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.

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.

Ohio Street + Garden of the Month for June 2019

I walked two-blocks-long Ohio Street in order to visit Ashland’s beautiful Garden of the Month for June 2019 (chosen by the Ashland Garden Club).

The Garden of the Month address is 265 Ohio Street. If you visit the garden, please respect the privacy of the homeowner. Please view the garden through the artistic fence from either Ohio Street or the alley along the side of the house.

For this walk, my wife and I started at the Helman Street end of Ohio Street, and finished the walk at Gene’s lovely Garden of the Month.

108 Ohio Street

The yellow house at the corner of Helman and Ohio was built about 1905. The Oregon Historic Sites Database lists it as Frank Jordan house. On the Ashland City Band website, I found the photo below of Ashland’s “Woodmen of the World” band taken April 30, 1905. It lists Frank Jordan (back row, third from left) as a clarinet player. Could that be the same Frank Jordan?

Woodmen of the World band in Ashland, Oregon 1905 (photo from ashlandband..org, courtesy of Southern Oregon Historical Society)

Gates of Ohio Street

I found many quirky and artistic gates on Ohio Street.  Here are photos of the gates, in order from lower house numbers to higher house numbers.

110 Ohio Street…Yes, there is the gate, but where is the fence so that you would need to enter through the gate? I like the sense of humor.
132 Ohio Street. I like the simple lines of this gate, as well as the welcoming sign on the gate. 132 Ohio Street was built about 1910, and was called the E.O. Rease house.  
140 Ohio Street. The yard art and details make this a whimsical gate. Built around 1950, 140 Ohio Street has a World War II cottage style of architecture.
265 Ohio Street, gate at the Garden of the Month yard. The gate and fence were built by woodworker Nathan Sharples (photo by Larry Rosengren or Ruth Sloan)
275 Ohio Street has beautiful artwork on the gate. See the butterfly detail below.
275 Ohio St gate

Mrs. Anna McCarthy in 1914

Now let’s turn from gate photos to the rest of our walk along Ohio Street, starting with a quick historical detour. Built in 1905, 147 Ohio Street is another historic house, called the Anna G. McCarthy house.  This is a vernacular style hipped cottage with a wrapped hipped porch.   

147 Ohio Street, the Anna G. McCarthy house

I found a photo of Anna G. McCarthy in the Ashland Tidings of December 31, 1914. As President of the Chautauqua Park Club, she was one of the female “movers and shakers” of early Ashland. In 1893, the City of Ashland had purchased eight acres for the Chautauqua dome (where meetings were held) and nearby park land for people to gather. By 1916, Chautauqua Park had grown into the much larger and more elaborate Lithia Park. Now in 2019, the original eight acres is the site of the Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Theater and the current entrance to Lithia Park.

Anna G. McCarthy, President of the Chautauqua Park Club in 1914

Thanks to the Ashland Tidings of December 28, 1914, I can provide you with a list of Mrs. McCarthy’s 1914 Christmas guests: “…Miss Carrie Foster of Klamath Falls, Mr. and Mrs. Frank M. Moore of Eugene, Mrs. Agnes Jury of Seattle and Mrs. McCarthy’s son H.G. McCarthy. As dinner guests on Christmas day Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Evans and son and daughter were present.”

Back to Ohio Street in 2019

167 Ohio Street

This tree at 167 Ohio Street seems unusually large and lush for a flowering plum tree. I would love to see it when it’s covered with blossoms! The house was built about 1914 and still retains its original bungalow style.

211 Ohio Street

A friend I play tennis with was out in front at 211 Ohio Street when I walked by, so now I know where he lives. He built this lovely raised walkway that accommodates the roots of his huge maple tree.His house dates back to 1930 and was moved to this location.

Garden of the Month for June 2019

265 Ohio Street, interior view of the Garden of the Month (photo by Larry Rosengren or Ruth Sloan)

Ruth Sloan of the Ashland Garden Club wrote: “This garden, designed and maintained by Gene Leyden, is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Monthfor June 2019.  This is a naturally wet parcel (note the giant pond next door) where dampness- and shade-loving plants thrive and carefully placed sun-loving plants also flourish.  Gene planted the willow tree, now enormous (14 feet in circumference!), when she moved in with her family in 1987, transporting it to the site from the nursery in the back of the Volkswagon bus.  Garden observers can walk or drive down the alley to the right of the house to get more views.”

I was fortunate that my wife Kathy was with me as I walked Ohio Street and visited the Garden of the Month, because she had known Gene about 25 years ago. When Gene saw us outside the gate, she recognized Kathy and invited us in. What a treat!

Gene showed us the Curly Willow tree she “stuck in the ground as a stick” back in 1987. It now rises high, with both curly leaves and branches.

265 Ohio Street, Curly Willow tree in 2019.

“In addition to the prospering plant life, there are remarkably beautiful constructions by Gene’s friend, the artist and carpenter Nathan Sharples. Look carefully at the gorgeous fence, installed only three years ago. Note the unusual wooden screen door. Also salted throughout the garden are sculptures by Gene’s friend Cheryl Garcia, as well as other items of interest.”

265 Ohio Street. Here is detail of the beautiful fence, as well as a small part of the lush garden. (photo by Larry Rosengren or Ruth Sloan)

“Gene says she has a special fondness for fragrance in the garden and chooses many plants on that basis, including roses, jasmine and nicotiana. Among the many highlights in the garden are a selection of huge hostas loving their location under the willow, Lady Banks and Cecile Brunner roses climbing through the vegetation, and a smoke tree and smoke bush lending their rich dark foliage as contrast to the riot of greens plus colorful blossoms. There’s a little bit of everything here. This is clearly the work of people of great imagination, especially the primary gardener.”

265 Ohio Street. These are gorgeous and fragrant Abraham Darby roses.

The garden is the star of the show, but the house has an interesting history. Built around 1890, perhaps as a parsonage for the historic Methodist Church, its original location was on South Laurel Street. The house was moved here to Ohio Street in 1987.

