Ashland Springs Hotel: 95th Anniversary Stories

Read the sad history and amazing resurgence and renovation of this iconic Ashland hotel.

Beginning #1: The Lithia Springs Hotel in the 1920s

Site of current Ashland Springs Hotel in early 1924
Look closely at the sign in the front yard of this house at 212 East Main Street. Within months, the house would be gone and the Lithia Springs Hotel would be rising at this corner.
(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.)

Take a close look at this photo of a house at the corner of East Main Street and First Street. It was taken in early 1924. Can you read the sign in the front yard? It says: “Boost Ashland’s Big Tourist Hotel – to be erected on this site.” Next to the sign is a drawing of the soon-to-be-built Lithia Springs Hotel (now the Ashland Springs Hotel). 

Ashland boosters had big dreams, and building a modern luxury hotel for Ashland visitors was one of them. The hopes and dreams were well summarized by hotel operator R.W. Price in this quote from the July 1, 1925 Ashland Daily Tidings: 

“I have every reason to believe that Southern Oregon is sometime, within the very near future, to be the playground of the Pacific Coast. With all the natural beauties and advantages which it now possess (sic), and with the plans of a group of men for developing and advertising these advantages, I am sure that we of this section have good reason to believe this part of Oregon will develop more rapidly than any other district of the state.”

R.W. Price, hotel operator

Local businessman Henry Enders Jr. and his partners in the Lithian Hotel Company sold stock to Ashland residents to raise money for the hotel, and got a tremendous response. 

Ashland Springs Hotel, stock certificate c1924 for Lithia Springs Hotel
This in an original stock certificate for the Lithia Springs Hotel, dated February 27, 1925.
(certificate on the Ashland Springs Hotel “History Wall,” July 2020)

As money was being raised, Enders recommended prominent Portland architects John Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel to design the hotel. They first presented a six-story design, as you can see on the architect’s drawing below.

Ashland Springs Hotel, original 6-story drawing c1924 for Lithia Springs Hotel
Here is the architects’ original 6-story drawing for the Lithia Springs Hotel, probably in early 1924.
(drawing on the Ashland Springs Hotel “History Wall,” July 2020)

After some discussion, it was revised to become a nine-story design, which resulted in Ashland being able to boast of having the tallest structure between San Francisco and Portland for many years. 

For those who appreciate architecture, the Lithia Springs was built with an eclectic design, including Romanesque, English Tudor, Gothic, and Neo-Classical Revival elements. Unusual for reinforced concrete skyscrapers, a decorative material was not attached to the exterior concrete. The concrete itself was featured all the way from the foundation to the roofline, except on the ground level floor.

Lithia Springs Hotel 1925 Grand Opening party

Lithia Springs Hotel 1925 Grand Opening
Lithia Springs Hotel grand opening headline, Ashland Tidings, September 29, 1925.

According to the Ashland Tidings, more than 500 people crowded the new hotel for its grand opening on September 28, 1925. Beginning at 5:30 pm, it took four hours for all to eat their fill from the buffet set up in the dining room. The “eloquent” speeches planned to begin at 8:30 were delayed an hour, but fortunately it was a short program. Hundreds of Ashland locals who were stockholders in the Lithian Hotel Company were excited to explore the huge hotel that they had helped finance. In addition, dignitaries that day included prominent “hotel men” from all corners of Oregon and Northern California and representatives from Chambers of Commerce and many other groups. 

When did Lithia Springs Hotel really open?

Does the photo below look like a hotel that would be open for business in less than eleven weeks?

Lithia Springs Hotel, Ashland Springs Hotel
Lithia Springs Hotel construction on April 17, 1925.
(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.)

Construction of the nine-story hotel took months longer than planned. I have read that it opened on July 1, 1925. Looking at this hotel-under-construction photo dated April 17, 1925, that seems to me impossible. I have also read that hotel construction was completed on September 11, 1925 and opened at that time. Remember that the Grand Opening party was on September 28.

Which date is true?

The answer: Both dates are true! 

On July 1 the hotel was still under construction, but proprietor R.W. Price was anxious to start renting rooms, so he did. For the first few months, hotel guests had to brave construction noise and dust as they stayed in the first rooms that had been completed.

