11 Jun Scenic Drive: History Comes Alive!
* 23 Homes more than 100 years old!
* Oregon history comes alive at 531 Scenic Drive.
* 30 Photos.
* Garden of the Month, April 2020.
* Tree of the Year 2004.
* Modern architecture, and more.
I walked Scenic Drive wearing a mask in April of 2020, when the people of Ashland and the entire State of Oregon were being asked to “Stay Home, Save Lives” in order to slow the spread of the pandemic coronavirus. Going for walks was acceptable, as long as we didn’t gather in groups of people.
I began at the “beginning” of Scenic Drive, where it meets Strawberry Lane, and where the first house number is 5 Scenic Drive.
I was drawn to Scenic Drive this month for two reasons. My first motivation was the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for April, located at 467 Scenic Drive. In addition, I counted 23 homes on Scenic Drive more than 100 years old, built between 1880 and 1915. I know WalkAshland readers love the local history I learn and share here, so be prepared for plenty of history, gardens and architecture in this article.
Old Ashland maps show part of Scenic Drive was originally called Woolen Street, named for Mr. Woolen, who subdivided his farm acreage here to create land for houses.
Before we explore historic houses, let’s start with the modern houses at this end of Scenic Drive. The first house that caught my eye was also the first house number. I spoke with a neighbor, who told me two architects live in and designed this house.
I spoke with Greg at 39 Scenic Drive. He built much of this attractive 1988 house himself. What really makes the house stand out is the moose antlers mounted on an outside wall. How often do you see moose antlers on the outside of a house? As for me, never before this. Greg told me he purchased the antlers in Alaska from someone who makes spending money by finding places where moose shed their antlers in the winter. I learned something new that day.
I also met the owner of the log cabin at 35 Scenic Drive. I think I got lucky meeting Scenic Drive neighbors out in their front yards because the day I walked was the warmest, sunniest day of the week. You can see from the house photo that it is made of round logs. This is different log-house construction than one I saw – and learned about – on Westwood Drive. You can read about the Westwood Drive log house made with tongue-in-groove D-logs at https://walkashland.com/2019/07/19/westwood-street-log-house-and-eco-house/
This is a lovely, modern Swedish-chalet style house. A neighbor told me it was made using straw bale construction for the exterior walls.
Now let’s continue down Scenic Drive, looking mostly at a variety of historic houses. I won’t describe and show photos of every one of the 23 houses more than 100 years old along Scenic Drive. I will show houses that either caught my eye or have unusual stories to go with them, then I will list the other historic houses at the end of the article. I will also point out a few modern houses that struck me.
The Craftsman style house set above the street at 79 Scenic Drive was built in 1910 by R.L. Coombe. Born in the Australian island state of Tasmania in 1874, somehow he found his way to Ashland in 1910. That same year, he and his wife Florence built this new home.
Coombe was one of the leading plasterers in the Rogue Valley, specializing in interior plaster and exterior stucco work. Among the local buildings he worked on were the 1910 Emil and Alice Applegate Peil House and the 1912 Ashland Carnegie Library. You can see in the photo that 79 Scenic Drive has a stucco exterior.
The National Register description of the house says, “As might be expected the exterior of the house was clad in delicately colored stucco with highly detailed quoins and other details, a veritable tour de force of a master craftsman. Sadly, upon leaving Coombe family ownership this original material was painted, forever hiding the original design intent.”
95 Scenic Drive was built about 1915. I talked with current owner, who was working in her beautiful large garden. She told me the house was originally one story with a basement. In the 1970s, downstairs was made into a separate entry apartment. Orange aluminum siding was added to the exterior! Orange? Aluminum? To a historic house?
In 1997, the current owners did a renovation to remove the orange aluminum siding (yay!) and restore the upper story gable. Let me say now that there was one benefit of the aluminum siding. When it was removed, the original Victorian-style fish scale decorative shingles were in good condition on the gable. These shingles indicate that this 1915 house was a transitional architectural style between Victorian style and the new Craftsman style.
240 Scenic Drive was built in 1977, so it’s not a historic house; but in a sense it is historic. It is noteworthy because it was long the home of Lenn and Dixie Hannon. Lenn was a long-time Oregon State Senator, and Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library is named after him.
One of the oldest houses on Scenic Drive, the simple Vernacular style house at 345 Scenic Drive was built about 1886 by Lysander Sackett. The most notable owner of the house after that was H.C. Mecham. According to the Ashland Tidings of March 21, 1910, Mr. Mecham “recently invested in a home on Woolen Street” (the original name of Scenic) and also recently “purchased the planing mill from Carson-Fowler Lumber Company.” A planing mill took lumber that had been initially cut to size in a sawmill and finished it to meet the needs of different types of construction or furniture building.
