Historic Bush House Museum

More From Salem More From Oregon

A Bush daughter who struggled with mental illness stays here.

Several family members like to keep his daughter company.



Set quite a ways off the street, this elegant, simplified version of an Italianate style Victorian Mansion can be found up on a small hill, just west of its rather large, gorgeous rose gardens. The Art Association of Salem have been fine stewards of such a unique property, that not only still has the side buildings; The Bush Barn Art Center and The Greenhouse Conservatory but also acres of flower gardens, a popular park, and other much appreciated perks, as most the 100 acre estate belongs to the City of Salem, with The Art Association of Salem being in control of the property.

When Asahel Bush II built this mansion in 1877-78, he made sure that this mansion had all the bells and whistles deemed important for both functionality and beauty, including a central heating system, indoor plumbing, gaslights, and imported French wallpaper. Asahel also imported Italian marble for the ten, each one-of-a kind fireplaces, cut in the Italianate style.

The mansion was designed to be practical for all, and well used. Front steps lead to a large, expansive veranda, offering plenty of room to enjoy the outdoor views, and entertain. All the common rooms are of course off the grand central hall, as is Bush’s bedroom and bath. The parlor, formal dining room butler’s pantry and a rather large state of the art 19th century kitchen with a wood burning stove are on one side of the mansion, while the sitting room, the library and Bush’s personal area are on the other side.

From the central hall, a “straight”, wonderfully carved wooden oak stairway leads the visitor up to a spacious second floor hall where all the other bedrooms, a shared in-door bath, and servants’ quarters are located. Though they had to share the tub, shower and potty, each room did have its own running hot and cold water, displayed beautifully in a marble-topped sink. All the water running through the plumbing for the house came from the mansion’s large, square tower.

All of the twelve rooms open to the public are filled with choice furnishings chosen by both Asahel Bush II and Sally, and contain most of the Bush Family’s personal belongings. The tour is well worth it!



In 1850, a 26 year old lawyer, Asahel Bush II, came to Oregon City to start a newspaper to be the voice of the Democratic Party in Oregon. After a glorious start in his journalism career, Asahel Bush II moved the newspaper, “The Oregon Statesman” and himself to Salem. He entered politics, and in 1859, he was elected Printer.

In Salem, he met the love of his life, Eugenia, and married her. They started their family and enjoyed a short life-time together. Tragically, Eugenia came down with TB, and died in 1863. At the death of his beloved wife, Eugenia, the 39 year old Asahel Bush II sold his newspaper, “The Oregon Statesman”, and opened up the Ladd and Bush Bank with a partner, W. S. Ladd. He probably had shorter hours, and was able to be home earlier to be with the children, being a single parent now of very young children; (6, 4, 2, & 1 year old): Estelle (1856-1942), Asahel III (1858-1953), Sally (1860-1946) and Eugenia (1862-1932)

In 1873, Asahel Bush II bought out his partner’s interest and took total control of the Ladd and Bush Bank; a bank that became a very successful; the strongest financial institution in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1876-77, Asahel Bush II was now a fantastic success in the banking field, and decided it was time to build his dream house. Bush simply moved the Leslie Farmhouse they had been living in all these years across Mission Street, and hired architect Wilbur F. Boothby, who was also superintendent of its construction to build a lovely Victorian Italianate mansion for Bush and his family to live in, and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Bush’s children grew up well-adjusted and did very well for themselves. Estelle, Sally and Asahel III were all college graduates. Estelle married well, Asahel III became a banker like his father, and Sally returned home after college to be the mistress of Bush Mansion, living with her father, taking care of all social responsibilities, buying items for the mansion, and managing the estate very well; happy as a clam. Even when she was a college student, she was the one who bought the furniture for the new mansion.