265 Ohio Street, climbing rose and rhododendron (photo by Larry Rosengren or Ruth Sloan)

If you love gardens #1: Since this article features a beautiful garden, I will end it with a photo of wise words from a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney.

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”

If you love gardens #2I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.     

Notes: All descriptions of the Garden of the Month in quotation marks are from the Ashland Garden Club article by Ruth Sloan. Photos are by Peter Finkle, except when marked otherwise.  

Holly Street Part 2: Ashland’s Faith Healer and Daffodil Paradise

Article Highlights:
(1) Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer
(2) Daffodil Paradise

541 Holly Street: Former home of Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer

Mrs. Susie Jessel (photo from Jessel, no date, title page)

541 Holly Street was the home of nationally renowned faith healer Susie Jessel.  She and her family moved to Ashland in 1932, and she lived here until her death in 1966.  Her daughter wrote that Susie Jessel treated as many as 300 people a day at times, people who came from all over the country, as well as Canada and Mexico.  She treated babies, the elderly, those with tumors, people who were crippled and many more.

Cars parked on Holly Street in the 1940’s, of people going for treatment from Susie Jessel (photo from Jessel, no date, page 62)

The photo above stimulated a memory for my friend Terry Skibby.  He told me: “My folks would tour Ashland by car and see the sights when company came.  One location was the Susie Jessel place with the large crowds of people.  They were in the trailer park and street at the corner of Holly and Idaho Streets.  This was in the 1950’s.”

How did she become a healer?  Here are Susie Jessel’s own words.

“On April 2, 1891, I arrived. I was born with what they then called a veil or caul over my face.  This was to indicate a special gift in a child.  I believe now it is just termed a membrane.  Mother noticed my gift immediately.  She had trouble with her breasts, and she noticed that when my hands would touch them, the pain would leave and before long all pain and fever was gone.

“During the war Daddy’s eye had been injured and had a whitish scum over it.  Before I was two years old I started noticing that eye and I would reach up and touch it.  Soon the scum started disappearing and the sight returned to that eye.  From that time on Daddy called me his ‘little bundle of magic.’

“I can’t remember when I wasn’t carried at all hours of the night to the ailing.  Mother would place my hands on the person, and before long they would get relief from pain.  And so my healing career started before I was out of the cradle.”   (Jessel, no date, page 8)

“After all my research, I’m convinced she was the real thing, a true spiritual healer….”  That quote is from author, lawyer and retired SOU business professor Dennis Powers, who researched Jessel and was quoted in John Darling’s 2014 Mail Tribune article.   Powers said that she healed by laying on of hands and prayer.  She did not ask for payment, but some people would leave money in her apron pocket. She insisted that she did not “do” the healing, that it was entirely God working through her.

People waiting to receive treatment from Susie Jessel (photo from Jessel 1950, page 7)

Time Magazine 1953

Time Magazine even featured Susie Jessel in a 1953 article. It said: “‘Susie,’ as her patients called her, moved to Ashland 23 years ago, and she has brought a boom to the town.  Thousands of hopeful patients keep the cash registers ringing in motels, hotels, restaurants, drug stores and movie houses.”

Unlike Dennis Powers, the author of the Time article was very cynical when it came Susie’s healing powers, as shown by this line from the article.  “Says Clarence Litwiller, a local undertaker who claims that last year he buried 18 of Susie’s patients: ‘She’s the biggest business in town for everybody.”

Here is another way to look at Litwiller’s statement.  If Susie Jessel treated thousands of people in a year, many of whom their doctors said were near death, and only 18 of them died in Ashland, that could be seen as quite amazing.

Mrs. Jessel did not say that she could heal everyone who came to her.  She made no promises.  However, she stated that there was “a big improvement in at least 80% of them.” (Jessel, no date, page 49)

Was the healing only psychological?

Skeptics said that healings, if anything happened at all, were only psychological.  Mrs. Jessel addressed this attitude:

“Some may feel that the healing is merely in the minds of the patients; however, when one thinks of the skeptical and the tiny babies and animals who with no knowledge of psychology receive so much and in some cases more help faster than adults, I don’t believe this theory applies.” (Jessel, no date, page 66)

Susie Jessel had a fascinating life story, but I can’t tell all of it here.  If you want to read more, you can find many of my references for this article in the Ashland Library.

Ashland, Susie Jessel
Susie Jessel treating someone by laying on hands (Jessel, no date, page 55)

The Gardener

I will end this part of my Holly Street article with the emotional closing lines from H.K. Ellis’ 1943 magazine article about Susie Jessel.

I was packing things away in the car, getting ready to leave Ashland, when I was told that a patient wished to speak to me.  He was pointed out, a short, stocky figure laboring in the nearby truck garden.

I went over, walking across soft red loam.  The young fellow wore grimy dungarees, a faded blue shirt and a ragged straw hat pulled low over his eyes.  I did not offer to shake hands with him for he seemed desirous of overlooking any sympathy.

‘How’s the de luxe gardener?’ I asked.

‘Just swell!’ he exclaimed. ‘Look!’

He raised his face to mine. His eyes were two circles of blotchy white.  ‘Look!’ he repeated.  ‘These cataracts are thinning.  For five years I’ve seen nothing farther than a yard away.  But now, for instance, look at that robin over on the cowshed fence. It’s about 50 feet, I’d say.’

‘You’re right,’ I agreed, following his gaze.  ‘But somehow, it’s hard to believe.’

‘Not when you’re behind the eight ball,’ he said grinning.  ‘Things Mrs. Jessel once told me are beginning to come true.  I know.  Why, only last night I caught a glimpse of the moon!’

541 Holly Street is still called the Jessel House, though it is now a vacation rental.

541 Holly St, former home of faith healer Susie Jessel

Do any of the readers of this article know someone who was treated by Susie Jessel?

Now let’s walk the rest of Holly Street until it ends at Liberty Street.

500 Holly Street: Artistic Fieldstone

Ashland, stone wall
500 Holly Street has a natural fieldstone wall anchored by two huge boulders.