By September 11, construction was officially complete (except that the contractor still had to completely repaint the hotel exterior to satisfy the architects!). That’s when planning began for the grand opening party described above.

Lithia Springs Hotel, Ashland Springs Hotel
Photo most likely taken in late 1925, soon after the hotel was completed.
(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.)

Through the decades

Here is a brief review of the hotel’s history through the decades. Ashland and the hotel suffered two huge economic shocks within a few years after the hotel opened in 1925. Two years later, in 1927, Southern Pacific railroad routed most of its passenger trains away from Ashland and through the town of Klamath Falls. This reduced tourist arrivals in Ashland. Then the Great Depression slammed Ashland and the U.S.A. from 1929 to about 1939. 

The expected influx of tourists for local spas, natural beauty and “a playground of the Pacific Coast,” didn’t happen. The hotel limped along decade after decade, no longer “luxurious,” always financially on the brink. 

Ashland Springs Hotel, Mark Antony Hotel
Here is a view of the hotel in the 1960s after the name change to Mark Antony Motor Hotel.
(photo on the Ashland Springs Hotel “History Wall,” July 2020.

In 1960, after a contest to come up with a name that would build on the growing popularity of Oregon Shakespeare Festival, it was renamed the Mark Antony Motor Hotel. The new name didn’t boost its fortunes. The building was remodeled in 1951, 1959 and 1978. Nothing helped. 

Ashland Springs Hotel, Mark Antony Hotel
This photo shows the Mark Antony hotel lobby in the 1970s.
(photo on the Ashland Springs Hotel “History Wall,” July 2020)

Beginning #2: Doug and Becky Neuman find Ashland in the 1980s

Doug and Becky Neuman were living in Santa Barbara in the mid-1980s. Doug’s parents wanted to move to the Eugene, Oregon area. Doug went with his father to check out Eugene. Doug didn’t like the wet and overcast weather there, so Oregon looked like a bust.

Before leaving Eugene, Doug played tennis at the club there. Doug was hitting with the tennis pro, who told him, “If I could live anywhere on the West Coast, I would live in Ashland, Oregon.” The next day, Doug and his father drove to Ashland with a video camera, and brought back their impressions of the town. When she saw the video, Becky knew right away she had to see Ashland for herself and that it was likely to be their long-term home. What she and Doug didn’t know at the time is that they would have a future in the hospitality business.

Doug and Becky Neuman
Becky and Doug Neuman, with their dog Sonny.
(photo courtesy of Becky Neuman)

The hotel and the Neumans join forces in the 1990s

In 1998, when the building was bankrupt and falling apart. Doug and Becky Neuman made the huge commitment to purchase the hotel and bring it back to life. As it says on the hotel website: “A complete ‘basement to parapet,’ two-year, ten million dollar restoration followed and the hotel reopened December 2000.”

What is original in the current Ashland Springs Hotel?

When guests enter, the two-story lobby features the original restored 1925 terrazzo floor, lobby chandelier, original stained glass in the front windows and the huge 1925 fireplace.

Ashland Springs Hotel
From East Main Street, you can see the original 1925 stained glass “LH” above the hotel entrance.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Ashland Springs Hotel lobby chandelier
This is the original 1925 lobby chandelier, seen from the mezzanine balcony.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Ashland Springs Hotel
When you enter the lobby, you are walking on the original 1925 terrazzo floor, which was carefully renovated. I took this photo in the summer of 2020, so you can see one small impact of the worldwide 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Businesses in Ashland, and worldwide, placed “Social Distancing” markers to keep people 6′ apart and reduce the spread of the virus.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The mezzanine balconies with their beautiful woodwork and ironwork are original, as are the lobby’s ornate decorated columns and ceiling. 

Ashland Springs Hotel
The lobby has original 1925 balconies and railings. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Ashland Springs Hotel
The lobby’s original 1925 columns were lovingly restored. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The Crystal Room

The Crystal Room, off the lobby, was the original dining room that featured a dramatic (but not original from 1925) crystal chandelier. 

