Ashland History “Firsts” — Part 1

Before the city of Ashland existed

In the centuries before European and American settlers began arriving in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, the Shasta and Takelma people lived in this valley. In the summer, small family groups spread out at higher elevations and in river valleys to hunt deer, fish for salmon and gather acorns and other wild plants. 

Archeology digs and pioneer writings suggest that during the winter they lived in villages of semi-permanent plank or bark-covered structures. Captain Thomas Smith and James Cardwell both arrived in the winter of 1851-1852. Both described an Indian village of perhaps 100 people along Ashland Creek, located in the area that is now Lithia Park and the Plaza. According to one account, in 1853 the village leader called Tipsoe led his people away from the Ashland area to live near the Applegate River.

This illustration is titled “Winter lodge of the Umpqua Indians,” from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, April 24, 1858. The Shasta Indian winter lodges in Ashland may have been similar to this one. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First known Euro-Americans in the Rogue Valley

In February 1827, Hudson’s Bay Company fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden led a party of 28 men and 100 horses northward over the Siskiyou Pass into the now-Ashland area. Ogden documented the area with the help of the local Shasta tribe. His group trapped as many as 500 beavers and other fur-bearing mammals along Bear Creek before continuing north to the Rogue River and beyond.

Photo of Peter Skene Ogden, taken approximately 1854. 
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First American settlers in Ashland

On January 6, 1852, Robert Hargadine and Sylvester Pease made a donation land claim for 160 acres in what is now the Railroad District. Two days later, Abel Helman came over the Siskiyou Pass from Yreka and made his donation land claim for 160 acres along the creek. His land claim now includes the entrance to Lithia Park, the Plaza area and land to the south. On January 11th, Helman was joined by Eber Emery, Jacob Emery and James Cardwell, who planned to develop the land and build a saw mill with him. Cardwell reported that the four of them made small payments to the local Indians and reached an agreement that the group could build on this land.

Photo of James Cardwell, taken by Peter Britt in the mid-1800s.
(This photograph is part of the Peter Britt Photograph Collection at Southern Oregon University and made available courtesy of Southern Oregon University Hannon Library Special Collections.)

First house in Ashland

When Abel Helman entered the valley on January 8, 1852, he saw Hargadine and Pease cutting timber to build a cabin. Theirs was the first house built, before there was even a town. (For those of you who are Ashland history experts, I acknowledge Hugh Barron had built a cabin nearby in 1851, but his land and his “Mountain House” stage coach stop were located four miles south of Ashland.) 

First commercial building in Ashland

Within a month after arriving in the valley, Abel Helman, Eber Emery, Jacob Emery and James Cardwell started to build a sawmill. After multiple failures at gold mining in Northern California, they were ready for a change. All skilled carpenters, they realized they could make a lot of money providing wood to miners and local settlers, since gold had been discovered in Southern Oregon in January 1852. The mill was completed on June 16, 1852.

Cardwell wrote, “We finished our work on the mill as fast as we could. The mines in Jacksonville began to attract considerable attention. A great many miners came in…we had our mill in operation…and the demand for lumber was good. We could sell all we could make at $80 per thousand.” [Atwood 1987, page 22]

Note: $80 per thousand board feet in 1852 is equivalent to about $2,580 per thousand board feet today. Today’s Ashland price for good quality building lumber (standard no. 2 and better Douglas Fir) is about $750 per thousand board feet. That means the Ashland saw mill, with little competition in 1852, was able to charge about three times what a mill could charge today. [My thanks to Dale Shostrom for helping me with the lumber calculations.]

First town name — Ashland Mills

This story about the naming of Ashland was told by Abel Helman’s granddaughter, Almeda Helman Coder. “This doesn’t appear in any of the history books, but this is the story that is in my family, the Helman family.  There were these men that came over from the mines down in California.  The seven of them that came together, and some of them, as I said, went on, and the two Emerys that came from Ashland, Ohio Territory, and my grandfather, and a man by the name of Cardwell stayed for a while.  They began to wonder what they would call the little settlement. It wasn’t much of a settlement, so to settle the argument, they drew straws.  They wanted to call it after Ashland, Kentucky.  Well, Mr. Cardwell did.  Grandfather and Mr. Emery wanted to call it after Ashland, Ohio.  So, they drew these straws.  Grandfather held the straws, and Mr. Emery drew the long straw, which was to be Ashland, Ohio.”  [Atwood 1975]

The town was first named Ashland Mills because of the 1852 lumber mill and the 1854 flour mill, both built along Mill Creek (now Ashland Creek). When the town was formally incorporated with the State of Oregon October 13, 1874, the name was shortened to Ashland. 

I am not aware of any photos or drawings of the 1852 saw mill, but here is a photo of the Ashland Flour Mill after renovation in 1878. The photo also shows part of the Plaza. Photo taken in 1895. 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.)

First American child born in Ashland

On January 7, 1854, Abel and Martha Helman’s son John Kanagy Helman was born. Abel and Martha’s other children were named Almeda Lizette, Mary Elizabeth, Martha Jane, Abe Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Ulysses Grant and Otis Orange. You can tell that Abel and Martha were strong supporters of the Union during the Civil War.

Abel Helman in 1887 with his son Grant and two of Grant’s children, in front of Abel Helman’s house at 101 Orange Street 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.)

First hotel/lodging house in Ashland

In 1854 Abel Helman and Eber Emery saw a new opportunity. The busy Jacksonville-to-Yreka road ran through the tiny settlement, right in front of the flour mill. Helman persuaded Emery to build a lodging house on his land, about 100 yards north of the Ashland Flour Mill. Called Ashland House, it opened for business in early 1855. Only a year later, Emery sold the lodging house to Morris Howell, but Howell was not happy being an innkeeper. 

On August 22, 1856, Dr. David Sisson and his young wife Celeste arrived in Ashland after crossing the Siskiyou Mountains from California. They lodged at the Ashland House and left their pack animals at the livery. When there are only a few dozen residents, news travels fast. The very next morning, Abel Helman walked across the Plaza from his flour mill to the boarding house and greeted Dr. Sisson. He told Sisson there was no doctor within many miles, and implored him to consider staying in Ashland Mills. Surprisingly, just nine days later, David and Celeste Sisson purchased the Ashland House from Morris Howell and made it their new home! They ran the lodging business, and it was also where Dr. Sisson saw patients.

Sadly, Dr. Sisson was murdered in 1858 and the Ashland House burned to the ground in 1859. During the fire, renters in the second-floor rooms threw their possessions out the windows and then got out safely. Due to the blaze, Ashland lost not only the lodging house, but also the town post office on the ground floor and local records that were kept there. 

Two weeks after the fire, Eber Emery started construction of a new Ashland House at the same site. 

This is the rebuilt Ashland House in 1875 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.)

First school class in Ashland

October 3, 1854, formal schooling in Ashland began with a handful of children in the home of Eber Emery. The teacher was Miss Lizzie Anderson. As a side note, in 1876 Lizzie became the wife of Captain John McCall, who built the McCall House on Oak Street in 1883. 

Two weeks later, there were millions at the school! How was this possible? It happened when Bennett and Armilda Million bought a land claim and moved to Ashland Mills with their five school-age children.

This story of early Ashland “firsts” will be continued with Part 2.

References:

Ashland Daily Tidings, February 26, 1927.
Atwood, Kay.  Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975.
Atwood, Kay. Mill Creek Journal: Ashland, Oregon 1850 – 1860, self-published 1987.
Green, Giles. A Heritage of Loyalty: The History of the Ashland, Oregon, Public Schools, School District No. 5, 1966.
LaLande, Jeff. The Ashland Plaza: Report on Findings 2012-2013 Sub-Surface Archeological Survey of the Ashland Plaza Project Area Jackson County, Oregon, 2013. 
Lewis, Raymond (possibly), “Abel D. Helman, Founder of Ashland,” Table Rock Sentinel, October 1981 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.
Olmo, Rich and Hannon, Nan. “Archeology in the Park,” Table Rock Sentinel, January 1988 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).

The Oldest House in Ashland (and the banister that saved it)

This is an 1884 lithograph of 1521 East Main Street in Ashland [Walling 1884]

1856 – The man Walker School is named after builds the house
1959 – The 23-year President of Southern Oregon University buys the house
1973 – The 29-year Ashland High School science teacher renovates the house
2019 – I interview Lance Locke and his daughter Teresa Locke Benson

This is the banister that saved the oldest house in Ashland from demolition. Keep reading to find out how it saved the house. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Three people are associated in special ways with the oldest house in Ashland: (1) the man Walker School and Walker Street are named after; (2) a 23-year President of Southern Oregon College; (3) an Ashland High School science teacher for 29 years who also coached the football team for seven years.

Since it is set back from the street, you may have driven by 1521 East Main Street many times and hardly noticed it. If you stop and look (across East Main Street from ScienceWorks Museum), you will see the oldest house in Ashland, a white two-story house that looks almost the same today as when it was built in the late 1850s. Note: This is a private home, so please do not disturb the residents.

The three Ashland citizens we will learn about are John Walker, Elmo Stevenson and Lance Locke. Let’s take them one at a time.

John Walker

Close-up of Walker house photo hanging at Lance Locke’s house. It was probably taken in the late 1880s per Terry Skibby. John Walker was born in 1822, so he is most likely the man with beard in this photo. (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

John P. Walker took the Applegate Trail to Ashland in 1853. He purchased a donation land claim from Samuel and Elizabeth Grubb in 1856, and may have begun building his large house that year. (When the house was renovated, the owner found newspapers from the year 1856 used as insulation. More on that later.) The house is 1 ½ miles from the Ashland Plaza, which at the time he built it was “out in the country.” It is still surrounded by acres of open land. 

School classes were first taught in Ashland in 1854 at Eber Emery’s house, with Miss Lizzie Anderson the teacher. This informal arrangement continued until April 3, 1857, when the small community held a meeting to elect three directors and a clerk for the new Jackson County School District No. 5. Walker was dedicated to education and wanted to be a school director.

He was chosen, along with Asa G. Fordyce and Bennett Million, while Robert B. Hargadine was the clerk. In October of 1857, the school board authorized a tax on each property owner, according to the value of his property. As the owner of the largest, most valuable piece of property in Ashland, John Walker willingly paid the highest taxes — $10.00 that first year. There were ten boys and eleven girls in the all-grades school that year.

In 1860, when the first dedicated school house was built, Walker’s school taxes were again the highest, and they had increased significantly to $170.42. This was slightly more than double the second-highest taxes, which were paid by R.B. Hargadine. No wonder the citizens of Ashland named a school after John Walker.

Elmo Stevenson

Long-time SOC/SOU President Elmo Stevenson at home with his wife Caroline and grand-daughter Stephanie in 1971 (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

When Elmo Stevenson was hired as President of Southern Oregon College in 1946, only 45 students were enrolled, and the college was in danger of being closed. As World War II veterans entered higher education in the next few years, Stevenson stabilized and then strengthened the college. During his tenure, he “flew” around the state in his Oldsmobile, driving anywhere he could find high school students to recruit. By the time he retired in 1969, student enrollment was over 3,700. 

