Beach Street (updated 2020 and 2024)

Beach Street (updated 2020 and 2024)

Beach Street Unique. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Writing about Beach Street was my first “Walk Ashland” blog post, published April 12, 2018!

Beach Street starts at Siskiyou Blvd and ends uphill at the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains. You’ll find a mix of modest homes, large homes, apartments and condos as you walk Beach Street. The street has open space at Lincoln School, plus many large Ponderosa pines, firs and oaks.

Without further ado, let’s get right into stories about the “Beach Street bear,” which even had its photo in the Ashland Daily Tidings in 2006. I have two personal “Beach Street bear” stories and one told to me by a neighbor.

My sad bear story is encapsulated in the photo below. The bear was doing what bears love to do…go fishing, in this case in my backyard pond.

Local bear eating a Koi fish on Beach Street.

My wife and I have enjoyed a small pond, with plants and colorful koi fish, for the past 15 years. The first ten years were uneventful. We had seen a cinnamon-colored bear eating plums from a tree in a neighbor’s yard a couple times, but no sign of bears in our yard. Then in 2015 a bear discovered the eight healthy (and mostly fat) koi in our backyard pond.

The first koi to become bear food was our 10-year-old black and white koi named Larry. Within a week, the bear had returned and fished out two big beautiful bright orange koi named Big Guy and Dreamsicle. We couldn’t handle seeing them all picked off one by one, so I got in the pond with a fish net and captured the survivors so we could take them back to the shop where we bought them.

Here is the happy (so far) ending to this story. The youngest of our eight koi, a three-inch long almost-baby named Prospero, eluded my attempts to catch him. He disappeared, probably hiding among the pond’s thick plants. Then, as if by magic, he reappeared two months later. After he survived one year all alone in the pond, we got Prospero a “buddy” the following year. We know we could lose them at any time, but as of spring 2020 (“knock on wood”) we have two koi to watch as we sit by the pond.

My other bear story was dramatic in a different way. On a warm summer evening in 2006 shortly after the Daily Tidings article, I was stretched out in a lounge chair in my back yard reading the newspaper. Our cuddly, chunky female cat GG was stretched out half-asleep next to me. Ah, a nice relaxing Ashland summer evening.

Suddenly I saw a 5′ tall, 200 pound or so black bear climb over the low side-yard fence 35 feet away from me – way too close – and it was no longer a relaxing summer evening. I stood up, holding the newspaper. Then the bear saw me. It stood up. GG-cat took off running back to the house cat door faster than she had ever run in her entire life. My wife happened to be at the screen door nearest the bear when it appeared, so she started yelling at the bear. Meanwhile, I backed away slowly, newspaper in hand.

Fortunately, the bear was as afraid of us as we were of it, so it shot up the nearest tree. After looking around from its perch ten feet up, it decided not to stay up a tree in our yard. It came down the tree, climbed over the fence, and then lumbered off through two neighbors’ yards to Liberty Street and hopefully uphill to the forest.

Speaking of bears, during 2018 I met my neighbor Brad as he was “playing with rocks,” – as he put it – building a no-mortar rock retaining wall. We were discussing how all of upper Beach Street a century ago was likely a farm and orchard. He told me about his old cherry and apple trees, and then declared his frustration that every summer a bear crushes his chain-link fence in order to get in and enjoy ripe cherries.

Little Free Library on Beach Street.
This unofficial Little Free Library was on Beach Street from 2020 to 2023. It is not longer here, as of January 2024. You might be able to tell that young children were involved in designing the installation. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Changing the subject from bears to angels, I met Nina as I was admiring her front yard full of angel sculptures.

Yard art "angels" on Beach Street.

Nina told me a “small world” story. Decades ago, she worked as an intern for six months at Presidio Hill School in San Francisco. When her new neighbor moved in, they found something in common. The new neighbor had followed Nina as an intern at Presidio Hill School, but then stayed on the staff for 40 years…before retiring to Ashland, right next door to Nina!

295 Beach Street, historic home built in 1930. According to the National Register survey, this house is a fine example of the early 20th century Bungalow architectural style. (photo by Peter Finkle)
This 1910 house at 329 Beach Street is another classic Bungalow architectural style house. It was built by Nathan Bates of the successful Bates Brothers Barber Shop. (photo by Peter Finkle)

The elementary school was originally used for the teacher training program at Southern Oregon State Normal School (now SOU) one block away. Due to declining elementary school enrollment, Lincoln was closed in 2005, but is still owned by the school district.