Ashland Springs Hotel, Lithia Springs Hotel
The hotel dining room featured this elegant crystal chandelier in the 1950s. Note that the date marked on the photo is incorrect. (photo on Ashland Springs Hotel “History Wall,” July 2020)

During the two-year hotel renovation, the Neumans removed the chandelier. By that time, it was missing many of the small hanging crystals and needed too much repair, so they stored it in their barn. It sat there unnoticed for a few years, until Doug came to Becky with a novel idea. He said, “The top of the chandelier is still in excellent condition, so let’s use it by turning it upside down.” At first Becky couldn’t picture what he was describing. When the chandelier was flipped and placed in the room, the simple yet sophisticated new look won her over.

Ashland Springs Hotel
Here is the chandelier in the Crystal Room now, after Doug’s creative idea.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

New — Historic photo gallery

This is part of the new “History Wall,” prepared with help from the Southern Oregon Historical Society, on the mezzanine level. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

If you would like to see many more photos than I can include in this article about the hotel, stop by the new “History Wall” of historic Ashland photos on the hotel’s mezzanine level. If you like Ashland history, I highly recommend it. This gallery was prepared with help from the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

The choice that changed Becky Neuman’s life

Hiring Candra Scott and Richard Anderson as interior designers for the hotel changed Becky Neuman’s life. Becky called the two years of working closely with Candra “a screaming learning curve.” It was a fabulous, joyful and intense apprenticeship for Becky, a two-year interior design education. 

Becky told me that watching Candra go through her creative process “just lit a fire in me.” She learned from Candra how “you go into a space and you get the story of what this space wants to be.” “And I’ve done that since that time,” Becky added, “with each of the hotels I’ve done on my own.”  

What was the inspiration for the interiors of the Ashland Springs Hotel?

“The inspiration,” said Becky, “came through Candra Scott and Richard Anderson and myself after we went to the Southern Oregon Historical Society and found out that people were traveling to Ashland at that time [early 1900s] for two things: the Chautauqua lecture series and the Lithia water.” 

“She [Candra Scott] said we’re going to design this lobby as if it were the personal home of a lecturer for the Chautauqua series.” That lecturer would be a naturalist and would believe in the “great outdoors” idealism of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The vision was to give guests the experience of a simpler time in American life, with a focus on flora and fauna.

Candra went on to create that vision. The lobby has ornithology – beautiful bird collections – and “a fabulous cabinet of curiosities.” It was very popular 100 years ago to bring back unique objects from one’s worldly travels and display them in a cabinet of “rarities.” 

Ashland Springs Hotel
This cabinet of “rarities and exotic curiosities” in the hotel lobby was curated by Candra Scott.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Candra was designing an apartment in Paris at the time, and asked Becky if she’d like her to bring some things for the hotel back from Paris. Becky replied, “Yes, absolutely!” The ornithology collection and the “cabinet of curiosities” in the hotel lobby came from that trip to Paris. In addition, at a Paris flea market she found wonderful mounted pressed herbs, which give character to the guest rooms. Candra found the lobby’s bird illustrations closer to home, at David Ralston’s Jacksonville antique shop (now the Antiquarium in downtown Ashland).

Ashland Springs Hotel
Mounted pressed herbs, found by Candra Scott at the Paris flea market. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Ashland Springs Hotel
The bird illustrations in the lobby were found by Candra Scott. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Even the carpets, chosen by Candra and made in England by Axminster Carpets, carry on the theme of flora and fauna. This company has been making carpets in the small town of Axminster since 1755! “Today, Axminster Carpets™ is still weaving beautifully designed carpets in the Devon town of Axminster for the Royal Household, stately homes, luxury hotels and homes around the world,” per the company website. 

Ashland Springs Hotel
This Axminster carpet was chosen by Candra Scott to complement the hotel theme of flora and fauna.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Becky calls Candra “a creative force, known for renovating historic hotels in the United States.” For example, Scott and Anderson designed renovations for the 1902 Hotel Majestic in San Francisco and the Arctic Club Hotel in Seattle, originally built in 1916.

In addition to the lobby design, Candra designed furniture for all the rooms and arranged for its custom manufacture for the hotel. 

Ashland Springs Hotel custom cabinet
Guest room cabinet designed by Candra Scott. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Ashland Springs Hotel lamp
Guest room lamps and lamp shades designed by Candra Scott. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The building process

The Neumans called their complete renovation a huge “basement to parapet” undertaking. They wanted it to be a full historic renovation, so everything was not only approved by the Ashland Historic Commission, but also met numerous federal historic preservation requirements. 