President Stevenson was very ambitious, and oversaw a major expansion of the college, including new student residence halls, new academic buildings and new athletic facilities. He even had a long-range plan for Southern Oregon College to grow to 10,000 students. 

In addition to education, Stevenson also loved family, hunting and cattle ranching. In 1959, he bought the Walker house and 50 acres of property that went with it. His interest was in the land he could use for grazing cattle, so he left the empty house alone and it continued to deteriorate. According to Lance Locke, Stevenson had 100 acres of land and about 100 head of cattle by the early 1970s.

Lance Locke

Lance and Vivian Locke (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

Raymond Lance Locke (Lance) married Elmo Stevenson’s daughter Vivian, with whom he had two daughters. Vivian and Lance were both professional educators. Vivian passed away in 2017. I was able to interview Lance, and his daughter Teresa, in 2019.

Locke taught science at Ashland Junior High School for three years in the early 1960s. Locke told me that in the 1960s the Junior High School students would cross the street from the school to the abandoned John Walker house to hide and smoke cigarettes. He then taught science at Ashland High School for 29 years. 

He was Ashland High’s head football coach from 1968 to 1975. Football was Lance’s sport, but I found a surprising article that said he coached the Ashland High School ski team’s first season at Mt. Ashland. [Rogue News] When I told Lance about the school newspaper article I had found, he laughed and told me a story. In the mid-1960s, the ski area had been open only a few years. Several Ashland School Board members had daughters who were into skiing, so they told Ashland High principal Gaylord “Snuffy” Smith to organize a ski team. One day at a high school faculty meeting, Lance was chatting with a friend, not paying much attention. He heard Snuffy Smith say, “Has anyone here ever skied?” Reflexively, Lance raised his hand, and the next thing he heard was the principal telling him, “Great, you’re the ski team coach.” What makes this especially funny is to know that Lance hand-made his skis from blanks at the Junior High School wood shop, and had only been on them a few times.

When Lance had extra time, he helped his father-in-law Stevenson with the cattle. Though he didn’t have much “extra” time.

A life-changing day

 In the early 1970s, Locke started clearing debris out of the Walker house in preparation for eventually demolishing it. In January 1973, he tore down the rickety two-story porch in back of the house. One day during the tear-down, Stevenson was burning a huge patch of blackberry bushes on the property in order to get rid of them once and for all. Locke brought pieces of wood from his demolition project over to the blackberry patch to feed the flames.

Locke clearly remembers that day, because it changed his life. Just hours later, his father-in-law had a fatal heart attack during dinner. The next morning Locke became responsible for taking care of Stevenson’s 100 head of cattle, in addition to full-time teaching, being the high school football coach, and raising two daughters. 

On top of all that responsibility, Locke and his wife Vivian became owners of the empty, dilapidated 1856 house and responsible for 100 acres of cattle-raising property. 

An Aside…100 head of cattle, “Cowboy” Murphy and the 1916 Ashland Roundup

As a novice at raising cattle, Locke had to learn fast. When he ran into problems on the cattle ranch, he turned to Ray Murphy, or “Cowboy” as he was called in Ashland. Cowboy was born in 1893 and was raised on a cattle ranch just outside Ashland. In Ashland’s 3-day 1916 Ashland Roundup rodeo, which was attended by 30,000 people July 4-6, Cowboy won the horse relay race. He competed in rodeos for decades. He even won a calf-roping contest in a rodeo at the San Francisco Cow Palace at age 72! 

1916 Ashland Roundup rodeo, photo of Cowboy Ray Murphy winning the relay race (photo courtesy of Southern Oregon Historical Society)

When Locke was learning the cattle ranch ropes in the mid-1970s, Cowboy lived at the Columbia Hotel on East Main Street. He spent his afternoons across the street at the Elks Lodge, where he had a seat of honor at the end of the bar. When Locke had questions, he would head over to the Elks Lodge, pick up Cowboy and take him out to the cattle ranch, where Cowboy would give him tips. Sadly, Locke lost his cattle-raising mentor with Cowboy Murphy’s death in 1976.

You just read about two connections between the Walker house at 1521 East Main Street and Cowboy Murphy. One was that Cowboy helped Locke through a difficult time by giving him tips about cattle raising. The second was that the 1916 Roundup rodeo took place in the current hay field right next door to the Walker house. Take a look at the two photos below, one taken in 1916 and the other taken in 2019.

Photo of Ashland Roundup, probably taken 1916 or 1917, looking east from 1521 East Main Street (picture hanging at Lance Locke’s house, courtesy of Lance Locke)
Photo of field where the 1916-1917 Ashland Roundup was held, looking east from 1521 East Main Street in November 2019 (photo by Peter Finkle)

The banister that saved the house

Walking through the abandoned house one day in early 1973, with bulldozer demolition still on his mind, Locke stopped and took a long, careful look at the hand-carved front stairway bannister.

Detail of front stairway banister (photo by Peter Finkle)

The strength and solidity of the bannister spoke to him. The skill of the 1850s woodworker, who created a solid wood bannister that curved as it climbed the stairway, spoke to him. The beauty of the wood spoke to him. That bannister changed his mind, and his life changed again.

See how the solid wood banister curves as it climbs the stairway (photo by Peter Finkle)

The Locke family decided to renovate the house instead of demolishing it and starting over. It turned out to be a two-year project, with a lot of help from his good friend (and building contractor) Ken Krumdieck. In the early stages of the renovation, Locke did much of the work himself. 

Ken Krumdieck helps Locke renovate the house, photo taken 1973 or 1974 (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

“My greatest skill is destruction”

Locke described how Krumdieck created a blueprint based on the “bones” of the historical house to guide the renovation. Krumdieck would come over each morning and tell Locke what needed to be done that day. Locke admitted that “My greatest skill is destruction.” That skill was actually useful, because he spent endless hours during 1973 taking the interior of the 117-year-old house down to the studs. On some of the doors, Locke estimated that he removed six layers of paint. 

Upstairs bedroom before renovation, photo taken c1973 (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

Built in the 1850s and never renovated, the old house had no plumbing, an outhouse for a bathroom and a wood stove in the kitchen. So once it was down to the studs, the rebuilding process was comprehensive but slow, with help from friends and skilled workers.

Through the years 1973 and 1974, Locke somehow found the time (after family time, high school teaching time, football coaching time and caring for cattle time) to make a little progress each day. 

Front porch columns during renovation, photo c1974 (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

Writing on the walls

One upstairs bedroom has fir walls that were too special to destroy. Lance and Vivian Locke found notes dated late 1800s and early 1900s written right on the walls. Some listed the births and deaths of calves, showing that the farm had been a cattle ranch for more than 100 years. 

The fir wall rectangle above the light switch has been preserved in its original form (photo by Peter Finkle)
Close-up showing 1895 writing on the bedroom wall (photo by Peter Finkle)

No fiberglass insulation back in the 1850s! Tacked to the bedroom fir wall, Locke found about an inch-thick layer of insulation made of old blankets and intact newspapers. It wasn’t pretty, but it kept the wind out. Dating to 1856, the newspapers indicate that the Walker house construction may have started in that year.

The original house contained four fireplaces and two staircases. The four fireplaces make sense, and show that John Walker, who had the house built, was a wealthy man. When Locke began renovation, he found a grill in the ceiling above the large living room fireplace. He described the purpose of the grill – to channel heat rising from the fireplace into the upstairs bedroom above the living room.

Living room after renovation; prior to renovation, there was a grill in the ceiling above the fireplace to channel heat to an upstairs bedroom (photo by Peter Finkle)

The purpose of two staircases is less clear. Yes, there were four bedrooms upstairs. But why build one staircase for the two front bedrooms, and then a second staircase in back for the two back bedrooms? Wouldn’t it have been simpler and less expensive to have one staircase and then a hallway to link the four bedrooms upstairs? We don’t have John Walker here to answer that question, so we have to live with not knowing.

Quilts on the walls

As I walked out of fir-wall bedroom, I was struck by large quilts hanging on the hallway walls. First, I noticed their beauty. Then, as Lance told me who did the quilting, I marveled at the history I was seeing.

The traditional Basket Pattern quilt was made by Elmo Stevenson’s great-grandmother, probably in the 1850s. To put that in perspective, that would be Teresa’s great-great-great-grandmother!

Another quilt in the hallway was made by Elmo’s wife Caroline Stevenson’s great-grandmother in the first half of the 19th century.

Traditional basket pattern quilt made by Elmo Stevenson’s great-grandmother, probably in the 1850s (photo by Peter Finkle)
Quilt made by Caroline Stevenson’s great-grandmother, possibly in the 1820s (photo by Peter Finkle)

The window renovation party

Lance and Vivian Locke were committed to saving as many of the original windows and doors of the house as possible. The windows were especially a challenge, about 115 years old and neglected for decades. It was too much for Locke to take on by himself. He and his wife decided to have a “window renovation party” and invite all their friends over. They provided burgers and drinks and got the windows done the old-fashioned community way. Among their friends who helped were the Mike Morgan family and the Ken Grebner family.

The window renovation “party” in progress, 1973 or 1974 (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

Door renovation details

Most of the original doors were saved and renovated. These photos tell the story, and are worth “a thousand words.”

Front door

This is the original front door after renovation, photo taken 2019 (photo by Peter Finkle)
This close-up photo shows the thickness of the solid wood original front door (photo by Peter Finkle)

Interior door

This photo was taken in 1973 or 1974, as layers of paint were being removed from an interior door (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)
Here is the same interior door after renovation, in 2019 (photo by Peter Finkle)

French toast on the floor

Locke told me the family officially moved into the renovated house on January 1, 1975. There was no furniture in the house, but there was family, there was food and there was a floor. When I interviewed Lance Locke, his daughter Teresa was with us. She added, “Our first meal was French toast on the floor!” Sure enough, as I turned the pages of their family photo album, I came upon a photo dated January 1, 1975 of six-year-old Teresa and her 8-year-old sister Stephanie eating French toast while sitting on the floor. 

On January 1, 1975, Teresa and Stephanie Locke ate their first meal in the newly renovated house (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

Above and beyond

The Locke’s went “above and beyond” in their historic renovation.  They even rebuilt the picket fence in front and the Captain’s walk on top of the roof. Compare the lithograph from Walling’s 1884 History of Southern Oregon with the house today. 

Lithograph from Walling, 1884 (courtesy of Lance Locke)
Front of the house in 2019 (photo by Peter Finkle)

Locke has been a careful steward of the house and property since 1975. He told me, “I was 35 when I started on it, and it has been a life project.” 