However, Asahel Bush II’s youngest daughter, Eugenia, developed schizophrenia, in 1880, while away at college in Mass., at an age when this disease often manifests. The stress of the first year of college, far away from home; a stress that many young people face and conquer, pushed Eugenia into the unhappy world of mental illness. Urban legend falsely claims that Mr Bush was ashamed of her, and kept his daughter in the basement of the house, but this is not true. A banker surely has enough money to find the best medical care for his child, and Asahel Bush II did just that. As he had taken care of his ailing wife, he certainly would do his best for his youngest daughter, named after his beloved wife whom he loved.

Asahel found a fine clinic and home that caters to the mentally ill relatives of the rich in Boston, as there wasn’t much available on the West Coast except the state hospital. While Asahel Bush II, and Eugenia’s brother and sisters wrote and visited her often, making sure she got the best treatment for this era, Eugenia didn’t come home again until after her father died in 1913. In 1914, Eugenia came back to the Bush Mansion with a nurse at the age of 52, to live with her sister Sally for the next 18 years until she passed away at 70. All the children, including Eugenia, lived to a ripe old age.

In 1917, to honor their late Father, the surviving Bush Family members donated 57 acres east of the mansion to the City of Salem for a municipal park. When Sally and Asahel III died, the ownership of the land land would be transferred to the city of Salem.

Sally continued to expand the gardens and maintain the mansion until she died, in 1946. Asahe lII was the last one to live in the Bush Mansion. He moved back into the Bush Mansion in 1948 at the age of 90, when “his home was acquired” to make room for the new state mall. He installed an elevator so he could move easier onto the second floor. Though old, his mind was sharp as a tack, and was a very good steward of the huge property and of the mansion.

Two years before Sally died, Asahel III began the process of making sure that their beloved home and the rest of the family land landed in the city’s hands, and not developers. He originally arranged with the city officials to buy the remaining 43 acres for 175,000 dollars; including the mansion at the time of Asahel III’s death. When the bond measure failed, Asahel sold 10 acres to Willamette University for McCullough Stadium. However, the city managed to scrape the money together to buy the remaining 33 acres for Bush’s Pasture Park.

The Historic Bush Mansion Museum has been financially supported by several organizations that have created one of the finest preserved historic sites that I have ever seen. It definitely was not left to the mercy of the goodwill of city politicians, who through the years sometimes lose interest in maintaining/improving acquired city property due to budget woes or other priorities. The Art Association of Salem formed soon after the sale, bought all the original contents of the Bush Mansion, in 1948, when Asahel III moved back into the Bush Mansion, and needed room for his own stuff from his house, “that was acquired.”

When Asahel III died in 1953, The Art Association of Salem moved everything that came from the first floor back inside the mansion. The second floor rooms were used for their Art Galleries, and business offices.

Because the mansion was in such good shape, tours and art exhibits were started almost right away, in 1953, becoming an incoming money source from people eager to see the Historic Bush Mansion Museum and Art Galleries.

Salem landscape architects Elizabeth Lord & Edith Schryver of the Lord and Schryver Conservancy oversaw the historic appropriate plantings of the many flower gardens and huge rose garden as well.

After a fire in the Barn around the mid-sixties, The Art Association of Salem remodeled it to accommodate art programs for the community, for their business offices and for areas to display its art galleries. The Bush Mansion’s second floor was once again filled with the hand-crafted furniture from the original Bush Family.

In 1979, the Friends of Bush Gardens, became the Bush Conservatory Gardeners, who keep all the gardens looking great, as well as take care of the 1882 Greenhouse Conservatory that they had also restored.

All of these achievements must make the Bush Family beam with delight.



Because of circumstances in this life, people sometimes have to give up something dear to them prematurely. When they pass, they sometimes make up for lost time by sharing the structure or item with the current owners.

Bush’s youngest daughter, Eugenia, was taken away from her beloved family and home because of her mental illness, that made her a danger to herself and others. She spent 34 years of her life in a private institution, receiving treatment. Despite the generous care she received there, it still wasn’t like living with her loved ones at home.

Entities can choose whatever age they want to be seen as by the living. They sometimes pick the image how they appeared during the happiest time in their life.