Ashland Springs Hotel during renovation, year 2000
Here’s what the lobby looked like during the 1999-2000 renovation.
(photo on the Ashland Springs Hotel “History Wall,” July 2020)

The entire hotel was upgraded with new plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical systems. Many of the original 100 guest rooms did not have a private bathroom. After the renovation, there are now 70 guest rooms, each with a private bathroom and charming custom touches.

The outdoor fire escape you see in earlier photos of the hotel was removed. New elevators were added. One of the upgrades I most appreciate was conversion of a second floor pool area into a lovely light-filled indoor Conservatory and attached outdoor English Garden, located next to the Grand Ballroom. I have attended many community events there, from Jefferson Public Radio wine tasting fund-raisers to food festivals to Christmas Eve inspirational talks. 

Ashland Springs Hotel conservatory
The lovely Conservatory is between the Grand Ballroom (to the left) and the outdoor English Garden (to the right). (photo courtesy of Ashland Springs Hotel)
Ashland Springs Hotel patio and garden
Here is a cozy seating area in the English Garden patio. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Ashland Springs Hotel patio and garden
As you can imagine, many weddings and community events have been held here in the English Garden. (photo courtesy of Ashland Springs Hotel)

Managing the hotel and restaurant

Since Doug and Becky Neuman had never worked in the hospitality industry, they hired a management company from Portland when the renovated hotel opened in the year 2000. The company had experience with both hotels and restaurants, so it seemed like a good fit. The first restaurant was called the Bulls Eye Bistro, with a games theme and regular live music. I remember hearing and dancing to great local bands there. When walking downtown on warm summer evenings, I often paused as loud music spilled out the open doors to the street. 

By the fifth year of the restaurant, Becky didn’t like the food enough to eat in her own restaurant! She also heard too many complaints from guests about difficulty sleeping when bands played at the Bistro until 2:00 am. She and Doug decided to take over management of the Ashland Springs Hotel themselves. 

They were fortunate to find someone who could lead the operation on an upward trajectory. They hired Don Anway, who had experience as General Manager at Red Lion hotels. According to Becky, Don brought an unusual combination of skills to their hotel and their growing company. “Don has a lot of heart, but he’s also a numbers guy. In addition, he started hiring really wonderful people who had a passion for what they were doing.” This allowed the company to stabilize and grow. Becky summarized their success since 2005 this way: “It’s our team that creates our success. We [Doug and Becky] provide the vision.”

Becky took on the challenge of creating a new restaurant at the hotel to replace the Bulls Eye Bistro. She knew from talking with guests that they wanted regionally sourced food. She and her staff reached out to local farmers, making them early adopters of the now popular “farm to table” restaurant movement. 

Choosing the head chef

In choosing a head chef, Becky stressed two themes: local food and comfort food. In addition to offering cutting edge food combinations to patrons, she also wanted the menu to include her favorite comfort foods – meatloaf and fried chicken. Not just any meatloaf and fried chicken, mind you, but really delicious meatloaf and fried chicken.  

That became a key question as she interviewed prospective head chefs. She might find one who waxed poetic about local, organic foods. Then she would ask, “How’s your meatloaf?” If the person mumbled about meatloaf not really being his “thing,” that was the end of the interview.  A number of otherwise good chefs were disqualified in this way. 

One day she was having a good interview with another chef enthusiastic about locally grown foods and partnering with farmers. Then she asked the key question, “How’s your meatloaf?” He replied, “I use my grandmother’s meatloaf recipe and it’s great.” Becky laughed as she jokingly told me her next words were, “You’re hired!”

How Larks Restaurant got its name

Larks Restaurant, Ashland Springs Hotel
Interior of Larks Restaurant. (photo courtesy of Ashland Springs Hotel)

I love origin stories. How Larks got its name is a small origin story that means a lot to Becky. As you know by now, the natural world, and birds in particular, play a large role in the ambiance of Ashland Springs Hotel. When Becky was researching names, she learned that the state bird of Oregon is the western meadowlark. 