Ashland is fortunate

Ashland is fortunate to have so many residents who have committed their time and money to renovate historic homes, churches and businesses, both for our enjoyment and for the historical education of generations to come. As an Ashland history buff, I am grateful to Lance Locke and his family for choosing to renovate the oldest house in Ashland, rather than demolishing it and starting over. Beyond that, he and his wife did an incredible job, as we can all see today.

Our last photo will be of Teresa’s favorite rose bush in the front yard (photo by Peter Finkle)

Selected References:

J. Campbell, M. Lahr, C. Sweet, R. Lewis. “The Murphy Family of Ashland,” The Table Rock Sentinel (Southern Oregon Historical Society magazine), April 1987, pages 19-28.

Darling, John. “John P. Walker House,” December 18, 2005, MMT.

Dermott Cedar Face, Mary Jane & Battistella, Maureen Flanagan. Southern Oregon University, Arcadia Press, 2019.

Green, Giles. A Heritage of Loyalty: The History of the Ashland, Oregon, Public Schools, School District No. 5, 1966.

Locke, Lance and Benson, Teresa Locke. Author personal interview, July 28, 2019.

Locke, Vivian. “National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form,” October 1977.

National Register of Historic Places website, October 18, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ashland/wal.htm

Rogue News, March 24, 1967

Walling, A.G. History of Southern Oregon, Portland, Oregon, 1884.

From Sacred Church to Horror Film Location to Lovely Home: The story of 100 6th Street

Ashland’s first Catholic Church, 1889 to 1959
Family Life Bible Church, 1963 to 2014
Horror film location, 2014
Now a fully renovated, lovely residence

Here are stories from the life of one building in Ashland’s Railroad District, with glimpses into some human lives that have intersected that building.

Ashland’s First Catholic Church

The booming gold-mining town of Jacksonville was home to the first Catholic Church in Southern Oregon, dedicated in 1858. At that time, no religious group had yet built a church in Ashland, where the population was fewer than 300 people.

Catholic Church at 6th and C Streets, built 1889, photo likely taken between 1889 and 1900.
(photo courtesy of Conaway and Ross)

By 1889, there were five church buildings in Ashland. That’s the year the Catholic Church became the sixth, located in the Railroad District at the corner of 6th and C Streets. According to the Ashland Tidings of August 23, 1889, “There will be services in the new Catholic Church in Ashland next Sunday at 10 a.m., Rev. Father Noel officiating.” The church opened with a membership of about 97 men, women and children.

The original name of the church was Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, which changed about 1915 to its current name, Our Lady of the Mountain.

Because the Catholic priest in Jacksonville had to serve all of Southern Oregon, masses at the new Ashland church were few and far between – only seven in the first full year of the church building. Ashland Catholics finally got their own priest in 1899, ten years after the church was built. 

The congregation grew through the decades and a new, larger Catholic Church was built on Hillview Drive in 1959. The historic steeple bell and Stations of the Cross from the 6th Street church building moved there along with the congregation. 

Catholic Church after slats were added to the steeple, photo likely taken between 1912 and 1915.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.”) 

Pentecostal Church

The 6th Street church building got new life in 1963, when the Family Life Bible Church purchased it. Virginia Carol Hudson told me she moved to 6th Street 27 years ago, when the church building across the street from her housed the Family Life Bible Church. Though the congregation was very small, she enjoyed hearing, while sitting in her yard, their rousing Pentecostal singing each time a church revival meeting was held. 

The Pentecostal church moved out in early 2014. After being filled with worshipers for 120 years, the sad little church building now sat empty.

Horror Movie Location

Then for two days during August 2014, it was suddenly filled with people filming suspenseful, bloody scenes for a horror/thriller independent movie! 

That’s a very different kind of energy from a century filled with songs of praise, the joys of new beginnings and the tears of losing loved ones. How did the old church become a film location? 

Director and producer Brad Douglas needed a church scene for his movie Besetment. He couldn’t find the right location in Bend or in the tiny central Oregon town of Mitchell, the two towns where he was filming. Virginia Carol Hudson, the Wigmaster for the film, told him “There’s an empty church across the street from my house. That is your location, right there.” Across the street from her house turned out to be the empty church at 100 6th Street in Ashland.

Actress Marlyn Mason

Marlyn Mason (on the right) with director Brad Douglas (center).
(photo from Besetment website)

I interviewed Marlyn Mason, one of the lead actors in the film. Here is how her acting was praised in a review of Besetment at the website morbidlybeautiful.com. “I first want to bow down to Marlyn Mason, who plays Milly, because she is so incredibly captivating and terrifying – everything you need in a horror movie performance.  This woman was incredible, and I was terrified and amazed by her in the same breath.”

Born in 1940, Mason became a professional actor as a teenager. The website IMDB lists 113 television and movie acting credits in her long career! One highlight was her opportunity to act – and sing – with Elvis Presley in his second to last film, The Trouble with Girls. 

Marlyn with Elvis in “The Trouble with Girls
(photo courtesy of Marlyn Mason)

I asked Marlyn why she moved from Los Angeles to the Rogue Valley. She replied that when she was in her early 50s, first her agent died and then her car died. Other agents she spoke with told her variations of the same story: “We don’t have work for an older actress.” 

“Dead agent, dead career”

Depressed, she thought to herself: “dead agent, dead career.” Then she had a slightly more uplifting pep talk with herself. “If I’m going to be poor, I want to be poor where it’s beautiful.” As it turned out, a lifelong friend she had known since elementary school lived in Medford, and offered Marlyn a place to rent if she was interested. 

She moved to Medford and found the beauty she was seeking, but she did not find a “dead career.” Quite the contrary. She is finding new career highlights. She recently won the Best Actress award at the Breckenridge Film Festival for her role in the feature-length movie Senior Love Triangle. And the day after I spoke with her, she was flying to New York to attend the Syracuse International Film Festival. 

Mason has felt blessed to find talented Southern Oregon directors to work with, such as Ray Nomoto Robison. She acted in his short film noir called An Affair Remains, which showed at the 2019 Ashland Independent Film Festival, and she plans to make a follow-up with him.

The Wigmaster

Now back to the empty church at 100 6th Street – and movie “blood.” I also had the pleasure of interviewing Virginia Carol Hudson. She was Wigmaster and hair stylist for the Besetment thriller, which was filmed at the empty church across the street from her house. Hudson has had quite a career. For 18 years she worked as a principal wig maker at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Now she divides her time between smaller theaters (she will work two shows during the Cabaret Theater’s 2020 season) and private clients of her Wigs by Design business.

According to Hudson, filming of Besetment left its mark in the house. A horror movie requires lots of (fake) blood to be spattered, right? So the floor got its share, which the moviemakers left when they left. Remember this when I describe the renovation process next.

A Change of Owners

100 6th Street as it is now, in 2019.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

Now back to the house at 100 6th Street. If you walk or drive by the corner of 6th and C Streets now, you will see a beautiful residence – that looks like a church! Greg Conaway and Cory Ross have tastefully transformed the small church building and grounds. 

The couple’s renovation won a well-deserved 2016 Historic Preservation Award given by the Ashland Historic Commission. Here’s how it happened.

In autumn of 2013, Ross was riding her bicycle on 6th Street and saw the old church for sale. The building stands out partly because the original church was designed with elements of the Gothic Revival style, as can be seen in the windows lining both sides of the house. She thought to herself, “Someone needs to save those windows!” 

She and Conaway called realtor Patie Millen, toured the inside of the church, were intrigued, and started discussing the potential. By December, it was theirs.

Front of building before Conaway and Ross’ renovation (2014).
(photo courtesy of Conway and Ross)

Alice’s Restaurant?

Ross and Conaway already lived in a house they liked, so they invited friends and neighbors to an ice cream social at the church to brainstorm ideas for what to do with it. People proposed a dance studio, a music venue, a yoga studio, and more. Of the suggestions Ross told me, this one is my favorite: Open a food place called “Alice’s Restaurant” at the church. After all, Arlo Guthrie wrote his famous 1967 18-minute story-song after staying overnight at his friend and restaurateur Alice’s home, which had formerly been a church. 

This song is called “Alice’s Restaurant.”
It’s about Alice, and the 
restaurant, but “Alice’s Restaurant” is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song.
That’s why I call the song “Alice’s Restaurant.”
(Excerpt from lyrics by Arlo Guthrie)

Front of building after renovation (2019).
(photo by Peter Finkle)

Renovation and Seismic Retrofit

In the end, Ross and Conaway decided to renovate the 125-year-old building and live in it themselves. They hired James Stiritz, owner of Dragonfly Construction, and the team at On Point Construction, with help from many others. The first challenge was to stabilize the structure. The seismic retrofit started with pouring a new steel-reinforced concrete foundation for the church. Then they stabilized the bowing walls that support the soaring ceiling. The solution was to tie them together with one-inch-thick steel rods. The old walls were also anchored to the foundation and the roof. The final effect is solid but subtle. 

Conaway and Ross chose to keep the church interior, with its spaciousness and high ceiling, intact for their main living space – an open living room, dining room and kitchen. A 16′ by 16′ addition was built at the rear of the church building for the master bedroom. The Ashland Historic Commission wrote that “This new addition blends seamlessly with the original volume in design, detail and quality as if C.W. Ayres [who built the original 1889 church] had been on site overseeing each step of the construction, saw and hammer in hand.”

Interior when Conaway and Ross bought the building, filled with church furniture.
(photo from 2013 or 2014, courtesy of Conaway and Ross)
Interior in 2019 after renovation. Note the beautiful wood floor and the steel rod across the width of the house between the two light bulbs.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

The Historic Commission added that “Ben Trieger [actually Jay Treiger] rebuilt and restored all the original windows, making them functional, including the huge and beautiful arch head windows that provide such a significant and classic architectural feature.”

Remember the floor? When the church’s pink carpet had been removed, all were happy to find a wood floor underneath, made of fir. During the renovation, refinishing parts of the fir floor proved to be a challenge, as there were spots that appeared to be blood stains soaked into the wood. Now that we know the history of the building, we know the origin of those “blood” stains. (In case you forgot from the section above, think horror movie, then think fake blood spattering all over the floor.) Despite the challenges, the fir floor was beautifully refinished.

The Steeple, the Bats and the Bell

As he described renovating the house and 1889 steeple, Conaway told me, “It wasn’t a project, it was an adventure.” Why? Because he found bats in the belfry, ivy vines up to ¾” thick inside the walls, 1880s glass brandy bottles next to cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer bottles in the crawl space, hidden windows behind the choir loft, and even an old wood-burning stove under the floor.

Greg Conaway renovating the steeple, c2015.
(photo courtesy of Conaway and Ross)

The original church had an open steeple, which Conaway and Ross painstakingly restored in 2015. Most likely some time between 1912 and 1915, the church added slats to the open steeple to keep rain out of the bell tower, but the slats made the space a perfect home for bats. When Conaway went up to start removing the steeple slats, three bats just three feet away from him slept through his hammering.

