Public Benches of Ashland: #1 photo essay about the humble bench

Bench at15 N First St, Cocorico Restaurant.

Public Benches of Ashland: #1 photo essay about the humble bench

Benches can be beautiful, comfortable,

Artistic, Unusual and Fun.

Benches help build community.

Here is the first of four photo essays about some great places to rest for a bit during your walks through Ashland.

  • I believe benches are important for the livability of a town. Therefore, in addition to this photo essay about “Public benches of Ashland,” I will bring you photo essays about the following:
  • Benches in Ashland parks and Home Owner Association common spaces.
  • Benches at Ashland schools, including Southern Oregon University.
  • What I call semi-private benches located in front yards, near a sidewalk or walking path.

Let’s begin our public benches tour downtown

“The humble bench. … Benches speak to egalitarian ideals, provided as a public good, an open gesture of welcome to any passer-by. They are symbols of what it means for space to be shared, of what we have in common regardless of income or background. The invitation to sit makes no further demands; no price tag, dress code, minimum or maximum length of stay or restriction on the company kept. Classic urban design theorists such as Jacobs and Whyte, repeatedly highlighted the importance of people sitting and watching the world go by as fundamental to the vitality and safety of city places.” 

Radhika Bynon and Clare Rishbeth
overview of Benches in the Ashland Plaza.
Overview of benches in the Ashland Plaza. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Public art bench next to Lithia water faucet on the Plaza.
Public art bench next to Lithia water faucet on the Plaza. This is one of many Ashland Plaza benches. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2019)

Ashland Plaza bench photos with people!

Most of my bench photos focus only on the benches, not on people using the benches. That was an oversight on my part. Here are two photos with people.

Ashland Plaza Martin Luther King Jr rally, January 2022.
All of the Ashland Plaza benches were used during the Martin Luther King Jr community gathering in January 2022. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Ashland Plaza benches and chalk art.
A boy plays hopscotch on Ashland Plaza chalk art, as man and dog look on. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Benches are for resting, people watching, conversing

Bench in front of Chamber of Commerce office.
Bench in front of Chamber of Commerce office. Photo also shows the “Street Scene” sculpture after holiday lights were turned on November 18, 2021. (photo by Peter Finkle)

“Benches build community. Conveniently located benches attract the locals who pass by often. … ‘Conveniently located’ is the key phrase here. The most used benches are close to where many people go, such as shops and densely-clustered homes. Well-located benches also keep their backs to buildings and face the street.”

Adam Greenfield
Pretty benches in front of Pie and Vine restaurant on East Main Street.
Pretty benches in front of Pie and Vine restaurant on East Main Street. I am calling these public benches because they are located in the public sidewalk, even though they are owned by the restaurant. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Bench on East Main St by Second St, with "taste our flavors" banner.
Bench on East Main Street by Second Street, with “taste our flavors” banner. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Bench along the wall of the Bowmer Theater
This bench along the wall of the Bowmer Theater is at the top of the “Shakespeare Stairs.” It honors Bill Anderson and Allan Grosh. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Signs that accompany bench along wall of Bowmer Theater.
These signs are behind the bench along the wall of the Bowmer Theater, at the top of the “Shakespeare Stairs.” It honors Bill Anderson and Allan Grosh. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Bench in island between library and fire station, showing the library and Peace Wall artwork behind it.
Bench in island between library and fire station, showing the library and Peace Wall artwork behind it. This bench is in a photogenic spot. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Ashland library bench in memory of Patty Perrin.
This Ashland library bench, in memory of Patty Perrin, is a place to rest and also a work of art. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2009)

Walking toward the Railroad District

“Public benches offer so much more than a place to just sit down. Benches allow people of all abilities and ages to spend more time outdoors, boosting physical and mental health and connecting them to their community through shared public spaces. Adding benches to commercial districts and city squares allow generations to intermingle, both young families and seniors can participate in a shared public space regardless of age or mobility loss, either through disability or temporary injury. As our population ages, benches will become even more important to help break increasingly daunting trips to the grocery store or to other retail spaces into smaller, more manageable journeys.”

Reliance Foundry website
Bench by Trinity Episcopal Church and the painted utility box on Second Street.
Bench by Trinity Episcopal Church and the painted utility box on Second Street. The utility box was painted by artist Kathleen Taylor in 2009. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Bench at15 N First St, Cocorico Restaurant.
Beautiful setting for a bench in front of Cocorico Restaurant on First Street — in summer time. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Bench at Cocorico Restaurant on Oak Street, with fall color.
Same bench in front of Cocorico Restaurant on First Street — with fall color. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Bench on Water Street.
Bench on Water Street, a block from the Plaza.. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Railroad Park concrete piers (now benches) held up 2 water towers for trains.
Railroad District: Only a few concrete piers (now holding benches) remain here in Railroad Park of the dozens that once held up two water towers for trains. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Benches for rest and community connection are in other neighborhoods, too

“To make walking safer and more enjoyable, we need to add human scale touches, also called pedestrian amenities. We need these amenities in every neighborhood, not just downtown. Think about street trees that provide shade and beauty, benches for resting or conversing, drinking fountains to quench the thirst, even public art to engage the senses.”

Peter Finkle
Bench on Granite Street by Rio Amistad mosaic.
Bench on Granite Street by Rio Amistad mosaic. The stairway from Granite Street to Calle Guanajuato is right behind this bench. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Bench along Sherman Street.
Bench by the alley at Sherman Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Bench on Russell Street
Lots of room to sit at this new bench in front of a new building on a new street — Russell Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2022)
Bench at East Main Street and Sixth Street.
Double benches in front of the CenturyLink building at East Main Street and Sixth Street. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Bench at Fire Station No 2.
This small, colorful bench is in front of Fire Station No 2. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

The closing photo below could go in my upcoming photo essay about benches in city parks and Home Owner Association common spaces. However, I like the way it wraps up this photo essay about public benches. We began in the Plaza, the center of Ashland. Now we end with a view of Bear Creek on its way out of town to eventually meet the ocean.

Peter on bench along Bear Creek, by Kestrel Parkway open space
Here I am enjoying the view from a bench along Bear Creek, in the Kestrel Parkway open space.. (photo by Kathy Campbell, 2020)

“Most of the wonderful places in the world were not made by architects but by the people.”

Christopher Alexander, author of “A Pattern Language,” a book about human-centered architecture.

References:

Anon. “Sitting Together: How Benches Help Build Community, Reliance Foundry website.

https://www.reliance-foundry.com/blog/sitting-together-how-benches-help-build-community

Anon. The Public Bench Project website.

https://publicbenchproject.wordpress.com

Bynon, Radhika and Rishbeth, Clare. “Benches for everyone Solitude in public, sociability for free,” The Young Foundation, 2015. 

https://youngfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/The-Bench-Project_single-pages.pdf

Greenfield, Adam. “This Guy Reclaimed Community By Putting Out Guerrilla Benches,” March 29, 2016, The Plaza Perspective website.

http://plazaperspective.com/a-community-of-benches/

 

 

3 Comments
  • Mike Honkomp
    Posted at 06:17h, 22 November Reply

    Peter, you out-did yourself on this one…can’t wait for two sequels.

  • Pamela Thomassen
    Posted at 22:41h, 21 November Reply

    Thank you once again Peter for bringing a little joy into our lives. You make me want to go outside and take a walk and enjoy our lovely town.

  • Amy Titus
    Posted at 11:54h, 21 November Reply

    Wow, what a beautiful article! Thank you Peter

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