The simple, attractive house at 365 Scenic Drive was built in 1885 and has a prime spot at the corner of Wimer Street. I’m not sure if the porch detail is original, but if not I expect it has been there a long time.
This beautifully renovated 1889 house at 407 Scenic Drive is independently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the best examples in Ashland of the Queen Anne/Eastlake architectural style. It was built in 1889 by S. Pedigrift, a mason and plasterer who seems to have lived in Ashland only three or four years.
Notice especially the matching Queen Anne style bay windows. George Kramer wrote in the National Register nomination form that the bay windows are so typical of “Eastlake fancy work” style that Pedigrift may have purchased them from a catalog and incorporated them into the house design.
Through the mid-20th century, the owners of the house also cultivated orchards up the hillside behind the house. Robert Dooms, who owned the house and lived there from the mid-1950s to 1988, told George Kramer that when he was a child in Ashland, the previous owner Robert Johnson “paid him $1 a pound for picking cherries, apricots, and peaches behind the house.”
The architecture is not the only impressive sight at this address. The 2004 Ashland Tree of the Year lives here. It is a massive Monterey Cypress, possibly planted in 1889 when the house was built.
Ashland Garden of the Month for April 2020
467 Scenic Drive was chosen as the Garden of the Month by the Ashland Garden Club. Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club wrote: “The lovely garden at 467 Scenic Drive is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for April. It is a work-in-progress by homeowners Elaine Yates and Michael Costello who have had this property for 3.5 years. Although the yard had good bones, with handsome hardscape and fruit trees, the garden had been greatly neglected in recent years.”
Describing the garden, Sloan wrote: “Heathers, grape hyacinths, forsythia, azaleas (in the deer-proof back yard), and rosemary are the stars right now but soon the rhododendrons will burst forth so Elaine encourages readers to delay until late in the month or early next month visiting to admire the garden from the street.”
I have learned a lot and enjoyed being a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can learn more about the club at https://ashlandorgardenclub.org/about/
Before we move on along to the highlight of my Scenic Drive walk, I must mention that 467 Scenic Drive was built about 1903 in the Vernacular style of the early 1900s.
531 Scenic Drive, the oldest house on the street
When I got to this house, the oldest one on Scenic Drive, I felt like I stepped into a time machine. Come with me, and let’s journey together.
John L. Carter was a sign painter. When he moved to Ashland, he expanded his business to house painting as well. He and his wife Fannie were married in 1845, probably in the northeast where they were both born. I don’t know what year they arrived in Ashland, but the couple built this house around 1880. It was the first house on Woolen Street (now Scenic Drive), very near Orlando Coolidge’s nursery.
It was a simple house, built in the vernacular architectural style. The original 1880 house was a small two-story rectangular box — the gray building in the photo above — with 1 ¼” thick barnboard walls and layers of newspaper glued to the walls for insulation. Sadly, John Carter died only two years after they moved in, but his widow Fannie continued to live in the house until her death in 1905.
Casey Bright was working in the front yard when I walked up and started to take photos of the house. He told me that when he and his wife Jennifer decided to move to Ashland in 1992 with their two young girls, this was one of the properties they looked at. The house and yard were a wreck. The house had been abandoned and was falling apart. There were rusty old appliances scattered around the yard. The healthiest part of the scene was a thriving patch of blackberry vines, about 20’ wide and 50’ long and 10’ high. That’s not normally the kind of thriving one looks for in a property!
Casey laughed as he told me his wife was the visionary in the family. Back in 1992, as the two of them were standing looking at the wreck-of-a-yard, his wife turned to him and said, “This would be a great place for the girls to play.” Casey decided to trust his wife’s vision. He also was and is a contractor, so he agreed that the two of them would buy the house and take it on as a project.
One reason Casey trusts his wife’s vision when it comes to houses is because she is an interior designer. I found out that Jennifer’s business, Twist Design Studio, can be found online at http://www.twistdesignstudio.com.
The Bright’s could not find any early photos of the house, so they looked at other vernacular architectural-style houses built in the same period and incorporated those elements as they renovated their house. They were honored by the Ashland Historic Commission for their attention to detail with a Historic Preservation Award in 1997.
Once we started talking about the history of the house, Casey invited me in (keeping physical distance) and showed me a wall where newspaper had been used for insulation. To memorialize that history, Casey and Jennifer created a frame for a small section of one wall to show the newspaper, as you can see in the photo.
When I looked closely (see photo above), I saw page 1 of a newspaper called The New Northwest from Portland, Oregon, an issue dated September 29, 1871. After I got home, I looked up the name of the newspaper and began another journey.
Abigail Scott Duniway
The New Northwest is important in Oregon history. The newspaper was founded by pioneer Abigail Scott Duniway on May 5, 1871 to press for women’s right to vote (women’s suffrage). Northwest historian G. Thomas Edwards considered the founding of Duniway’s newspaper to be a key event launching the women’s rights movement in Oregon.
