this region was a commercial hub for more than 10,000 years. Strategically located along this profitable waterway, the City of The Dalles enjoys a strong economy of agriculture, forest products and industry. The Dalles was also the site of Fort Dalles. Established in 1850 to protect immigrants after the Whitman massacre, it was the only military post between the Pacific coast and Wyoming. The only building left of Fort Dalles is the Surgeon’s Quarters, which has been incorporated into the Fort Dalles Museum. The Dalles is the county seat of Wasco County. When it was established in 1854, Wasco County was the largest county ever formed in the United States. The Original Wasco County Courthouse, which still stands in The Dalles, had jurisdiction over a region stretching from the Cascades to the modern-day states of Montana and Wyoming. The county assumed its present, smaller form over a period of a half-century, as many other counties and portions of several states were created within its original boundaries. Today, The Dalles is a regional center for commerce and government services. It is the largest city in the Columbia River Gorge.