I always appreciate creative stone wall building, especially natural fieldstone walls like this one.  I look at a stone wall like this and I think of words like patience, right-brain, strong visual sense, trust and nature.

558 Holly Street: Lush Wisteria vine

558 Holly, trunk of the huge Wisteria vine

This is not the longest stretching Wisteria vine I have ever seen, but it is close.  I think this is the largest Wisteria trunk I have ever seen.  As shown in the photo above, from the trunk at the corner of the front porch the vine has been trained to grow towards the street.

There it takes off along the front fence line, all the way to the property line in both directions (as shown in the photo below).  I look forward to coming back in the spring to enjoy this Wisteria’s magnificent blooms.

Mrs. Susie Jessel lived here at 558 Holly Street for about two years before settling at 541 Holly Street.

558 Holly, huge wisteria

645 Holly Street: Artistic Facade

Ashland, architecture
645 Holly Street has a beautiful stone facade

My artistic eye likes this stone-facade garage with upstairs studio.  The beautiful wood garage door adds to the charm and a little design help from afternoon sun and tree shadows completes the artistic package.

750 Holly Street: Magical Japanese Maple

Ashland, tree

750 Holly Street: This was my attempt to capture the magical afternoon light through Autumn-color Japanese Maple leaves.This house has a lovely front yard, but the afternoon sunlight shining through these Japanese Maple leaves really got my attention.  This little tree was absolutely stunning.  I captured a bit of the magic, but no matter how many photos I took, I couldn’t capture all of it.

826 Holly Street: Daffodil Paradise

Ashland, flowers
826 Holly Street, daffodil paradise, planted by Carol

Here at the Liberty Street end of Holly Street is one of the most spectacular Spring gardens in Ashland.  If you love daffodils, you must walk or drive to 826 Holly Street in March or April.  I had the pleasure of walking by in March of 2018, so here are two photos I took then of the daffodils (and lavender) in all their glory.

Ashland, flowers
The colors and shapes of daffodil and lavender complement each other during the month of March 2018 at 826 Holly Street.

I met Carol, the owner of 826 Holly Street, as I was walking in the springtime.  She explained to me that she started planting daffodil bulbs 24 years ago.  She liked them so much that she has continued to plant more every year since then, as well as separating the clumps of bulbs.

Carol told me her secret was to dead-head the flowers as soon as they stop blooming.  She told me: “I want all the goodness to go back into the bulb.”  I think you’ll agree that she has plenty of “goodness” to show for her 24 years of hard work and loving care.

Two Dramatic Trees on Holly Street

I will close the Holly Street walk and article with a look at two trees that stand out.

Trail Marker Tree?

Ashland, tree
Is this Ponderosa pine at 558 Holly Street a “trail marker tree?”

When I spoke with Gary Pool, who lives on Holly Street, he pointed out this dramatic Ponderosa pine on Holly Street as a possible Native American trail marker tree.  I had never heard of the term “trail marker tree” and I did some research.  I found this interesting insight and explanation online.

“Trees have been used as signs for centuries. Between 2002 and 2005 I had the privilege of being involved with the Smithsonian  Museum of the American Indian.  During that time period, I worked with several native Americans, including a Native American ethnobotanist who taught me many interesting things about Native American Culture including the practice of using Marker Trees to show the way.  Native Americans used to use trees to tell in which direction they should travel. These were called Marker Trees.

“Favorite tree selection for these trees were oaks, maples and elms. These species were selected for their flexibility in youth, but hardwood in maturity. Marker trees were bent in the direction of a frequently visited destination such as a water source, campsite, or a safe river crossing.” (Ronda Roemmelt 2015)

The photo below shows a tree identified by experts as a Native American trail marker tree.

Ashland, tree
Trail Marker Tree in North Central Illinois, with Dennis Downes, researcher

(Photo on Great Lakes Trail Tree Society website)

After my research, I have concluded that the Ponderosa Pine on Holly Street is not a trail marker tree, though it would be romantic to call it one.  Here is my reasoning.  Nearly every trail marker tree photo I saw online shows the bent branch that “points the way” only 3′ to 6′ above the ground (like the photo above).  The lowest bent branch on the Holly Street pine is more than 10′ above the ground.  I think it is a case of unusual artwork by Mother Nature.

Massive Oak Tree

Ashland, oak tree
541 Holly Street is home to an historic oak tree, in addition to having been the home to an historic faith healer.

This oak tree is not quite as dramatic as the Ponderosa pine, but it has a massive and beautiful presence on Holly Street.

If you have thoughts about this article, or if you have a Holly Street story to add, feel free to leave a comment below.

References I consulted while writing about Holly Street:

Anon. “Medicine: Straw for the Drowning,” Time Magazine, September 7, 1953.

Darling, John. “A History of Healing,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 1, 2014. (link here)

Ellis, H.K.  “The Story of Mrs. Susie Jessel,” TRUE magazine,  Country Press Inc., 1943

Jessel, Mary Jane.  The Story of Mrs. Susie Jessel, 1950.

O’Harra, Marjorie.  Ashland: the first 130 years, 1986

Roemmelt, Ronda. “The History of Marker Trees,”  Deeproot.com, October 5, 2015

Sanderson, Mary Jessel.  Healing Hands: The Story of Susie Jessel, as told to her daughter Mary Jessel Sanderson, no date.

Holly Street Part 1: 101-Year-Old Mrs. Fader and the Pool’s Pool

Article highlights:
101-year-old Mrs. Fader tells me stories, plus…
The Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole

Holly Street starts at Terrace Street just a few blocks from downtown, and goes downhill about nine blocks to end at Liberty Street.  When I start walking a street, taking photos and talking with people, I never know what I will find.  I found so many fascinating stories (including history) as I walked Holly Street, that I decided to divide my article into two parts.  This is Part 1.

101-year-old, 75-year Holly Street resident Mrs. Fader tells me stories

I met 101-year-old Mrs. Clara Fader at 338 Holly Street.  She told me that she and her husband Joseph bought the house (photo below) in 1943 or 1944.  Though her husband passed away in 1980, she and her daughters Louise and Mary still live there.