Through the decades, they left lots of bat guano there. Conaway removed 30 heavy bags of bat guano (perhaps 700 pounds in all) from the steeple! The bats have now resettled in the renovated steeple, but in a much smaller space above the new bell. They eat lots of insects, including mosquitos, so they are handy to have in the neighborhood.

As part of their dedication to a true historic renovation, Conaway and Ross found an old bell for the steeple. The bell was made in the 1870s and used to ring at a church in Illinois.

Steeple and bell as it is now (2019), renovated similar to its original 1889 architecture.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

With a high, heavy bell, the rope was so hard to pull that Ross applied her sailing skills. She and Conaway set up a series of pulleys to make it a little easier to pull the rope and ring the bell. You might hear it ringing through the neighborhood from time to time. Neighborhood kids are invited over to ring the bell on their birthdays – one ring for each year they have lived. But over the age of 20, people only get one ring for each decade!

Building Community

Building community is important to both Cory Ross and Greg Conaway. In terms of “animal community,” their garden has become an official Pollinator Garden. In terms of “human community,” in addition to the delights of neighborhood bell ringing, they hold occasional house concerts in their historic home (which has excellent acoustics). The lovingly renovated church-to-home is beautiful both outside and inside, a historic treasure for our town.

Ashland Halloween Decorations

Ashland has been known for wild Halloween revelers (in the 1980s) and cute Halloween children’s parades (still going). We also have people who like to decorate their homes for the season. This photo collection shows a few of the many Ashland homes decorated for Halloween. I included a bonus at the end — three extraordinary Halloween-themed house decorations I photographed in Southern California.

Scary, Spidery Creations

Many people will recognize this home at 696 Siskiyou Boulevard, with the monstrous and lively spiders.
Here is another scary spider, hanging out on a gate on Pioneer Street.

Artistic Creations

I love this artistic creation for the season.
It’s a pumpkin tree!
This home-made creativity is very appealing.

Houses with a Seasonal Theme

The bounty of the harvest, with Autumn colors.
Tis the Autumn theme at this house.

Back to Scary Again

Nazgul? I might be scared to “Trick or Treat” here.
Here come the skeletons.
Sometimes they’re just hanging out.
This tree is more like a “hanging tree” than a “hanging out” tree.
Is this one artistic or scary…or both?

Ghosts of all kinds

Ghosts are coming through the windows!
Then we have friendly ghosts.
It doesn’t get much friendlier than this!

People like Pumpkins

The people at this household must own a pumpkin patch.
Halloween is the time for carving pumpkins and Trick or Treating.

Flying Lessons???

Yes, that’s what it says: “Flying Lessons, By Appointment Only.” It looks like a Harry Potter themed Halloween house.

Bonus Halloween Houses, from Balboa Island in Southern California

I walked around Balboa Island with my father on October 31, 2015. Here are the top three of the “above and beyond” Halloween decorated houses we saw that day.
This is a small sampling of the hundreds of dolls/creatures hanging around this house.
I will end with this patio that stopped me in my tracks…I looked at it for a long time (but resisted the urge to sit down on the furniture with the “locals” or to pet the “dogs.”

All photographs are by Peter Finkle.

8th Street

Part of Ashland’s historic Railroad District

See the Garden of the Month for September 2019

Many 100+-year-old houses

8th Street has simple, historic homes built in the early 1900s, lovely gardens, and several dramatic trees. It’s on the eastern edge of the Railroad Addition Historic District.

Early Ashland was Very Small

Before 1883, the city of Ashland was very small. Heading northwest from the plaza, the town extended only a few blocks to either side of Main Street as far as Wimer Street. Heading southeast on Main Street from the plaza, it became farmland after only two blocks. 

Ashland map 1879

Adding the first Railroad Addition building plots in late 1883 was a major increase in the size of the town. Town leaders saw the need for this when construction of the railroad south from Portland was nearly finished. The second section of the Railroad Addition, up to 8th Street, was added in 1888, after the railroad tracks connecting Oregon and California were completed. 

Impact of the Railroad

Due to Ashland’s site at the base of the long Siskiyou Mountain range, Southern Pacific Railroad made Ashland both a train stop and a maintenance yard.  According to the Ashland Tidings of January 4, 1889: “Ashland is the eating station for all passenger trains and a thirty minute stop is made here by every train.” Dozens of new railroad workers chose to build, buy or rent homes in the Railroad District near the train station. Mostly due to the coming of the railroad, Ashland’s population more than doubled between 1880 and 1890, from 842 to 1,784.

Now Let’s Walk 8thStreet

Let’s walk 8th Street now. We will start at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, then head north towards A Street.

Rogue Valley Roasting Company, at the corner of East Main Street and 8th Street

The first house on the right is 92 8th Street. It was built as a rental house about 1909 for Mrs. Lou Reader, the wife of a prominent Ashland doctor. 

92 8th St Ashland, built about 1909 (photo by Peter Finkle)

In 1930, John and Callie Winters purchased this house. They owned the grocery store right next door at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, so they didn’t have far to go from home to work! This corner store was later Johnson’s East Main Market, owned by Swede Johnson. Many current Ashland residents remember stopping by Swede’s store as children on their way home from Lincoln School or the Junior High School. The former small grocery is now the site of the Rogue Valley Roasting Company business.

Garden of the Month

Across C Street on your right, you will come to Ashland Garden Club’s September 2019 Garden of the Month. 

110 8th Street, built about 1905, is the Ashland Garden Club’s September 2019 Garden of the Month (photo by Peter Finkle)
110 8th Street Ashland, brown-eyed susan, a type of coneflower (photo by Peter Finkle)

Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club wrote: “By September, most gardens are starting to fade, at least, and some are downright shabby.  But not Kelly and Jeff Straub’s gorgeous place at 110 8th Street.  Kelly’s diligent work shows to good advantage all year.  She keeps the planting areas well groomed, and always a delight to see with blooming plants.”

110 8th Street (photo by Larry Rosengren)

Ruth Sloan continued: “A special quality of this property is that the “parking strip” (the area between the sidewalk and the street) is especially wide, making the sidewalk appear to go right through the heart of the front and side yards.  This does two things:  It makes the parking strip more versatile as a desirable planting space and it also makes pedestrians feel a part of the garden.  Being a block from a popular coffee shop also increases foot traffic, and Kelly enjoys interacting with passersby as she works in the garden.  Understandably, she gets a lot of positive feedback.”

When you take a break from admiring the garden, look at the historic house. Built in 1905, it is known as the Engwicht-McMillan house. 

110 8th Street in about 1910; the McMillan family is on their porch. The garden has come a long way since 1910! (This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

George Engwicht, a conductor for the Southern Pacific Railroad, built the house in 1905. He sold the house in 1908 to another railroad employee, A.A. Conger. Conger lived there only one year.

In 1909, Alexander and Eva McMillan moved from Montana to Ashland and bought this house. Mr. McMillan was born in Scotland in 1850 and came to the United States as a small child. In the early 1900s, he owned a sheep ranch in Montana. The sale of the sheep ranch gave the McMillans enough money to buy 110 8th Street and retire in Ashland. Alexander McMillan lived in the house until 1932, when he died at the age of 81. Eva McMillan continued to live here until her death in 1950. 

117 8th Street

117 8th Street Ashland, built about 1901 (photo by Peter Finkle)

Across the street, behind a hedge and lush foliage, is a hidden historic house with a large garden. Known as the Osmer and Lila Long house, it was built around 1901. Osmer Long was a brakeman for the railroad. So far in just the first three houses on 8th Street, we already know of a railroad conductor, a brakeman and another railroad employee who have lived in these houses. Yes, this is the “Railroad District.”

117 8th Street Ashland, artistic plant along the street (photo by Peter Finkle)

130 and 132 8th Street

Built about 1904, the first owners of 130 8th Street were not railroad employees. One was a painter, the second a plumber. The architecture of this house is considered to be vernacular bungalow style.

You can see similar architecture in the house next door, built – or possibly moved to this location – in 1948.

130 8th Street Ashland, built about 1904 (photo by Peter Finkle)
132 8th Street Ashland, built in 1948, but in a style similar to the historic home next door (photo by Peter Finkle)

143 8th Street

143 8th Street Ashland, American sycamore tree (photo by Peter Finkle)

Across the street is a dramatic old American sycamore tree (or plane tree), in front of the oldest house on 8th Street. 143 8th Street was built about 1890, and its best-known owner was Caleb Porter, a conductor for Southern Pacific. The Porter family owned the house for about 50 years, until 1955. 

143 8th Street Ashland, built about 1890 (photo by Peter Finkle)

The house has been beautifully restored at some point in recent years. I enjoy the vine being trained around the front windows into what my eyes see as a heart shape.

143 8th Street Ashland, vine in the shape of heart (photo by Peter Finkle)
143 8th Street Ashland; the combination of the massive, knobby tree trunk and the mailbox looks artistic to me (photo by Peter Finkle)

155 and 156 8th Street

155 8th Street Ashland, built about 1903 (photo by Peter Finkle)

The house at 155 8th Street was built about 1903. The builders added a few Queen Anne elements to the basic vernacular style of the time.

156 8th Street Ashland, built about 1907 (photo by Peter Finkle)

Elmer Harrington worked on trains at the Southern Pacific roundhouse in Ashland. He built the house at 156 8th Street in 1907, but for some reason he sold the house the very next year.

Giant Sequoia

Giant Sequoia tree on 8th Street near corner of B Street (photo by Peter Finkle)
Giant Sequoia tree on 8th Street near corner of B Street (photo by Peter Finkle)

248 8th Street

248 8th Street Ashland, originally built in 1948, with major renovation in 1996 (photo by Peter Finkle)
248 8th Street Ashland; it is hard to capture in a photo, but it feels to me as though the tree and the house belong together. I admire the architects for incorporating the tree the way they did. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I like the way this tree, garden and house complement each other. It is a large, 1990s Craftsman style house that is designed to fit into the historic neighborhood. To me, the tree feels like part of the house. Take a look and see if you see this too.

8th and B Streets Yard Art

885 B Street, yard art on 8th Street by the alley (photo by Peter Finkle)
885 B Street, yard art on 8th Street that brought me a smile and a sigh (photo by Peter Finkle)

Though this house has a B Street address, the yard art along 8th Street is too good to pass by without a smile and admiration for the creative spirit.

286 8th Street

286 8th Street, wisteria vine growing up a tree (photo by Peter Finkle)

I am impressed by the healthy wisteria vine that was planted at the base of this large tree. Wisteria vines are normally trained to grow along a roofline or a fence. I have never seen one climbing a tree like this one does. 

8th Street ends at A Street and Railroad Park, where you can find a lot more history. To read about the history of the railroad in Ashland, go to this article. 