Former Lincoln Elementary School, built in 1926, at 320 Beach Street. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Lincoln Elementary School has an interesting history. In July 1925, Ashland’s only elementary school was overcrowded and voters passed a bond to finance the construction of a second school. By 1926, Lincoln School opened, with a dual mission to educate elementary students and to train new teachers who attended the nearby Southern Oregon State Normal School (now SOU).

The Lincoln School building was designed by the same well-known Portland architectural firm that in 1924 designed Ashland’s Lithia Springs Hotel (now Ashland Springs Hotel). The core of Lincoln School, with its formal Corinthian-inspired columns, remains as it was in 1926.

The building was expanded and remodeled several times through the years. In the mid-1940s, elementary schools were again getting overcrowded and there was discussion of expanding Lincoln School. A 1946 fire that destroyed much of the school led to remodeling and soon after that, the addition of three classrooms and a multipurpose room. As Ashland continued to grow, two more classrooms were added to the school in 1955.

Then population trends changed, and by the 1990s Ashland elementary school enrollment was dropping fast. There were five elementary school buildings to keep up and not enough students to fill them. It was an agonizing decision, but the Ashland School Board first closed Briscoe Elementary School in 2003 and then Lincoln Elementary School in 2005.

This colorful, creative yard art at 302 Beach Street is not currently in place, as of January 2024. I hope it will be repaired and remounted. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Walking Beach Street one day, I met someone with a name that Ashland “old-timer” readers will recognize: Fortmiller. I met Lisa Beach (formerly Lisa Fortmiller), whose parents owned Fortmillers Department Store at 142 East Main Street in downtown Ashland for many years. She remembers being able to pick her favorite clothes off the racks as a child.

Some things change…like historic houses being altered beyond recognition (sad face) or being renovated to restore their historical look (happy face). As of January 2024, Lisa Fortmiller no longer owns the house, but it is still a beautiful historic residence.

This beautiful historic house at 496 Beach Street was an early farm house for this area. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Here is a garden highlight of the 2018 walk — beautiful daffodils, which the deer have left alone for us to enjoy.

  • david mason
    Posted at 16:28h, 12 February Reply

    I grew up at 872 Iowa Street, born at the old Granite City hospital in 1945. Both parents and grandparents lived in Ashland, grandparents lived at 196 Nutley. The sound of peacocks from Lithia park zoo traveled far into the mountains. I was the zoo’s last keeper. In 1998 I reroofed the Triangle park gazebo, where I learned to ride my bike. Cora Mason was my aunt and was head librarian at the Ashland Public Library. That was my second home, laying on the floor in front of the ireplace. My dad, George Mason, carried mail 30 years. First around Granite Street, later around First Street and the olod town. Living in high desert country now near Lakeview, I miss the old hometown with its music and art. Especially Lithia park. I love seeing photographs of the town. – David

    • Peter Finkle
      Posted at 20:35h, 12 February Reply

      Thank you for sharing so much about your family life in Ashland. So many great experiences here!
      Wishing you well,

  • Kate
    Posted at 13:00h, 14 April Reply

    We moved to 588 Beach in ‘60, and shared it with many wonderful people for many years. My mom donated adjacent Glenview Park acreage (with its Kleinhammer House on Ashland St) to the city, and my dad planted many of the now fully mature trees on that ground. Walked down to school, occasionally snuck down to the Market Basket for a treat. Thanks for your posting.

    • Peter Finkle
      Posted at 15:51h, 14 April Reply

      Thanks to both of your parents for the beauty of Glenwood Park, and for that open space being here for the community.

  • Sandra Everest
    Posted at 16:10h, 13 April Reply

    Just discovered your posts about Ashland. I was born (1944) and raised there. I moved to the Portland area in 1976. I loved living and working there, many fond memories. The last time I was there in 2007, there were many changes. I was saddened by some of the changes and not too fond of the “new age” atmosphere. Thank you for Walking Ashland!

    • Peter Finkle
      Posted at 20:04h, 13 April Reply

      I am so glad you discovered my WalkAshland articles and website. I understand what you say about “changes,” but you could say that about Portland or anyplace else that is growing and changing. I think what’s important is that Ashland still has a feeling of people knowing each other and looking out for each other.

Post A Comment