Ashland, history

Mrs. Fader impressed on me that she and Joseph were in education for 84 years between the two of them! She taught school for 40 years and he was a teacher and principal for 44 years.

She attended Southern Oregon Normal School (now SOU), where one of her teachers was Angus Bowmer, who founded the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1935.  I couldn’t coax any Angus Bowmer stories out of her, just the statement: “He was really a character.”

Angus Bower, founder of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in 1948. (photo from Julie Cortez of OSF)

Lincoln Elementary School was purposely built next to Southern Oregon Normal School to make it easy for student teachers to walk back and forth.  Mrs. Fader taught for a while at Lincoln School, and then for many years she was a First Grade teacher at Walker Elementary School.  This led to a good story.

The boy with the “big worm”

She described one of her students as a “bashful young boy” who came to her toward the end of lunch recess one day.  He told her: “I hope it’s okay that I went in the classroom and found an empty jar, because I caught a big worm and need something to put it in.”

Mrs. Fader had her teacher-intuition working, so she asked the boy to bring her the jar with the “big worm.”  When he did, she looked in the jar and saw a baby rattlesnake!

Baby Pacific rattlesnake (photo by Kristen Lalumiere)

Mrs. Fader told the boy: “Recess is almost over so go out and play for a few minutes, and I will keep the big worm.”  She found another teacher in the hallway, who offered to take the rattlesnake to the College science department a few blocks away.  After the science department did some investigation of the rattler, they reported back to Mrs. Fader that it had enough venom in its glands to potentially kill a child.

Another under-the-radar super-hero teacher at work!

Mrs. Fader remembers that day as one of three times that the children found rattlesnakes on the Walker School playground during her time teaching there.

The Fader house

The house was built in the 1880’s, according to Mrs. Fader.  She and her family have made very few changes to the house, so it retains its historic character.

She recalls that after she and her husband bought the house, they started paying the City for utilities: water, electrical, sewer and more.  Well, it took about seven years before they realized that the house had its own septic system and they weren’t even connected with the city sewer system.  At that time, their house was still a bit “in the country” and the City had to install sewer pipes ¼ mile or more to connect with the City lines.  This was quite expensive.

It seemed logical to Mr. and Mrs. Fader (and to me as I was listening to her story) that they would get credit from the city for seven or so years of sewer payments for service they didn’t even use…makes sense, right?  Then that credit would be applied to the cost of linking their house with the city system.  Who knows the bureaucratic reasons, but according to Mrs. Fader the credit was not given, and it’s a sore spot with her to this day.

Mrs. Fader’s barn at 338 Holly Street (with a visitor in the photo that is not a family pet)

The Fader family pets

When the children were young, the Fader’s had a number of pets, including rabbits, goats and dogs. Here are two pet stories Mrs. Fader told me.

Goats: The baby goats grew up with her children and would follow them around the acres of orchards and gardens around the house. During the school year, the goats knew what time the kids were due to walk home up Holly Street.  They would wait in the street keeping an eye out for the Fader children walking home from Lincoln School.  When they spotted the children several blocks away, they flew down the street to meet them.  Then they would accompany the children for the rest of their uphill walk home.  Mrs. Fader told me her neighbor down the street loved to go out in her front yard after school let out just to see this sight.

The Black Lab: Among the dogs they had as pets, the college-educated black lab whom she adopted later in his life was the most memorable to Mrs. Fader.  Yes, I do mean college-educated.

The black lab, named Christopher, made a home for himself at Southern Oregon College (now SOU).  Students would take care of the dog, and so he thrived from year to year.  Christopher had a habit of trying to visit classrooms during the day.  Most of the teachers closed their classroom doors or kicked him out, but one professor had an “open door policy” when it came to Christopher.

This was Professor Arthur Taylor, one of the most distinguished professors on campus.  He taught Social Science at Southern Oregon College from 1926 until 1963, and was Chair of the Department for many years.  He was so respected that the social science building Taylor Hall is named after him.

Taylor Hall at Southern Oregon University

Now…back to the dog named Christopher.  According to Mrs. Fader, Professor Taylor left his classroom door open so that Christopher could sit with the students, as he often did.  When Christopher was forced to leave his “home” at the college, and Mrs. Fader adopted him, Professor Taylor had words of high praise for the dog.  He told Mrs. Fader (with tongue firmly in cheek): You won’t find a better educated dog than this.  Christopher has attended college for six to eight years, sitting in class with my students.

Mrs. Fader confirmed to me that he was the smartest dog she ever had!

* * * * *

Let’s mosey on down Holly Street for more photos and stories.

Ashland, garden

357 Holly Street 

I call this photo: “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky.”  Do you recognize the song these lyrics are from?  Hint: It was an Oregon Shakespeare Festival musical in the 2018 season.  Yes, the song is from one of my favorite musicals of all time…Oklahoma.

Ashland, yard art

384 Holly Street 

I enjoy finding beautiful and unusual yard art, and this house number sign qualifies as both beautiful and unusual.

Ashland, door, art
Royalty or Prince? 397 Holly Street welcomes with a purple door and colorful art.

Purple door and colorful art makes a welcoming entrance, in my book.

* * * * *

Ashland, architecture

The Pool’s bought a pool with help from  Poole

Got it?  No?  Let me translate.

Life brought Gary and Debbie Pool a surprise, as Debbie explained to me: “When Gary and I got engaged, we thought we would sell my house and live in his, but we saw a flyer for the pool house [at 414 Holly Street] with a huge photo of the pool area with all the light and we had to see it!”

Realtor Eric Poole was Debbie’s neighbor, so they asked him to arrange a tour of the house for them.  They went, toured the house, made an offer the same day…and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

So in summary, the Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole. Crazy, fun and true.

Ashland414 Holly Street, Gary and Debbie Pool’s entry recently rebuilt by Gary

Gary is just putting the finishing touches on an attractive new front entrance (above) and a front yard deck (where I took the photo below of Gary and Debbie).