Duniway was also a rare voice standing up for the rights of all people in Oregon, including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. She published the newspaper until 1887.
Women’s right to vote
Oregon voters (all male) defeated women’s right to vote measures in 1884, 1900, 1906, 1908 and 1910. When a women’s suffrage referendum finally passed in 1912, Oregon Governor Oswald West asked an elderly Abigail Duniway (seated in the photo) to sign the official Oregon Proclamation of Women’s Suffrage. She was also honored for her decades-long struggle by being the first woman registered to vote in Multnomah County.
For more of my time machine journey meeting women who led the women’s rights and women’s right to vote movement of the late 1800s (including the female 1884 Presidential candidate my grandmother was named after), see my in-depth article: History Converges at a House on Scenic Drive.
Now back to the house. In addition to some original walls and newspaper insulation, the fir wood floor in the living room is also from the 1880 house. Reviewing his long journey with this house, Casey told me with a smile, “28 years later, I’m still working on the house, now with the help of my teenage son.”
As I reached the end of Scenic Drive, I saw a family outside in their front yard at 546 Scenic working on their garden and building a new fence. I was happily surprised to see an unofficial Little Free Library artistically built in to the fence. You’ll notice that they have a section for children’s books on the lower level.
I will close with a quote from Abigail Scott Duniway that is as important today as it was more than 100 years ago.
“The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times by spreading the light of freedom and truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.”Abigail Scott Duniway
I would like to recognize the Scenic Drive houses more than 100 years old that I did not describe in the article:
* 67 Scenic Drive, built 1909, Craftsman style
* 71 Scenic Drive, built c1910, Bungalow style
* 101 Scenic Drive, built 1910, Bungalow style, 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic
* 160 Scenic Drive, built 1910, Bungalow style, 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic
* 125 Scenic Drive, built 1905, Craftsman style architecture, enlarged and modified in 1990s, but still has most of its historic characteristics
* 275 Scenic Drive, built 1888, Vernacular style
* 283 Scenic Drive, built 1884, added to in 1888, Rural vernacular style
* 299 Scenic Drive, built c1886, Rural vernacular style, 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic
* 309 Scenic Drive, built 1910, Bungalow style, according to the National Register, a 1890 house here was razed, then this house was built in 1910.
* 319 Scenic Drive, built c1900, Craftsman style
* 337 Scenic Drive, built c1905, Vernacular style, on a heavily landscaped lot
* 338 Scenic Drive, built 1888, Vernacular style, this is one of the few 19th century houses on the downhill side of Scenic Drive. It has been beautifully restored, but the 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic.
* 355 Scenic Drive, built 1911, Craftsman style
* 361 Scenic Drive, built 1905, Craftsman style, the projecting bay windows are not compatible with the historic architecture
* 447 Scenic Drive, built c1915, Bungalow style, but much altered and extended through the decades
* 487 Scenic Drive, built c1910, Craftsman style, by Henry Leavitt who had orchards in the area.
* 532 Scenic Drive, built c1890, Vernacular style
Bright, Casey, author interview, April 11, 2020.
Chambers, Jennifer. Abigail Scott Duniway and Susan B. Anthony in Oregon: Hesitate No Longer, The History Press, 2018.
Duniway, Abigail Scott. Speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C. March 4, 1884 [Abigail Scott Duniway Papers*]
Duniway, Abigail Scott. “Ballots and Bullets,” speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C., circa January 21-23, 1889 [Sunday Oregonian 9 Sept. 1906]
Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990; pg. 16, as noted in Wikipedia, April 14, 2020.
Kramer, George. National Register Nomination Form for 407 Scenic Drive.
Kramer, George and Atwood, Kay. National Register of Historic Places, Skidmore Academy Historic District, August 14, 2001.
Sloan, Ruth. “467 Scenic Drive, Garden of the Month, April 2020,” Ashland Garden Club.
Stone, Jason. Portland New Northwest 1871-1887, at Historic Oregon Newspapers, University of Oregon, accessed April 14, 2020. https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/history/newnw/
Ward, Jean M. “Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915),” Oregon Encyclopedia, accessed April 15, 2020.
W. GalvinPosted at 05:58h, 15 June
There was a house on Scenic Dr., that had a spiral staircase going up to the front door. It was near Strawberry Lane.
We worked up the courage to go talk to the older gentleman just so we could climb the stairs.
Carole Hall BakkenPosted at 11:21h, 14 June
Thank You enjoyed the tour and remembering simpler times growing up in Ashland in the 40s and 50s was like a Fairytale compared to the World My Children Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren have inherited ….
Peter FinklePosted at 19:45h, 14 June
I am glad you enjoyed the tour, and that it reminded you of happy times.
Joe PetersonPosted at 15:18h, 12 June
Once again, great research Peter!