As a child, Eugenia had many happy years living with her family as a mentally well person. Perhaps she has chosen to be seen as a young girl.

When deceased loved ones choose to stay in the family home, sometimes their deceased family members also choose to stay or visit to look after them.

Since it is supposed that Eugenia wanted to stay and live in the beautiful new home like a regular member of her family, it is possible that her sister Sally, her father, and her brother would also stay/visit there to keep her company, and enjoy being with her, as she would be free of her earthly body and sickness.

Historic places that house the personal items of the departed, often have visitors from the spirit world, checking up on their cherished items.

Many of the Bush Family’s cherished possessions are on display within the Historic Bush House Museum, and perhaps they like to come and visit these items and furniture.



Entity of young girl, thought to be Eugenia

People who have rented some of the rooms from The Historic Bush House Museum, claim to have seen a clear apparition of a young girl, who loves to turn the heat up by moving the indicator on the Central Heating Controls. When Eugenia moved into the new mansion with her father, the ability to make the house warmer by just moving a dial must have been a big thrill to her; And, it may still attract her.

Possibly Other Spirits of Family Members?

It is thought by some sources that more than one spirit has come home to visit, but staff from the Historical Bush Mansion are reluctant to share. Someone talked though to author and ghost hunter, Rich Newman recently, for he had information about the manifestations printed in his book that no one else has reported in any other source.

People who are connected somehow to the Historical Bush Mansion, have felt cold spots, and seen shadow shapes, and heard the female voice and perhaps other ones too.

Bush Barn Art Center

One source reported that there is always something odd going on at the Bush Barn Art Center. No specifics have been made known though. Perhaps things get moved around in odd places, lights have a mind of their own, etc.

The Bush Family were all education-minded folks and any one of them may be very interested in the art programs and galleries, and also like to visit there.

Perhaps an entity attached itself to one of the paintings on display in the old Bush House Art Galleries, and simply moved with the painting to the Bush Barn Art Center Gallery with it.


A Strong Perhaps. There is a strong possibility that the Bush Family likes to visit a lot, along with Eugenia.

Sooner or later the truth will come out – It is hard to hide the presence of spirits, as they become more comfortable with the people they see everyday. Sometimes a spirit or spirits can be tempted to manipulate objects in this world, and perhaps inadvertently exhibit signs of their presence(s). Their apparitions or shadows are seen doing so, their voices are heard, and they don’t always put items back where the living left them.

The Historical Bush Mansion Museum folks hotly deny it. However, There are still some personal experiences that suggest that not only Eugenia is enjoying the mansion, but her family too!

Not much in the way of either personal experiences or actual hard evidence have been made public.

Past renters have shared their personal experiences of seeing an apparition of a young girl, much to the disapproval and alarm of the people in charge of The Historical Bush Mansion, who have a reasonable explanation, and are armed with the truth about Eugenia, they think.

Other people more recently have also heard her voice, felt cold spots and seen shadow shapes, reports Rich Newman, who always interviews folks for his books.

If activity increases to the point where The Art Association of Salem can’t explain it away, they will probably have a private investigation held there which I bet won’t be made public, unless investigators don’t find anything. They don’t want to be known as a haunted house, just the Historical Bush House Museum.




600 Mission Street SE
Salem, OR 97302
(503) 363-4714

The Historic Bush House Museum can be found 2 blocks south of the intersection of Mission Street SE, and High Street SE.

The Bush House can be found on a knoll shaded with trees, still on its original 100 acre farmland, now called 100-acre Bush’s Pasture Park.


  • Hauntings of Western Oregon
    by Kent Goodman
    Schiffer Publications
  • The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide
    By Rich Newman
    pg. 278
    Llewell Productions
  • Bush House Museum Blog
  • Bush House Museum page on Google Plus
  • Bush House page on Oregonlink
  • Bush House Museum page on Oregon Encyclopedia

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Salem Haunts in Oregon