Ashland
Debbie and Gary Pool on their almost-finished new front entry deck Gary is building at 414 Holly Street

Gary received his Bachelor’s degree at Utah State University in Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning.  That skill set took his career in a variety of directions, including doing city planning in the 1980’s.

Today he has a small landscape design and architecture business (GWPool & Assoc).  He told me that he finds his work creative and fulfilling when he is able to design and build “personal parks.” These are designs that turn a client’s yard into a delightful, relaxing oasis.

I have known Gary and Debbie for many years, and they graciously allowed me to share some photos (and a video) showing the inside of their dramatic home.

The afternoon brings garden reflections to the water and water reflections to the interior walls of the two-story house.

414 Holly St, water reflections on the walls at Gary and Debbie Pool’s home

Enjoy the 13 second video of water reflecting on the walls at the Pool’s pool house

This is only Part 1 of the Holly Street story.

In Part 2, I will introduce you to Ashland’s famous faith healer, who in her day brought as many people to Ashland as did the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Then we will meet Carol, who has created what I call “daffodil heaven,” one of the most spectacular springtime gardens in Ashland.  Finally, we will learn about two dramatic Holly Street trees.

Pracht Street: A Legacy of Premium Peaches

Pracht Street:
A Legacy of Premium Peaches

“The ‘Ashland peach’ was known all over the Pacific Coast and marketed in the Eastern states and in Canada.  (The Max Pracht orchards on Ashland Street took World’s Fair premiums in Chicago.) From a few hundred boxes of peaches shipped prior to 1890, the industry grew until the 1899 output was 75,000 boxes, more than 60 railroad boxcar loads.”  (O’Hara page 64)

Ashland, peaches, Max Pracht, Pracht Street

Max Pracht peach box label, likely late 1800s

“Pear Paradise” or “Peach Paradise?”

Today we know the Rogue Valley as a “pear paradise.”  I had no idea peaches were such a huge part of Ashland’s economy in the late 1800’s until I started researching Pracht Street for this article.

“60 railroad boxcar loads” of peaches shipped out in 1899 alone!  That is amazing.

Max Pracht owned the premium peach orchard in Ashland.  Indeed, you could say his was the premium peach orchard in the country!

Take a look at this excerpt from an 1897 essay extolling Oregon fruit:  “In this connection the fact may be noted that the largest apple, the largest pear and the largest cherries, exhibited at the Columbian Exposition [1893 Chicago World’s Fair] were grown in Oregon, and that a special gold medal was awarded to Max Pracht of Ashland for the largest and best flavored peaches.” (The Overland Monthly, June 1987) (emphasis added)

Max Pracht’s House in 1900

Here is what his home and surrounding orchard looked like during the pruning season in 1900.

Max Pracht’s house and orchard in 1900 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

It stands to reason that Pracht Street, where his home and orchard were located, was named after Max Pracht.

According to a July 25, 2013 Facebook post by the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum:

“Do you know that if you live around Pracht Street you are probably living on the old Peachblow Fantasy Orchard land? It was 120 acres of peaches right here in central Ashland. The largest peach orchard in the entire state of Oregon. The peaches were enormous. 20 ounce peaches were common with some as large as 26 ounces.”

Walking Pracht Street

Pracht Street is only two blocks long, with its two ends at Liberty Street and Euclid Avenue.  If you like alleys, you can find one that heads south to Ashland Street and another that goes north to Pennsylvania Avenue.

There is a small one story apartment complex at 800 Pracht Street, and from there to Euclid it’s all single family homes.

Ashland, walkApartments at 800 Pracht Street

As I walked from Liberty uphill to Euclid Avenue, I searched to see if Max Pracht’s house was still standing.  First, let me tell you about the yard art, chickens and skunk that I spotted along the way.

Chickens and Skunk

Ashland allows backyard chickens, and these are among the first I have seen in my walks around town. Then I spotted an unusual afternoon visitor…a young skunk.

First, I was surprised to see it just three feet from the chickens.  Is that normal?  Second, I was surprised to see it out and about in the mid-afternoon.  Pet skunk?  That seems unlikely, considering their potent aroma.  Maybe it was just excited about exploring the trash area.

Beauty on Pracht Street

I enjoy finding yard art and other man-made beauty, as well as nature’s beauty.  As I walked the two blocks of Pracht Street, I found both.

Artistic door at 710 Pracht Street

Yard art next to 715 Pracht Street

Ashland, walk

Lovely, rhododendron filled garden at 640 Pracht Street.  I’d like to come back here in April or May when the flowers are in bloom.

Ashland, walk, tree

My favorite tree on Pracht Street (at the corner of Pracht and Morton)

Max Pracht’s house?

I will finish the article with more about Max Pracht, who was an amazing man and a great booster of early Ashland.  I think I found his house toward the top of Pracht at 660 Pracht Street.  Take a look at the two photos below.  The large yellow house at 660 Pracht is much larger than the Pracht house shown in the 1900 photo, but it is not unusual for houses to be expanded over the years.

To me, these two clues give it away:

  • The shape of the two windows facing the street on the third floor attic is identical in the current house to the shape of the same windows in the 1900 photo.
  • The triangular wall section between the two attic windows and the roof is identical in the current house with the shape in the 1900 photo.

What do you think?  Am I right or is this just coincidence?

Ashland, walk, Pracht Street

660 Pracht Street…formerly Max Pracht’s house?

Max Pracht’s house and orchard in 1900 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

Max Pracht’s Life

Max Pracht was “a Republican of irrepressible enthusiasm,” back when the Republican party was the party of Lincoln, the party that had the courage to hold our country together and outlaw slavery.

He was born in Palatinate, Germany in 1846.  There was unrest and revolution in Germany in 1848, which caused his father to immigrate to America with the family, including two-year-old Max.

According to the Republican League Register of Oregon: “He served in the navy during the Rebellion, and is a comrade of Burnside Post No. 23, G. A. R.”

In other words, he was in the Union Navy during the Civil War.  Then, as a veteran, he joined the Ashland (Burnside) post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Civil War veterans group.

