The Cedars

In 1917, a detention home for “fallen women” called The Cedars was built to the north of Edgefield, under the stewardship of Lola Baldwin, Portland’s first policewoman and namesake of our Lola’s Room at the Crystal Ballroom. Press clippings trumpeted The Cedars as a “refuge for diseased women.” Yet the concern wasn’t actually for the women, but for poor, unsuspecting servicemen headed overseas for WWI who might unknowingly fall prey to these scandalous ladies. Per Uncle Sam, venereal disease was “an enemy as vicious as ‘the Hun,’” so it was of utmost importance that our boys in uniform be kept at a safe distance from prostitutes, the leading source of venereal infection. Social distancing was a thing, even back then, but for much different purposes.

Lauded as a model facility, The Cedars’ business was brisk from the moment the doors opened. In fact, its near 50-bed capacity had to be more than doubled to accommodate demand. However, after the war ended, conditions changed and the need for this facility notably diminished. Ultimately, the venture failed as a result of negative press in 1923.

A number of escapes had made it clear that not every female “inmate” was grateful for the rehabilitation she was receiving. Periodically, groups of inmates broke out by digging under the stockade or prying loose bars on the windows. One account accused the staff of placing parolees from The Cedars into private homes where they were kept in a virtual states of slavery. Another condemnation came from a local judge who said the whole system of detaining diseased women but not men was “an infernal outrage against womanhood.”

Oh, the irony…

The Cedars was closed and stood vacant for two and a half years, when it was purchased for use as the Bealey Military Academy in 1925. It went from being a home for fallen women to – yes, that’s right – a boys’ military academy. One can just assume the boys’ imaginations ran wild as they moved into their new school.

On August 1, 1926, hundreds converged at the Bealey Military Academy for its grand opening — you have to wonder how many were there for the opening or to simply gawk at the former women’s home. Guests were given a tour of the grounds and later, celebrated aviator Oakley Kelly, who had co-piloted the first nonstop flight across the country, delivered a very special package: a United States flag and note from President Calvin Coolidge dispatched via air mail specifically for the event. All this pomp and circumstance, for an opening enrollment of nine students.

Bealey Academy was on its way, with applications the following years coming in from around the U.S. and even South America. It was a fancy joint – fancy enough that when Captain Bealey’s wife acquired a pet monkey, it made the newspapers (left). The Bealeys (and their monkey) were local celebrities.

But within six years, the academy had fallen into debt and had its own share of bad press – one lawsuit claimed that facilities were not kept clean, that the food wasn’t good, that students were required to do janitorial tasks and more. Combine this with the Great Depression and it was too much for the school to overcome. Bealey Academy was shuttered in early 1931.

For the second time since its construction, the building with undoubtedly thousands of stories to tell stood vacant. In 1938, after Edgefield’s administrator had appealed to the Works Progress Administration, the women’s-refuge-turned-academy was dismantled and the timber was carted across the street to the poor farm, where it was used to construct the three-story building on the west side of the property.

A change of face

The newly built duplex initially housed Edgefield’s staff doctors and nurses and later the farming managers’ families. After the farming operation was stopped in 1969, the house sat empty for nearly a decade, until the county made the house available for the Janus Youth program, providing residential care for adolescents struggling with homelessness and drug abuse. The program was named for the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, gates, doors, passages, endings and time.

In the mid-2000s, when the Janus program relocated, McMenamins acquired the building from the county, thereby returning the structure to the fold of the historic Edgefield poor farm complex.

Today, it’s known as Ruby’s Spa, a relaxing, wonderful place where you can get a massage, have your hair and nails done, take a soak in the pool and more. The ladies of The Cedars, and perhaps the Bealey boys and Janus kids, too, would have appreciated a spot such as this.

Sadly, monkeys are not allowed onsite.

8 Comments

  1. Mary Ramirez on July 9, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    Loved reading this, thank you

    • History Dept. on July 9, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      You’re most welcome, Mary! Thank you for reading it. So many good stories out there…

  2. janmarie Seguin on July 9, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    new to Oregon, I have had the pleasure of learning its understated history, starting from the fur trappers and pioneers ( of which I have recently found I have ties to both in my family !)
    The McMenamins properties never cease to amaze me – so much rich wonderful history. I raise a glass of stout to your company for brilliantly saving these establishments that would surely have been destroyed if not for your ingenuity.
    The music, the spirits and facilities are a big part of my life.
    Thank you ! Cheers

    • The History Dept. on July 10, 2020 at 11:34 am

      Janmarie, welcome to Oregon! And thank you for your kind comments.

  3. Tammy Palumbo on July 15, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing this interesting and colorful history. I will be thinking about it the next time I go to Ruby’s spa. McMenamins are cherished Oregon (and Washington) treasures and we are the better for them.

  4. Sandra sexton on August 17, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you for the hospitality!! Love the art in the area! Jakes crawfish was my favorite place to eat during my whole trip! Yummy!!

  5. Jack McMenamin on August 25, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Wonderful story – I love stories about our history. I plan to visit when going out west again, my name is Jack McMenamin from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. BTW , I have a son named Brian Michael McMenamin. I believe there are two McMenamin brothers, named Brian and Michael that started the the McMenamin chain of eateries in the Northwest.☘☘☘☘☘

    • McMenamins History Dept. on August 25, 2020 at 11:50 am

      You are correct, Jack! — our company founders are Mike and Brian McMenamin. Their kids Dan, Shannon and Sean (Mike’s family) and Conners (Brian’s son) are also involved in the business.

      We’d love to see you again at one of our 57 locations across the Pacific Northwest. See many more stories about the company and those who have influenced it here on our blog, at McMenamins.com or at facebook.com/mcmenaminshistory.

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