Many of the homes on 8th Street are at least 100 years old and have seen the march of time bring many periods of boom and bust to the Railroad District. Architects describe most of the older homes in the Railroad District as the “vernacular” style. Vernacular might be called a non-style style. Here is a more technical definition. “Its meaning is flexible according to the situation; but in essence, ‘vernacular’ means an unaffected, unselfconscious, unaccented way of building….it is the use of architectural style without being conscious of style.. .(Gowans, 1986:41)”   [from the National Register of Historic Places, Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District, 5/6/1999, Section 7, page 2]

As the homes were being built on 8th Street, a business district was also built near the intersection of A Street and 4th Street, just four blocks away. By 1890, residents of 8th Street could find nearby a grocery, a stable, restaurants, lodging houses, even saloons. I will have several articles about 4th Street coming up soon at WalkAshland.com.

If you love gardens, I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can learn about the Garden Club and find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.  

Mystery of the Peerless Hotel Marbles

The Peerless Hotel marbles (photo by Peter Finkle)

What is the mystery of the Peerless Hotel marbles? To find out, you have to delve into the early and more recent history of 243 4th Street in Ashland, Oregon. Now the Peerless Hotel, you can see from the sign painted on the alley side of the building that this building was once the Peerless Rooms. With fourteen small 10′ by 10′ rooms and one common bathroom, Peerless Rooms was one of several inexpensive boarding houses in the early 1900s Railroad District. Its roomers included single male railroad workers, traveling salesmen, a few single women, and local loggers looking for a monthly shower plus a comfortable bed.

When Southern Pacific shut down most passenger railway service in 1927, the Railroad District fell into a decades-long decline. So when Crissy Barnett Donovan bought the Peerless Rooms building in December 1990, it had been long vacant and was falling apart. Crissy acted as her own general contractor and undertook a huge 3-year renovation project.  

The Peerless Rooms original construction date was 1900. After renovation, it was reopened as the Peerless Hotel in 1994. These dates can be seen above the front doors. (photo by Peter Finkle)

She was able to save and renovate the original doors, windows and most of the interior woodwork. This was important because it allowed her to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for another surprising reason I will come to in a moment.

During renovation, they had to excavate a foot below the ground-level floor to meet current code for adequate space below the floor. The only historical objects found in the excavated dirt were many glass and clay marbles, the kind kids may have played with 100 years ago. Crissy theorizes that children played with marbles on the wooden floor of the front room, and some fell through cracks. 

Speaking of marbles, they reappeared in Crissy’s life a few months later.  The floors were back in place, but the original tall baseboard along the walls was still missing so you could see through that empty space to the floor of the next room.

This photo (c1991) shows the missing baseboard area, as well as the poor condition of the building, before renovation. (photo on wall at the Peerless Hotel)

Toward the end of a workday, lost in thought, Crissy assumed she was alone in the building as she walked through the downstairs rooms.  She perked up as she heard the sound of a marble rolling nearby on a wood floor.  She looked down through the missing baseboard area and saw, in the next room, a large marble rolling on the floor.  She thought to herself, “One of the workers must still be here,” and went through the door into the next room.  No worker, no one, no marble, just an empty room. It was a mystery.

Late in the renovation process, standing in an upstairs room, she got into a heated discussion with her historical consultant.  Suddenly both of them heard the loud “Crack!” just like the sound of a marble that had been thrown hard hitting the floor right next to them. Startled, they looked around…and saw nothing. The tension between them dissolved in that moment. Yet the mystery deepened.

Lobby of the Peerless Hotel in 2019 (photo by Peter Finkle)

Fast forward to May 1994. With renovation complete, Crissy held an all-day open house for members of the Ashland community to walk through all the rooms of the Peerless Hotel before the first guests arrived. During the afternoon, Crissy noticed a white-haired, elderly woman who was spending a long time in the upstairs rooms. Toward the end of the open house, the elderly woman approached Crissy privately.  She said to Crissy, “Do you know you have a friend?” A bit confused by the question, Crissy responded, “I hope I have a lot of friends.” 

The woman chuckled and continued, “What I mean is you have a friend here in the Peerless and her name is Amelia. She is a spirit here and she told me she is very happy with what you have done with the building.” The elderly woman went on to tell Crissy that the spirit-Amelia was a young woman with red hair who had lived in the Peerless Rooms for many years when it was a boarding house.

Hearing this, Crissy was in a bit of shock.  Since she had already felt the presence of the playful spirit twice through the sight and sound of marbles, it kind of made sense. Though Crissy did tell me, “I am generally skeptical and I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me.” Crissy assured me (as she would assure all who are reading this) that Amelia is not a scary spirit but has only been playful in all of her appearances.

Crissy has received praise for her beautiful renovation from the Ashland Historic Commission, from the National Register of Historic Places and from many Ashland friends. But the most memorable praise for her dedication to the legacy of the Peerless Rooms building has to be the praise from a 100 year old spirit and former resident named Amelia.

Exterior of the Peerless Hotel in 2018 (photo by Peter Finkle

(This article is based on an interview with Crissy Barnett Donovan, May 17, 2019.)

Westwood Street: Log House, Eco House and more

I learn about log cabins houses — and hear a story.
I learn about eco houses — and hear a story.

I started walking south from the Orchard Street end of Westwood Street.  Westwood Street is in northwest Ashland, at the top of the steep street called Strawberry Lane.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was some antique farm equipment “yard art” at 189 Westwood Street, the corner of Westwood and Nyla. It looks like it was used to prepare rows for planting. I hope one of my readers will verify this assumption – or correct me.

Was this used to prepare rows for planting?

Across Nyla Lane was 183 Westwood Street, where I enjoyed the architectural detail of the front entry. The overall house design had simple, clean lines.

183 Westwood Street

When I walk around town, I notice signs that people post in their yards and businesses. This “Love Wins” sign in the front yard of 177 Westwood Street is not unique, but the message is worth seeing again and again, and then living as best we can. 

Across from 155 Westwood Street is a sturdy bridge spanning a small gully that appears to have a seasonal creek. The bridge mystified me until I followed the path. It took me on a shortcut to Sunnyview Street.The city map shows that the path continues from Sunnyview Street to Hald Strawberry Park, which means people living on Westwood Street can take a short walk to the park. This is a good example of Ashland’s commitment to give people pedestrian shortcuts whenever possible.

Pathway bridge between Westwood Street and Sunnyview Street

I stopped for a long look at a modern log “cabin” at 135 Westwood Street. As I was snapping photos from the sidewalk, the homeowner Chuck came out of the house and we struck up a conversation. 

135 Westwood Street
135 Westwood Street

First I got an education about how the modern log house is different from the frontier log cabin. All I know about frontier log cabins is that the wind and the cold always used to find their way through chinks between the logs. Chuck had me look closely at the Lodgepole Pine logs used to build his house. No chinks! The house is made with “D-logs” that are engineered with tongue-in-groove connections (similar to a tongue-in-groove wood floor). With logs 8″ thick, there is no need for wall insulation. The logs provide all the wall insulation needed, plus they absorb heat from the sun during the day and then radiate the heat into the interior rooms at night. 

135 Westwood Street, Lodgepole Pine “D-logs”

Chuck invited me inside. The first thing I noticed were the dramatic portrait photos in the living room. Then I was shocked by Chuck’s story how he acquired them. 

Glass positive portrait

In the 1950s, he worked at the Los Angeles Times Mirror Press. This press printed the L.A. Times newspaper and many magazines. The specialty magazine called Arizona Highways used portrait photos of Native Americans. At the time (before digital printing), the magazine printing process for these portrait photos used them in the form of glass positive prints. One day, during a cleanup at the printing company, Chuck was in the right place at the right time to see these glass positive print portraits being taken to the dumpster. He grabbed as many as he could. Now they have the respect they deserve in his beautiful home.

Glass positive portraits

I thanked Chuck for his hospitality and continued walking uphill on Westwood Street. Nearby, I was struck by two different house design choices across the street from each other.

130 Westwood Street has very simple lines in the architectural design, complemented by a simple front yard garden.

130 Westwood Street

121 Westwood Street has a more complex architectural design in the variety of shapes and the window designs.

121 Westwood Street

At this time of year, I see Shasta daisies blooming all over town, including in my own yard. I like the lush exuberance of the plants and the simple beauty of the daisy flowers. At 98 Westwood Street, I got my first look at what looks like a Shasta daisy with ruffles. The daisy grew next to an attractive rock-post entry gate.

98 Westwood Street

My final stop on Westwood Street, before it turns the corner and the name changes to Strawberry Lane, was a pleasant surprise. First I met Lynn, who was also out for a morning walk. She lives on nearby Wrights Creek Drive, and I told her I would write about her street eventually.

As Lynn and I were talking, the homeowner of 62 Westwood Street came out, so I introduced myself. I am glad I did. Just as Chuck had given me an education about his log house, Laura gave me an education about her eco house. 

62 Westwood Street

Laura’s first home in Ashland was nearby on Strawberry Lane. When she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to design and build a house, she worked with contractor Peter Mattson, who is knowledgeable about ecological construction. I could see solar panels on the roof, so I asked her what else makes it an eco house, since it looks so “normal” from the outside.

She pointed to the wide eaves over south facing windows. I replied that the wide eaves would block the sun from entering the house during hot summer days, and allow the sun to warm the house during the winter when the sun rides lower in the sky. She said I was correct.

Two invisible eco features are responsible for the ability of her house to stay so cool on hot summer days. It was mid-July on the day of my Westwood Street walk, and the temperature within Laura’s house had not exceeded 76° F so far this summer. She had not yet needed to turn on her air conditioner.

One invisible feature is the 12″ thick ICF walls (made with Insulated Concrete Forms). An ICF wall might have an 8″ core of concrete, anchored with rebar and poured in place, sandwiched between two 2″ layers of expanded foam. No additional wall insulation is required. This ICF wall helps hold in the heat in winter and keep out the heat in summer.

The other invisible feature Laura proudly told me about is her ground source heat pump (GSHP, also called a geothermal heat pump). This way to heat and cool a house takes advantage of the constant temperature of the earth five to six feet below ground level. Unlike Ashland’s air temperature, which fluctuates widely throughout the year, the below-ground temperature normally stays at 50° to 55° F year round.

A National Geographic article I found online explained it like this: “Unlike ordinary heating and cooling systems, geothermal HVAC systems do not burn fossil fuel to generate heat; they simply transfer heat to and from the earth. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the unit’s fan, compressor, and pump.”

Ground source heat pump tubing similar to this is buried 5′ to 6′ underground at Laura’s house. 
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Laura explained to me that about a mile of coiled tubing is buried 5′ to 6′ deep, then connected to the heat pump in her house. I don’t understand all the science, but the constant ground temperature is able to warm the house in the winter and cool the house in the summer. Very little energy is needed to run the system, so over time it helps both the homeowner’s budget and the earth.

For those not interested in ecological houses with ICF walls and GSHP HVAC systems, let’s change the subject from home building to an old-fashioned slice of life story.

