In the community, Special Reports

Journey: Nyssa saloon saw wild times

Note: This article is taken from the 2023 edition of Journey, a Malheur Enterprise publication focused on the history of Malheur County and its people.

NYSSA – Gun fights.



And, now and again, customers pitched coins toward the back of the expansive, hand-built bar at the Green Lantern Saloon in Nyssa.

The historical building – placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1996 – began as a as a livery stable when it was built in 1906, according to Nancy DeBoer, vice chair of the Nyssa Historical Society.

“On one side of the building there is what looks like windows, maybe to feed horses hay,” she said during a recent tour.

DeBoer bought the Green Lantern building in 1993.

The name comes from the building’s location near the Union Pacific mainline that runs through town. Back in the day, the railroad infrastructure around the Green Lantern – at 11 South 1st Street – was significant.

Historically, lanterns were used by railroad workers to pass along various signals. For example, a red lantern meant stop. A green lantern signaled that the track was clear, proceed with caution.

The Green Lantern carries a rich historical legacy and was the home of the saloon and then a smoke shop. 

It could be an interesting place, DeBoer noted, as it catered to thirsty railroad workers or local residents.

“There was a gunfight in the saloon. Several ladies of the night. This was a wild town at the turn of the century,” said DeBoer.

Since buying the building, she and the historical society have spent years doing renovation work.

“I had to put a new roof on it,” said De Boer.

After it was a saloon, the building became the Smoke Shop, owned by resident Marge Adams. 

Now much of the interior of the building is restored but work still remains to be done, said DeBoer.

“There is a lot of maintenance,” she said.

A visitor stepping through the front door of the Green Lantern is suddenly transported back in time. 

The inside of the Green Lantern in Nyssa evokes memories of the town’s wild, Old West past. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

To the right of the doorway are tables with green and white checkered tablecloths. Along the walls are vintage Frederic Remington reprints depicting scenes from the Old West. A piano sits against one wall and scattered across the saloon are Remington sculpture replicas. Midway down the north wall a large pair of Texas Longhorn horns droop over a painting of a group of men from the early 20th century, playing cards. 

Also, toward the west end of the saloon sits a vintage Brunswick billiard table. 

Yet it is the bar that catches the eye. A hand-crafted, light brown wood masterpiece, the bar was built in New York state sometime at the end of the 19th century or early part of the 20th.

The bar was shipped to Nyssa, traveling by steamship around Cape Horn before the Panama Canal was opened.

Behind the bar is a dark wood-framed set of mirrors fronted by an old cash register, glasses and beer signs. An antique red light dangles low from the ceiling above the walkway between the mirrors and the bar.

The Green Lantern Saloon is part of a larger set of historical buildings in Nyssa overseen by the Nyssa Historical Society. DeBoer said the historical society offers tours of the buildings – including the Green Lantern Saloon – at various times throughout the year.

DeBoer said she is proud of the restoration work on all the buildings, including the Green Lantern.

“It is such a neat place,” she said.

To find out more about Nyssa’s historical buildings and tours, contact DeBoer at 541-372-3712. 

The 2023 edition of “Journey Into Malheur County’s Rich History” is available at the Malheur Enterprise office and other local businesses, or call the Enterprise at 541-473-3377 to obtain a copy by mail for a nominal charge.