Max moved with his wife and three children from San Francisco to Ashland in 1887, purchased land, planted an orchard, and harvested his first crop of peaches in 1891. As of 1896, he was still waiting to receive the Gold Medal he won as first prize for his peaches at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

In addition to being a grower and marketer of premium peaches, he also developed some of his land for housing after the opening of the railroad led to a population increase in Ashland starting in 1888.  On top of that, this busy businessman owned the huge Hotel Oregon downtown in 1891-1892, and his son Alexander went on to own the Ashland Depot Hotel [see Ashland Depot Hotel article here] after 1901.

Pracht Marketing “Secrets”

The Jacksonville newspaper wrote a detailed article in 1893 explaining in part why Pracht orchard peaches sold for 25% more than the market price for peaches, and why they were shipped all over the country.  In addition to growing large, flavorful peaches, Mr. Pracht also took the extra step of communicating their premium nature to customers on each individual peach wrapper.  In the process, he was a huge booster for Ashland and Southern Oregon.

“People who are fortunate enough to obtain peaches from the ‘Peachblow Paradise Orchards’ of Max Pracht this year will be fully apprised of the celestial character of the fruit, no matter in how distant a clime it may be unpacked and eaten. Mr. Pracht has just had nearly 100,000 peach wrappers printed, each bearing in blue ink on white paper his orchard trademark designed by himself. It advertises the climate of southern Oregon, the city of Ashland, the orchard business of Mr. Pracht, and there will be no danger of retail dealers in Oregon, Washington, Montana or elsewhere selling his peaches as ‘California fruit.’ Neither will there be any likelihood of any scrubby peaches being shipped in those wrappers. Mr. Pracht’s method of paying the strictest attention to the details of selection, packing and marketing, proves its value from the fact that he is able to ask and receive for his peaches 25 percent above the market price.
(Democratic Times, page 3)

 
  • References Quoted:
  • Democratic Times, Jacksonville, Oregon, August 18, 1893, page 3
  • Fulton, R.L. article “The Yamhill Country,” pages 498-503 in The Overland Monthly, January – June 1897, Overland Monthly Publishing Company, San Francisco, California.
  • O’Hara, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing, 1986.
  • Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon: Containing Original Sketches of many well known Citizens of the Past and Present, Chapman Publishing Company; Chicago, 1904.
  • Republican League Register of Oregon, The Register Publishing Company, 1896, page 260.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

COLLABORATORS AND FRIENDS

My thanks to Terry Skibby for the historic photograph.

The Southern Oregon Historical Society is a great resource.  (1) If you like history, SOHS can always use volunteers to help with research, digitizing and transcribing. Learn about SOHS here.  (2) Second, I encourage you to join SOHS as a member to support their work.  The JOIN link is here.

Railroad Park and History of the Railroad in Ashland

Railroad Park

The Railroad District grew and thrived because of the railroad, and the Railroad District struggled and suffered because of the railroad.  Let’s start with the Railroad Park, and then in future stories we’ll go on to A Street, B Street, 1st Street, 2nd Street and more.

  • See below for stories and photos about:
  • The first train to arrive in Ashland
  • The “Golden Spike” of Ashland
  • Who was the “Apple Cider Man?”
  • What did kids sell to train passengers to make spending money?
  • Huge hotel and dining room at the depot, and what is left of it
  • Why are those mysterious blocks of concrete in Railroad Park?

Railroad Park signRailroad Park memorializes the history of this part of town.  Before airplanes and airports, before automobiles and interstate highways, there were railroads and railway stations.

Huge Impact of the Railroad in America

How did Americans get around before the railroads?  They walked. Or if they were fortunate, they rode in a simple or fancy cart of some kind pulled by horses or oxen over dirt roads.  Whether it was simple or fancy, it was slow – and uncomfortably bumpy – and either dusty or muddy (take your pick).

According to the Northwest Railway Museum site, “The journey west ~ 2,400 miles and 4-8 months ~ was reduced to a mere week or two following the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.”  Imagine living at the time when this huge cultural change was happening.

There was fierce competition among cities and towns across the country for a railway stop, because towns thrived when they were awarded a station as the tracks were laid.

First Train in Ashland

That is why May 4, 1884 was such an important day for the small town of Ashland, Oregon.  That is the day the first train arrived in Ashland, coming in from Portland.  At this time, tracks had not yet been built across the Siskiyou Mountains.

Ashland, railroad, 1884

First train to arrive in Ashland (from Portland) on May 4, 1884 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

With the arrival of the railroad came the arrival of the Railroad District.  It is no coincidence that the early homes in the Railroad District were built in the years 1884 to 1888.

From 1884 to 1887, as Southern Pacific slowly built tracks across the Siskiyou Mountain range, stagecoaches continued to cross the mountains and link Ashland with Northern California for West Coast travelers.  The last stagecoach carrying train passengers from Ashland to Northern California crossed the Siskiyou range on December 16 or 17, 1887.

Ashland, railroad, stagecoach, 1887

Photo of the last stagecoach carrying train passengers from Ashland to Northern California, in the last day before the first train arrived in Ashland from the south (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

The Golden Spike in Ashland

The Railroad District got an even bigger boost when California and Oregon were linked by rail on December 17, 1887.  Here is the plaque in Railroad Park commemorating that event.

Golden Spike marker at Railroad Park

Railroad Park, taken from the Golden Spike marker

The driving of the “Golden Spike” by Southern Pacific executive Charles Crocker brought brief national attention to Ashland, because that day marked the completion of railroad tracks around the perimeter of the continental United States.

More important to the economy and growth of Ashland, the town was now a meal stop on the busy rail service linking San Francisco and Portland.  For years, up to four trains a day stopped in Ashland.  In addition, Ashland was a good spot for Southern Pacific to locate many of its crew.

“75 company men made their homes here” in the early 20th century, wrote Marjorie O’Hara in Ashland: the first 130 years.  I bet you can guess where most of these men lived with their families…yes, in the Railroad District.  That was a lot of money flowing into the local Ashland economy.