I noticed this unusual sign by Laura’s front door and asked her the meaning of “Bield.” With her story, she took me back to when she was age 13 and she lived in a small town called Bieldside in Northeast Scotland. Biel or Bield is a Scots word defined as a shelter or a sheltered place. The town Bieldside got its name for its location on the sheltered side of a river.

Therefore, the sign by the front door that says “Laura’s Bield” means “Laura’s Shelter,” and brings her sweet memories of her time living in Scotland.

While in Scotland, she was introduced to poet Robert Burns. He is most famous for preserving the traditional song Auld Lang Syne, which is sung round the world on New Year’s Eve.  Considered the “national poet of Scotland,” Burns was born in 1759 and wrote hundreds of songs and poems before his death at the young age of 37. The word “Bield” (shelter) on the sign by her doorway not only connects Laura with the town of Bieldside, but also with a Robert Burns poem called “Bessy and Her Spinnin’ Wheel.”  

After Laura told me of her fondness for this poem, I had to go home and look it up on the internet. Burns wrote Bessy and Her Spinnin’ Wheel in 1792, in the Scots dialect. Here are the first and last stanzas of the poem, first as written in the Scots dialect, and then my rough translation into American English. I highlighted the words “biel” and “shelter” in bold.

Robert Burns portrait, painted in 1787 by Alexander Nasmyth.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First stanza in Robert Burns’ words:

O Leeze me on my spinnin’ wheel,
and leeze me on my rock and reel;
Frae tap to tae that cleeds me bien,
And haps me biel and warm at e’en;
I’ll set me down and sing and spin,
While laigh descends the simmer sun,
Blest wi’ content, and milk and meal,
O leeze me on my spinnin’ wheel.

Last stanza in Robert Burns’ words:

Wi’ sma’ to sell, and less to buy,
Aboon distress, below envy,
O wha wad leave this humble state,
For a’ the pride of a’ the great?
Amid their flairing, idle toys,
Amid their cumbrous, dinsome joys,
Can they the peace and pleasure feel
Of Bessy at her spinnin’ wheel?

Rough translation of first stanza:

I’m delighted with my spinning wheel,
And delighted with my spindle and reel,
That clothes me comfortably from head to toe, 
And wraps me in shelter and warmth at evening;
I’ll sit me down and sing and spin,
While low descends the summer sun,
Blessed with content, and milk and meal,
I’m delighted with my spinning wheel.


Rough translation of last stanza:

With little to sell, and less to buy,
Above distress, below envy,
Oh who would leave this humble state,
For all the pride of all the great?
Amid their flaring, idle toys,
Amid their cumbrous, noisy joys,
Can they the peace and pleasure feel
Of Bessy at her spinning wheel?

Lavender at 62 Westwood Street

I will close with a description and photos of Laura’s simple and colorful front yard garden. Following the ecological theme, Laura’s garden contains a variety of native, deer resistant and low-water-usage plants. The garden was designed by Jane Hardgrove, landscape designer and watercolor artist. The flowers bloom one after another throughout the spring and summer. 

Manzanita

As we walked her small garden, Laura pointed out manzanita, orange sedge, lavender, rosemary, barberry, heather, kinnikinnick (or bearberry) and hot lips sage (with its bright red blooms). Wildflowers like yarrow and California poppies complete the garden.

Hot lips sage
Heather
Orange sedge
Yarrow

Finally, as we were saying goodbye, Laura looked across the street and told me she loved her location because of the “big front yard.” Her “big front yard” is Westwood Park, an unimproved park owned by the City of Ashland. 

Westwood Park, City of Ashland. The Siskiyou Mountains are in the background.

The Biggest, Boldest, Brightest 4th of July in Ashland History (1916) — Part 3 … Wild West Rodeo & Fountain Unveiling

Rogue Roundup Rodeo & Wild West Show
Butler-Perozzi Fountain is Unveiled

Ashlanders thought big in 1916. Southern Oregon had never seen anything like this before. Rogue Roundup promoters brought in three train cars full of bucking horses and quarter horses, plus steers for roping, wrestling and riding. The horses and steers came from Pendleton, Oregon, home of the very successful Pendleton Roundup since 1910. Pendleton also sent many cowboys, cowgirls and Indians. More horses and riders came over from Klamath County. 

Rogue River Roundup 1916. Cowboy on bucking bronco before the gates opened (see how empty the grandstand is).
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

The Roundup was held at the Butler Walker property just east of Ashland. Like the parades, band concerts and baseball games, there were three days of Rogue Roundup on July 4, 5 and 6. A grandstand was built that would hold 10,000 people, which overflowed on day one and was nearly full on days two and three. Here’s a clue as to why: According to the newspaper, the Rogue Roundup was “the wildest exciting series of entertainments ever staged in the valley.”

The Rogue Roundup “Entertainments:”

**Cowboys and cowgirls half-mile pony racing.
**Cowboys on bucking horses. “Donal Cannon of Pendleton, a sixteen-year-old boy, won the $300 saddle, first prize in the bucking contest, over 78 entries.”
**Not only bucking horses, but also bucking burros and bucking calves.
**Even a lady bucking horse rider, “Dorothy Morrell of Klamath Falls, champion lady bucking horse rider of world.”
**A mile-long pony express race, with cowboys switching between two horses.
**Steer roping, with the steer getting a 50-foot start on the ropers.
**Steer bull-dogging (jumping off a horse at full speed and wrestling a steer to the ground).
**Bull riding, with riders using saddles.
**Indian relay race.
**Female Indians half-mile pony race.
**A horse-mounted tug of war, with teams of four saddle horses each.
**How about this one…”Cowboy Roman race. Two horses each, rider to rise 50 feet from start.” [I wish I had a photo of that to show you.]
**Just for fun, the “drunken ride” and fancy riding by Walter Seals of Pendleton.
**And finally, the “slick ear horse race.” The newspaper described it as: “Wild horse to be given 40 feet start. Cowboy to rope, catch and ride, without saddle or bridle.”

Ashland organizers were excited that they were able to contract for a party of ten Umatilla Indians from Northeast Oregon, who brought their families.
The Ashland Tidings described the Native Americans who participated in the Roundup this way: “These Indians have the most beautiful Indian costumes of any of the Oregon tribes and will come with full outfits. The head chief’s headdress, robes and so forth are ornate with beads and Elks’ teeth and are all together valued at $10,000. The Indians are all high-class athletes and will make the white cowboys hustle in all the events in which they enter. Sub-Chief Gilbert Minthorne will be in charge of the party.”

Illustration of a Umatilla Indian chief with traditional headdress in the Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916.

With all of this activity, Ashland was able to attract large crowds to the Roundup. The newspaper reported attendance of 15,000 the first day, 7,000 the second day and 8,000 on the third day, for a total of 30,000. 

Postscript on the Roundup

It was such a success that the organizers decided to make it an annual event. They formed a stock company, with many locals investing $25 to $100 each. Organizers arranged a five-year lease for the land on which the 1916 Roundup stands and track were located. They built a larger covered grandstand and improved the grounds for 1917. The 1917 Roundup was very successful, with even greater attendance than in 1916. However, it went downhill from there and did not survive as an annual event.

Lots more to come, because this description of the three-day 1916 blowout is only up to mid-afternoon of July 4, the first day.

Water Sports and Band Concerts

As the afternoon Rogue Roundup was drawing a full house of spectators east of downtown Ashland, others had the option of water sports at the Natatorium indoor swimming pools or band concerts in Lithia Park.

This is what the Natatorium on A Street looked like in 1916.
(photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

At the Lithia Park main bandstand, three bands played through the afternoon of July 4. First the Central Point Band played, followed by the Medford Band and finally the Grants Pass Band.

Unveiling of the new Fountain in Lithia Park

Then at 8:00 P.M., people attended the unveiling of a beloved fountain in Lithia Park that we still enjoy today. On July 4, 1916, it was called the “Unveiling of the Fountain of Youth.” We know it as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain.

The Butler-Perozzi Fountain as it looked in 1916, with two Lithia water gazebos also shown. The gazebo on the left next to Ashland Creek is still in the park. It is now called Enders Shelter. 
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

Opening the ceremony, the Medford Band played again! Professor Vining gave some remarks to dedicate the fountain and statue. Finally came the unveiling of the Fountain of Youth by 12-year-old Lucile Perozzi, daughter of Domingo and Louise Perozzi, assisted by the “flower girls.”

Here is how the Ashland Tidings of July 6, 1916 described the fountain: “The fountain is made of beautiful Verona marble. The figure is that of Cupid playing with a swan. These words are inscribed on the fountain: ‘Flori di peshi,’ [should be ‘Fiori di peshi’] which is the Italian for ‘Flower of peaches.'”

How did this fountain and statue find its way from the Florence, Italy studio of sculptor Antonio Frilli all the way to Ashland, Oregon? It came by way of the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  Two Ashland friends and businessmen, Gwin Butler and Domingo Perozzi, had recently donated some of their land to the expansion of Lithia Park. Butler traveled to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco’s Marina District.  Similar in size to a World’s Fair, the Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was attended by over 18 million people. 

Many objects displayed at the Exposition were available for purchase at the end of the fair. Butler thought this Italian marble fountain he saw there would be perfect in Lithia Park, so he sent a telegram to his friend Perozzi to come immediately. When Perozzi arrived in San Francisco, he agreed to help purchase the fountain, which the two men bought for $3,000 (equivalent to about $75,000 in 2019 dollars). 

The fountain unveiling ceremony concluded with Ashland Mayor O.H. Johnson accepting the fountain on behalf of the City of Ashland “in a short, humorous address,” and then wrap-up music by the Medford Band.

Those not interested in the fountain unveiling could have attended a band concert, this one by the Ashland Band, in another part of Lithia Park.

The Butler-Perozzi Fountain as it looks in 2019. Note the statue is now bronze, not marble. The marble statue was recreated in 1987 by sculptor Jeffrey Bernard, using marble from the same quarry in Italy that supplied marble for the original statue. Due to vandalism, the Bernard marble statue was placed in the Ashland Library for safekeeping, and a bronze statue was placed in the fountain.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

July 4th Fireworks

Was this the end of July 4th celebrations? Of course not! There must be fireworks on July 4th, and indeed there were.

Fireworks started around 9:00 P.M. on Granite Street, and were viewed by the crowds in Lithia Park. The Hitt Fireworks Company prepared the shows for all three days. T.G. Hitt was a chemist from England who opened his fireworks business in Seattle in 1905. By 1915 he was prominent enough to provide the fireworks for the massive Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco mentioned above. That may have been what brought Hitt Fireworks to the attention of Ashland organizers.

In addition to aerial fireworks, Hitt Fireworks specialized in dramatic set pieces on huge wooden frames, embedded with fireworks. Ashlanders got a taste of these set pieces all three days of the celebration. The Hitts got so famous that they were asked to create “special effects for scenes in several blockbuster movies, including the famous burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind, the battle scenes in All Quiet on the Western Front, and the fire and explosions in What Price Glory?” [Tate]

In addition to the best aerial fireworks Ashlanders had ever seen bursting in the sky, the Ashland Tidings described some of the elaborate set pieces produced by Hitt Fireworks. The writer raved about “dancing figures, an American flag, two monster pinwheels, a lithia fountain, a design on which below a bottle the words ‘Ashland Lithia Springs’ were emblazoned, and out of which a fountain of fire shot, more gun shots and more fixed designs, all of which beggared description.”

Following fireworks, there was a concert by the Central Point Band at 9:30 P.M. at the Lithia Park main bandstand.

Dancing past midnight

People who were still awake and on their feet after 12 hours of non-stop Independence Day celebration had a choice of two dances, where they could continue to party into the morning. One dance was at the Natatorium, which was not solely a swimming facility. It also had a maple wood dance floor and room for 500 spectators or promenaders. The Natatorium was located at A Street and 1st Street, a five-block walk from the entrance to Lithia Park.

The other dance was held at the Bungalow restaurant, conveniently located in Lithia Park. The Bungalow, as it was known, had just opened on June 1, 1916 across Winburn Way from the Lithia water gazebo. See below for photos of the gazebo in 1916 and the spot where The Bungalow was located 100 years ago (now an open grassy area).

Lithia water gazebo in Lithia Park, as it looked in 1916.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)
This 2019 photo was taken from the Lithia water gazebo. The Bungalow restaurant and dance hall was located in the grassy area on the other side of the road (Winburn Way).
(photo by Peter Finkle)
This ad from August 1916 shows The Bungalow promoting a “Big Dance” at their restaurant.                   
(ad from the Ashland Tidings August 28, 1916)

Ashland Partied for Two More Days!

Those who started July 4th by watching the morning parade and ended the day dancing past midnight probably did not wake up in time for the July 5 morning parade. Yes, the City of Ashland provided a second day of non-stop celebrations on July 5 for the thousands of visitors (and a third day on July 6!). 

We will learn about the July 5 activities in Part 4.

Click here to read Part 1 of the history of Ashland’s biggest bash.

Click here to read Part 2 of the history of Ashland’s biggest bash.

REFERENCES

Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916
Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916
Ashland Tidings, October 30, 1916

Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.

Brettschneider, Ginger. “Lithia Park’s Fountain of History,” Southern Oregon Heritage Today, Vol. 2, No. 2., February 2000, page 4. 

Tate, Cassandra. “Hitt’s Fireworks,” accessed at https://historylink.org/File/3348  July 7, 2019.

The Biggest, Boldest, Brightest 4th of July in Ashland History — Part 2 … 1916 July 4th Parade

In Part 1, I wrote about the seven “streams” that made up the “mighty river” of activities. I wrote about why Ashland hosted 50,000 visitors in just three days — July 4, 5 and 6, 1916. That was the big-picture introduction to the events. 

In the next few articles, I will introduce you to the people who made it happen and to the hour-by-hour packed schedule from 10:00 A.M. until past midnight all three days. As the Ashland Tidings wrote on July 6, “There has been ‘something doing every minute’ from morning to – well, almost morning again.” 

First Day: July 4th

July 4th began with Queen Lithia’s Pageant, the Industrial and Patriotic parade. That was followed by a baseball game, a patriotic ceremony, water sports in two locations, the Wild West Rogue River Roundup, six band concerts (!), the ceremonial unveiling of a new fountain in Lithia Park, fireworks, and finally two dances that lasted into the morning. In this article, I will focus primarily on the parade and the Lithia Park bandstand patriotic ceremony.

The Huge 4th of July Parade

The Medford Mail Tribune wrote: ” The floats, the civic organizations, the riding clubs and the cowboy contingents, escorted by four marching bands, from Ashland, Central Point, Grants Pass and Medford made up such a cavalcade as had never been witnessed before in Ashland’s streets.” [quoted in the Table Rock Sentinel]

Today’s 4th of July parades are led by Ashland police officers on motorcycles, then a color guard holding United States and Oregon flags, followed by the Ashland City Band to bump up the energy of the crowd. The opening of the 1916 parade was very similar.  

“In the lead was the chief of police and the Ashland patrolmen, mounted on horseback. Then Ed Thornton [Secretary of the Elks Club] on a magnificent charger. Next came the Ashland band in their natty uniforms of blue and white.” [per the Ashland Tidings] 

Back then it was police on horseback leading, now it’s police on motorcycles leading,. Back then the Ashland band was in natty uniforms of blue and white, now the Ashland band is in natty uniforms of teal and white. 

Ashland motorcycle police lead the 2010 4th of July parade
(photo by Peter Finkle)
The Ashland City Band in the 2008 4th of July parade.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

The Tidings declared that “the 30,000 people who lined Main street from the East school to the West school cheered and cheered each and every feature.” 

Here are the parade entries the 30,000 people saw, according to the newspaper.

This is a long list of parade entries, so brace yourself…and have fun comparing 1916 with the parade entries you see today.

**The Coast Artillery Corps company of Ashland (which had been created in response to World War I)

**Ashland Girls Marching Club, thirty marching girls in white costumes

**Red Cross Brigade

**Riding in automobiles were the Mayor, guests of honor, and officials of Southern Pacific Railroad Company — same as today

**The Lithia Springs commission rode in their own decorated car

**Queen Mary Weisenburger rode in a float of pink and white. Miss Emma Jenkins was maid of honor to the queen, with little flower girls and pages at her feet. Remember Queen Mary, as she will star in both serious and humorous episodes to come.

**J.N. Dennis’ little son rode in his “Lithia Racer” automobile

**Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) patriotic float, followed by many other patriotic floats. [The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization of veterans who fought for the Union during the Civil War. At its peak, more than 400,000 men were members. Max Pracht of Ashland, who helped make Ashland peaches famous, and for whom Pracht Street is named, was a member of the G.A.R. Read about Pracht and Pracht Street here. The last Civil War veteran died in 1956, but an organization of descendants of Civil War veterans, called Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, carries on the traditions.]

**Mrs. Peil’s decorated car, which won a first prize. [Mrs. Alice Peil is remembered today for the “Alice Peil walkway.” In order to have easier access to the family business, Alice and her husband built a steel stairway from their home at 52 Granite Street down to the Plaza, where Emil Peil had opened a blacksmith shop, and later ran an implement store with Alice. After Ashland residents started using the shortcut regularly, Mrs. Peil donated the northern six feet of her lot to the city, thus formalizing the public use of the walkway.]       

**”Wah Chung’s Chinese colony was represented by an Oriental float of a unique character.” [Ashland had a small Chinatown from about 1880 to 1930, but Wah Chung and his family were the only Chinese who actively participated in the greater Ashland community. You can read my article about Wah Chung and the Chinese community in Ashland here ]

**The Vining Theatre had a coupe with a young lady representing Mary Pickford riding in it. [Ashland’s Vining Theatre offered a mix of live vaudeville shows and silent movies. In 1916 Mary Pickford was one of the most popular actresses of the silent film era, known as “America’s Sweetheart.” Three years later, in 1919, she co-founded United Artists movie studio, an amazing feat for a woman at that time.]

**Medford Riding Club, with 18 riders who wore “natty black and white riding costumes,” won a first prize.

**A World War I preparedness float 

**An Indian float “was awarded the special prize.” “The noble redmen and redladies as well warwhooped and sang from a typical Indian background.” Umatilla Indians had come all the way from Northeast Oregon to be part of the parade and the Rogue Roundup.

**Pioneer ladies of Ashland float had an old wagon “such as was used in crossing the plains….”

**Local railroad workers had a complex float called the “Lithia Special.” It had a full size engine, cab and caboose constructed around a car, and “won the industrial prize and the most unique feature of the parade….”

** Bands: “…never before have four bands marched in one parade in southern Oregon.” Not only did the Ashland band march, but also the Medford band, the Central Point band and the Grants Pass band.

**The Humane Society had a float. [The American Humane Society had been established in 1877, and Ashland must have had a branch.]

**The Elks Lodge (B.P.O.E. No. 944) had 50 marchers in uniforms of white with purple ties. 

Elks Lodge building at 255 East Main Street in 1909, just after it was built.
110 years later, the building is still there and the Elks Lodge B.P.O.E. No.944 is still there!
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

**The Auxiliary float “was easily the most beautiful of the parade” and got a first prize. According to the Ashland Tidings, “The float was done in yellow and white. it represented ‘A Gift to the World,’ huge loving cups representing the gift. The center of the float was built to represent a fountain with the fairy of waters waving her wand for the waters to arise and gush forth power and health. Young ladies in costumes and carrying symbols of art and music to give praise to Ashland were grouped in niches around the fountain. A huge harp on which to play paeans of praise was played by Mrs. Shirley Keene in Grecian costume. Minora Cornelium represented the arrival of spring.”  

Auxiliary Club float in the 1916 4th of July parade
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

**The Women’s Civic Improvement Club had five cars done alike in white with red rosettes, and won a second prize.

**The Maccabees, Rebekahs and Medford Woodmen of the World, more fraternal organizations, had the next floats.

**Ashland horse riders went on and on. There were “perhaps 200 in line, on horses, followed by children on ponies and many in cowboy and cowgirl costumes.”

**Western Union Telegraph Company had a float.

**Ashland Fruit and Produce Association had a “float loaded with seasonal fruits.”

**The Eden Valley Nursery float complemented the Fruit and Produce Association “with immense papier mache apples and pears.”

**Nurmi Baking Company of Medford float came next.

**Briggs & Elmore had a decorated car. [I wonder if it was anything like Briggs’ shoe store decorated car (below) at the 1912 parade.]

Briggs Shoe Store float, 4th of July parade 1912
(photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

**”The Saunders car in white, with a bevy of pretty girls, received applause along the route.”

**East Side Pharmacy float was next.

** Then came another pharmacy, Poley’s Drug Store. Its “Malted Milk float captured second industrial prize.” [Below is a photo of Poley’s Drug Store float from the parade in the early 1900s.]

Poley’s Drug Store float, 4th of July parade, early 1900s
(photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

**Ashland Trading Company float was filled with greenery and with children.

**Home Laundry had a float.

**The White House Grocery was very popular in Ashland, and their float came next.

**Hotel Oregon on East Main Street was the premier hotel in Ashland at this time. They were in the parade “with an automobile load of pretty girls.”

Women on horseback in front of Hotel Oregon, 1916
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

**Clover Leaf Dairy had a float.

**The Natatorium: “Several boys in swimming costumes represented the Natatorium.” [The Natatorium was a block-long indoor swimming and dancing “palace” on A Street from 1909 to 1919.]

The Natatorium on A Street in 1909
(photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

**The Grants Pass Moose band marched next.

**There were cowboys and cowgirls (perhaps 150) from Pendleton and Klamath Falls, as well as Ashland and Medford locals.

**The parade included clowns in vari-colored costumes, though most of the comic features were saved for the King Sulphur parade on July 6.