The Apple Cider Man

Ashland, railroad, Southern Pacific, William PowellAshland Southern Pacific depot – William Powell with his apple cider cart, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

Historic photos show bustling scenes filled with travelers and peddlers around the railroad depot.  William Powell was one of the most successful Ashlanders at serving the stream of train passengers.  He lived at 462 A Street with an apple orchard on his property behind the house.  You can still see his apple trees (or descendants of his trees) from the Peerless Hotel parking area in the alley just behind the Peerless.

Ashland
Apple trees at site of William Powell’s orchard, seen from alley between A & B Streets

Apple tree close-up at site of William Powell’s apple orchard

William Powell had a cider press along the alley just off 2nd Street and a confectionary shop at the corner of A Street and 4th Street.  For many years, he and his apple cider cart were a fixture near the railroad depot.

Entrepreneurial Ashland Youngsters

Old photos also show Ashland youngsters peddling locally grown fruit to the train passengers. Here is the first person story of Ashlander Albert Meyers describing his days as an entrepreneurial youngster.

Interviewed in 1978*, he stated that he moved to Ashland with his family in 1919.  Talking about local fruit, he said: “My brother and I also had a lot of cherries at our old house and we used to bring them in little paper boxes and sell those to the people for 5 cents.”

Ashland, railroad, Southern PacificAshland Southern Pacific depot – Kids selling fruit at depot, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

But he and his brother sold a lot more than just fruit.  Albert talked about their creative way to make money from the free Lithia Water.  At the time, train passengers could sample Lithia water from a fountain located at A Street and 4th Street.  The fountain was enclosed within a gazebo similar to the one currently in Lithia Park near the band shell.

Albert Meyers: “My brother and I had a job delivering newspapers.  We delivered down at the train station too.  That was where all the activity was.  Everything happened at the train station.  Whenever a train came in, all the passengers would get off and drink some Lithia water, either liking it very much or not liking it at all.”

“My brother and I had a good business going.  They didn’t have any cups down there and the fountain wasn’t fixed like a normal drinking fountain, so it was hard to drink from.  My brother and I bought some cups from the five and dime store.  Every time a train came in, we’d sell them cups for 5 cents so they could get a drink.  We had a great big long board that the passengers were supposed to put their cups on when they got through drinking the water.  We would set them there to dry, and then, when the next 100 to 150 people came, we would use the same cups again.  We made a good amount of money in several years just using used cups.”

Ashland, railroad, Lithia waterAshland Southern Pacific depot – Powell’s Famous Apple Cider cart (on left) and Lithia water gazebo (on right), in front of the Ashland Depot Hotel, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

Ashland Depot Hotel

Ashland, railroad, Southern Pacific Depot HotelAshland Depot Hotel, built in 1888, photo taken 1913 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

The hotel, built in 1888 to serve the passengers between San Francisco and Portland, had a huge dining room to accommodate a train full of passengers eating all at once.  It also provided rooms to rent and a depot for purchasing train tickets.  Sadly, the hotel was torn down in 1937.

All we have left of the impressive Ashland Depot Hotel is the small, historic depot building at the corner of A Street and 5th Street.  To give you a sense of the scale of the original Ashland Depot Hotel, the surviving building (below) was originally a kitchen connected to the hotel.  It is now across the street from its original location, a bit lonely without the huge hotel seen with it in the photo above.

Here is all that is left of the Ashland Depot Hotel. Built in 1888, photo taken 2018.

Along with the coveted paying train passengers who would pay to eat or stay in Ashland, the railroad brought with it hordes of unwanted, non-paying train passengers – the tramps or hobos.

The havoc they caused in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was regularly described by our local papers. I will write about the hobos in another article.

What are these hunks of concrete?

Close-up of one of the concrete piers in Railroad Park

Only a few concrete piers (now holding benches) remain of the dozens that used to fill this space

This small area of Railroad Park was once filled with these sturdy, square concrete piers.  Most were removed when the park was created, but a few were left as bench supports and for historical interest.  The photo below gives a hint of their original purpose.

Ashland, railroad

Aerial view of Southern Pacific depot with water towers circled, 1940s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

The numerous concrete piers served as the base for two large water towers built next to the tracks.  These water towers served the Southern Pacific trains, as did the maintenance sheds and the huge engine turntable that can be seen in the photos above and below.

Ashland, railroad, Southern Pacific,Ashland Southern Pacific depot – Roundhouse and turntable, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

The “Glory Days” are Gone

Those glory days for the Railroad District took a beating when Southern Pacific re-routed most railroad traffic away from Ashland over to Klamath Falls in 1927.  The railway across the Siskiyou Pass was always very steep, slow and dangerous.

When Southern Pacific built a faster, safer route that bypassed Ashland, the Railroad District fell into decline. First, Ashland lost trains full of passengers stopping to stretch their legs and have a bite to eat – or to stay for a few days.  Second, Southern Pacific relocated most of their crew members who lived in Ashland to other cities, so the economy and liveliness of the Railroad District took a beating with that loss as well.

Limited passenger service continued until 1955, when passenger trains to Ashland were discontinued.  Since then, many have dreamed of reviving passenger train service, but so far it’s just a dream.

As we know, the Railroad District has bounced back big-time in the last 20 years, but that is another story for another day.

You might still hear a train whistle, and see the train come through Ashland once a day with some lumber or empty train cars.  I happened to be at the Railroad Park one Friday morning with Terry Skibby when this Central Oregon Pacific train rolled by.

Video: Railroad train at RR Park 6-15-2018

Enjoy your walking in Ashland, and sign up for the email list if you haven’t already done so.

To learn more of the fascinating history of Ashland's early years, and the Railroad District in particular, come to Railroad Park at 10:00 am on Friday mornings during the summer for a 1 1/2 hour Terry Skibby walking tour of the area.
Walking tours have not started yet for 2019.

My thanks to Terry Skibby for historical information and historical photos, the book Ashland: the first 130 years by Marjorie O’Hara, the book As It Was by Carol Barrett and the Ashland Public Library.