**I am not sure what to make of the newspaper’s description of this parade entry: “Benton Bowers handled the reins of an old-fashioned stage coach team loaded down with cowboys and three trick bears which were brought to Ashland by Cowboy Timmins after he had roped them in the wilds of the Curry country.”

**There was a Rogue Roundup float that advertised the Wild West rodeo event to take place at 2:00 P.M.

**According to the Tidings newspaper, some decorated automobiles closed out the parade (even though this was supposed to be the parade without automobiles; the next day’s parade, July 5, was supposed to be the decorated automobile parade).

**Wait…one more thing…the paper said there were decorative bicycles interspersed throughout the parade.

Mrs. Hilty, coordinator of all three parades

Today’s Chamber of Commerce staff and volunteers can tell you how much work it takes to put on Ashland’s large 4th of July parade each year. In 1916, one woman volunteer took on even more, and the newspaper gave credit where credit was due. “Mrs. Hilty was in charge of the parades of the three days, and her executive ability was a monster factor in the success which all three scored.”

Mrs. Hilty was an active community member. She also appears to have been a social activist at heart. Later that year in October 1916, she put on a one-woman program at the ladies’ Civic Improvement Club meeting. According to the Ashland Tidings, “Then Mrs. Hilty carried the gathering back to old school days in her sketches of Harriet Beecher Stowe [abolitionist, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin], Julia Ward Howe [abolitionist, women’s suffragette, poet and author, who wrote the song ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’], Helen Hunt Jackson [Native American rights activist, poet, author], Ella Wheeler Wilcox [poet and author] and Louise May Olcott [should be spelled Louisa May Alcott; author of Little Women]. Especially close and dear are the recollections of the vivid human bond in ‘Little Women.'” 

After the parade was over, visitors and locals had a choice of multiple activities. At 10:00 A.M. people could watch the first of three baseball games between teams from Weed, California and Medford. The first game was an easy win for Medford, 9-0. 

Those who approved of Oregon’s new prohibition law that had just taken effect on January 1, 1916 could have heard a lecture at the Chautauqua building sponsored by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

If July 4, 1916 were a normal hot July day, many people would have walked over to Helman’s Sulphur Baths for 11:00 A.M. water sports. See photos below for what  Helman’s looked like inside and outside.

Helman Sulphur Baths, c1910, exterior view.
Helman Sulphur Baths, c1910, interior view.
(“These two images are part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

After the parade, most people probably attended the patriotic ceremony at the Lithia Park bandstand. If we had the ability to travel back in a time machine, the 1916 Lithia Park bandstand event would seem very familiar to those of us who attend today’s 4th of July Lithia Park band shell after-parade patriotic ceremony.

Lithia Park bandstand in 1915 or 1916
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)
Lithia Park Butler Band Shell, 4th of July 2009; Livia Genise is reading the Declaration of Independence. Ashland City Band is waiting to play.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

Here is the 1916 program and how it compares with today’s programs:
Opening music by a city band…in 1916 and today.
Reading of the Declaration of Independence…in 1916 and today.
The “Star Spangled Banner,” played by a city band, sung by a vocalist accompanied by the audience…in 1916 and today.
Speeches by dignitaries…in 1916 and today.
More band music and vocal music…in 1916 and today.

One more “in 1916 and today:” the current Butler Band Shell in Lithia Park, built in 1949, is located right where the original, smaller Lithia Park bandstand was built.

In 1916, the Declaration of Independence was read by Miss Minnie Bernice Jackson, who was 23 years of age at the time. E.L. Rasor led the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the main dignitary address was given by I.E. Vining, owner of the Vining Theatre on East Main Street. [Irving Vining received a postgraduate degree at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. In addition to owning the Vining Theatre, he taught for seven years at Southern Oregon Normal School.] 

In Part 3, we will learn about the Rogue Roundup Wild West show, more band concerts, the unveiling of the “Fountain of Youth” in Lithia Park (now called the Butler-Perozzi Fountain), fireworks on Granite Street and finally late night dances in two Ashland locations. All of that was still on July 4! Then we will start all over again on July 5 with more parades, dedications, music and more.

Click here to read Part 1 of the history of Ashland’s biggest bash.

Click here to read Part 3 of the history of Ashland’s biggest bash.

REFERENCES

Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916
Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916
Ashland Tidings, October 30, 1916

Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.

The Biggest, Boldest, Brightest 4th of July in Ashland History (three days of parties!) Part 1

Was this the largest and most audacious celebration in the history of our town? 

It takes many streams coming together to form a huge river. The Amazon River of Ashland 4th of July celebrations was the year 1916. From what I know of Ashland history, I think it was the largest and most audacious celebration in the history of our town. 

Here are the streams that created 1916’s audacious river.

The first large stream…the 4th of July parade had already been an Ashland tradition for decades as of 1916. Ashland’s parade history began with floats on horse-drawn wagons in the late 1800s. Decorated autos were added in the early 1900s. In 1916, bold Ashland boosters planned a parade on the 4th of July (of course) followed by a parade on the 5th of July (oh, my!) followed by a parade on the 6th of July (three in three days!).

Ladies Auxiliary float in 1916 4th of July parade, a first prize winner.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

A second large tributary…the dedication of Lithia Park. Ashland’s Lithia Park grew out of a humble 1892 beginning as 8-acre Chautauqua Park. Thanks to the vision and perseverance of women in the Chautauqua Park Club and the Women’s Civic Improvement Club, with support from some wealthy men of Ashland who saw their vision, land was purchased in 1908 to create much larger Lithia Park. The official dedication of Lithia Park was July 5, 1916.

This photo from the 1920s shows how popular Lithia Park was, especially when a band was playing.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

The third, an audacious and booster-crazed stream…July 5, 1916 was also the official dedication of Ashland’s Lithia springs water. Local boosters were convinced that the combination of Lithia water, sulphur water and soda springs water was about to catapult Ashland to recognition as a spa town of national and world renown.

This photo from 1916 shows two Lithia water gazebos in the park, in the center of photo and left of photo. The gazebo on the left is still in the park, and you can still drink Lithia water there.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

A fourth, more modest stream…July 4, 1916 was the unveiling of the “Fountain of Youth, now known as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain. Generous Ashland businessmen Gwin Butler and Dominic Perozzi had recently donated some of their land for the expansion of Lithia Park. Butler traveled to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco’s Marina District.  A massive event, the Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was attended by over 18 million people. Butler thought an Italian marble fountain he saw there would be perfect in Lithia Park, so he sent a telegram to his friend Perozzi to come immediately. When Perozzi arrived in San Francisco, he agreed to help purchase the fountain, which the two men bought for $3,000 (equivalent to about $75,000 in 2019 dollars). 

Butler-Perozzi Fountain c1916 in foreground. The white Abraham Lincoln statue donated by Gwin Butler is in the center-right background. 
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)
Overview of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Fourth, another huge, audacious tributary…the Rogue Roundup, a Wild West show to rival the already successful Pendleton, Oregon Roundup. The first Pendleton Roundup (rodeo and more) in 1910 had drawn 7,000 spectators, and it just kept growing from there. Ashland aimed to outdo their fellow Oregon town in 1916. 

Fifth, a small but passionate stream…baseball fans were treated to a three-day, three-game rematch between the Medford, Oregon and Weed, California baseball teams.

Sixth, a musical stream…more band music in one place than Southern Oregon had ever heard. The Ashland band, the Medford band, the Grants Pass band and the Central Point band each played two or three times a day for all three days. They even played all together as a massed band in a grand symphony of band music.

This c1916 photo shows the original Lithia Park bandstand, where all four city bands played July 4, 5 and 6, 1916. The Butler Band Shell is now at this site, and you can still hear the Ashland City Band play around noon on July 4th, and each Thursday evening between June 13 and August 15, 2019.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.”)

Seventh, another bigger-and-bolder-than-Southern-Oregon-has-ever-seen stream…you can’t forget fireworks on the 4th of July. But not just one day, not even two days…three days in a row of massive fireworks! July 5 and 6 featured unusual daylight fireworks.

Finally, what made this blowout “4th” possibly the largest event in Ashland’s history was a combination of three straight days of multiple activities (each of which attracted between hundreds and thousands of spectators) with nonstop action from early morning until past midnight all three of the days.

How Big Was the 1916 Celebration?

Ashland Tidings front page, July 6, 1916

To get an idea how big, let’s compare some numbers from 1916 with recent years. In recent years the 4th of July parade attendance has been estimated at 20,000 people. That’s with Ashland’s population currently about 21,000 and Jackson County’s population about 220,000.

In 1916, 4th of July parade attendance was estimated at 30,000 people, with the City of Ashland’s population only 5,000 and the entire Jackson County population under 25,000! 

That was just July 4th. Twenty thousand more came for all-day and into-the-night celebrations on July 5 and July 6.

Where did all the people come from?

From far and wide! For example, the Ashland newspaper quoted the Klamath County Evening Herald on June 1, 1916: “there will be many automobiles of Klamath people romping across the hills for Ashland” and regarding the Roundup, “Klamath county vaqueros will of course take a prominent part – and the prominent prizes.”

Most Southern Oregon cities canceled their own 4th of July celebrations in 1916 and cooperated to make Ashland’s celebration a success.  Ashland reciprocated by calling July 5 “Medford Day” and July 6 “Grants Pass and Klamath Falls Day.”

Southern Pacific railroad company was committed to making Ashland’s 1916 Independence Day celebrations a success. It was a win for the railroad, because at that time many people still visited Ashland by train. Southern Pacific railroad sent two of their Vice Presidents and their general passenger agent John M. Scott, who spoke at one of the dedication ceremonies. 

Beyond this July 4th bash, Southern Pacific was committed to helping Ashland become a popular resort town, as that would increase their passenger train business long term. 

Sheet music front cover for “Ashland the Beautiful,” 1916 song by Henry Gilmore.
(image courtesy of University of Oregon library)

Here is one small example of Southern Pacific’s largesse. Local professor Henry Gillmore wrote a song called “Ashland the Beautiful.” The front and back covers of the sheet music described Ashland as “Oregon’s Famous Spa.” In addition, the back cover promoted Crater Lake National Park and Josephine County Caves (now Oregon Caves National Monument). Southern Pacific printed the sheet music at its own printing plant. The Tidings of July 31, 1916 wrote: “Ten thousand copies of the song are to be printed immediately for distribution throughout the east, and later ten thousand more for the Pacific coast territory.”

Sheet music back cover for “Ashland the Beautiful,” 1916 song by Henry Gilmore.
(image courtesy of University of Oregon library)

Click here to read Part 2 of the story of Ashland’s biggest bash.

Click here to read Part 3 of the story of Ashland’s biggest bash.

REFERENCES

Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916
Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916
Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916
Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916

Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.