*The interview with Albert Meyers was conducted by 8th grade student Laura Howser, and printed in the 1978 book A Bit of Old Ashland, page 67.  This book and other Ashland history books are available at the Ashland Public Library.

Photos not otherwise credited are by Peter Finkle. The Southern Oregon Historical Society is a great resource.  (1) If you like history, SOHS can always use volunteers to help with research, digitizing and transcribing. Learn about SOHS here.  (2) Second, I encourage you to join SOHS as a member to support their work.  The JOIN link is here.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Morton Street – Steep, with Stories

Morton Street runs from East Main Street uphill to Ashland Loop Road.  I walked it during the late afternoon of May 30, 2018.

 

When I think of Morton Street, I think of “steep,” though much of it is not steep at all.  I picture cars losing control and sliding down Morton Street’s steep section on icy winter days and finally coming to a stop in someone’s yard a block or two down.  I was surprised to hear from 5-year resident Randy that cars sliding down on icy days rarely happens.  He added that kids with sleds love Morton Street’s steepness on snowy days.

Ashland Cemetery

Let’s begin at East Main Street, the downhill start to Morton Street, where you will find the Ashland Cemetery.  This is an old community cemetery, with the earliest recorded burial dating to 1860, according to the City website.

 

I am impressed with the lush flower-filled front yard at 327 Morton Street.  I guess I hit the yard at just the right time of year.

Gate Art

Past the flowers, the 300 block of Morton Street wowed me with gate art and yard art.

 

 

I love the pathway gate and auto gate at 340 Morton Street, which were created by one or more very talented metal artists.

I enjoyed the yard art at 360 Morton Street.  This bicycle is only one of multiple large and small interesting metal creations in the front yard.

I also love trees, and I hope to be able to find one or more trees to feature on nearly every street in Ashland.  This large pink dogwood in bloom caught my eye at 501 Morton Street.

The Uphill Climb

Okay, are you ready to tackle the steep climb up Morton Street with me?

This photo looking down the steep climb gives a better perspective than any of the photos I took looking up the street.

Bob: Walking up the steep part of Morton Street, I met Bob going the same direction -up.  I was very impressed when he told me that he walks to the top of Morton Street twice a week from his home on Holly Street!  He then circles back to Holly Street by way of Ashland Loop Road and Terrace Avenue. My photo of Bob is at the end of the article.

Jeff: On my way back down this steep section of Morton Street, I met Jeff, who yelled out to me: “Do you have a minute to help a neighbor?”  Feeling neighborly, I said yes.  I helped him cut down a Douglas Fir tree on his property.  The Ashland Fire Marshal had told him that Douglas Fir are more flammable than other trees and are best not to have growing near a house, so he is taking action.  (I am going to slip another Ashland street here into the Morton Street article – Cascade Street where Jeff lives – because it is less than a block long and because it intersects Morton Street.)

Upper Morton Street contains a variety of house styles.  I like the traditional look of the house at 743 Morton Street.  Can you see the reflections of nature in the windows?

Is this Wisteria vine going to “eat” the No Parking sign?  It sure looks healthy and hungry.  This is a rare freestanding Wisteria vine, not trained on a fence, trellis or along the roofline of a house.  Being true to its nature, it looked for the nearest thing to climb and found the signpost. You can find it near 800 Morton Street.

Talking Aristotle with Ron

Ron: I met Ron when I took a detour off Morton Street to explore the dirt pathway of Waterline Road.  Actually, before I met Ron his two small dogs saw me and started barking wildly. After he calmed them down, we started talking about Morton Street, living in Ashland and even philosophy.  Ron is excited that he and his wife will soon be moving to Morton Street so they can go for walks on beautiful Waterline Road.

As we were talking about Ashland and community, Ron quoted Aristotle to me.  That’s not a conversation I have every day!

He started with: “Man is a political animal,” which is a famous quote from Aristotle’s writing.  Ron pointed out that this widely shared quote is a mistranslation of what Aristotle said in the original Greek.

“Man is a political animal.” or
“Man is an animal that flourishes in a Polis.”  Aristotle

Ron likes this translation: “Man is an animal that flourishes in a Polis.”  Ron told me that the word Polis as Aristotle used it is a community of like-minded people, normally a community of a few thousand that is small enough to be walkable.  He said Polis has little to do with “politics” as we know it. So there is a connection between Aristotle and Ashland.  My understanding of the primary goal of both our city government and many residents of Ashland is to create a community that will allow our citizens to flourish…”man,” woman and child.

Back to the houses of Morton Street.  I had very different reactions to the architecture of two modern style homes on upper Morton Street.  I was intrigued by the difference in color choices, as well as design elements such as the roofline, decks and window shapes. The earth-tone house at 1010 Morton Street is more my style than the gray and white house at 861 Morton Street. Here are the two photos.  See what you think.

Now for something completely different.

I like the artistry of the ceramic tile street sign next to an attractive lamppost and a gorgeous tiny tile birdhouse.  I can’t tell if the birdhouse is solely an art piece or if birds really do make a home there.


Another beautiful garden, especially in May and June when the flowers are in bloom, is at 950 Morton Street.  It looks like a “forest” of rhododendron plants on the uphill side of the street.  Even though it is not close to the street, the photo gives a sense of its lush carpet of color.  The homeowners must have an amazing view of this carpet of color from their deck.

We have finally reached the uphill end of Morton Street, where it meets Ashland Loop Road.  I saved my photo of Bob for the end of the article, because he wanted to show me a huge scary rock way at the top.  It’s just a few yards to the left on Ashland Loop Road from the end of Morton Street.

As we had been walking up Morton Street, Bob had been describing this rock to me.  He described it as “big enough to flatten houses” if it started rolling downhill, for example if a major earthquake were strong enough to jar it loose.  He told me the city was worried enough to do something to minimize that risk, as you can see in the photo below.

When we got to the rock, we had a little fun with the photo shoot.  It looks like some of the hillside that was holding the rock was cut away when Ashland Loop Road was put through.  So the city poured a huge hunk of concrete to stand in the place of the missing hillside and keep the rock stable.  It looks to me like a smart move.