According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, “In 1927, the Oregon Audubon Society sponsored a contest among schoolchildren to choose the state bird. The western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) won by a large margin (40,000 out of 75,000 votes), and Governor Isaac L. Patterson officially proclaimed it the state bird.”

Becky was thrilled to learn this, since she grew up in Kansas, another state that has the western meadowlark as its state bird. As in Oregon, the Audubon Society got schoolchildren in Kansas to also vote for a state bird during the 1920s. In 1925, 125,000 schoolchildren in Kansas voted for the western meadowlark, with the bobwhite and northern cardinal coming in second and third.

It was obvious the new restaurant at the hotel should be called Meadowlark, right? Her husband Doug derailed the plan. In his opinion, Meadowlark sounded more like a laid-back retirement home than a cutting-edge restaurant. He wanted something bolder and catchier. 

Becky was willing to compromise, but only if the name had a connection with nature. Doug suggested “Larks Restaurant” and Becky said “I love it.” It has been Larks ever since 2005, with a second Larks Restaurant now at the Neuman’s Medford hotel called Inn at the Commons.

“Useful birds of America” on the walls

bird illustrations in Larks Restaurant
Bird illustrations by Mary Emily Eaton in Larks Restaurant. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When you visit Larks for their delicious food, take a few minutes to notice the bird illustrations on the walls, which have a fascinating history. They are reproductions of illustrations by Mary Emily Eaton, best known as a botanical illustrator for the New York Botanical Garden from 1911 to 1932.  

Eaton’s bird illustrations were funded by the makers of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, a company that traces its roots to 1846. Beginning in 1888, small 2” by 3” bird trading cards were placed inside Arm & Hammer Baking Soda boxes to set them apart from their cheaper competitors. I found this quote describing the bird trading cards from a book with the delightful title: Oology and Ralph’s Talking Eggs: Bird Conservation Comes Out of Its Shell.

“These colorful cards originally came in Arm and Hammer Baking Soda boxes, and later they could be ordered by mail. At a time when many wild birds were being killed for their meat and feathers, the Church and Dwight bird cards featured the theme of ‘Useful Birds of America’ and a simple message: For the Good of All, Do Not Destroy the Birds.”

When you look closely at the illustrations on the walls at Larks Restaurant, you will see the Arm & Hammer logo and the date 1922. Eaton’s drew her 1922 illustrations for the company’s “Third Series” of bird trading cards.

bird illustration in Larks Restaurant
Can you spot the Arm & Hammer logo? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

A closing thought from Becky Neuman

I love the image Becky used to describe her early vision of the hotel to me: “I felt like the lady had been asleep a long time and she was ready to wake up and put her party dress on, to be a light for the town.”

Thanks to Becky, Doug and the entire team at the Ashland Springs Hotel, “she” is wide awake and shining on her 95th anniversary!

At 95 years of age, “the lady” is “awake and shining”

References:

Aldous, Vickie. “It’s official: Ashland Springs Hotel opens its doors,” Ashland Daily Tidings, December 1, 2000.

Anon. “Contractors to pay $1,800 hotel damages,” Ashland Tidings, September 11, 1925. (accessed with help from Southern Oregon Historical Society archivist Kira Lesley)

Anon. “Opening of new hotel to attract many,” Ashland Tidings, September 22, 1925. (accessed with help from Southern Oregon Historical Society archivist Kira Lesley)

Anon. “Hundreds to attend formal hotel opening,” Ashland Tidings, September 26, 1925. (accessed with help from Southern Oregon Historical Society archivist Kira Lesley)

Anon. “500 attend formal opening of Lithia Springs Hotel here,” Ashland Tidings, September 29, 1925. (accessed with help from Southern Oregon Historical Society archivist Kira Lesley)

Anon. Axminster Carpets company website. (accessed 6/11/2020)

https://www.axminster-carpets.co.uk/33-the-story-so-far

Anon. “Western Meadowlark,” Kansas Historical Society. (accessed 6/11/2020)

https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/western-meadowlark/17241

Brandstetter, Scott (Assistant General Manager, Ashland Springs Hotel). Personal communication and hotel tour, June 26, 2020.

Darling, John. “Ashland Springs Hotel celebrates 90th anniversary,” Ashland Tidings, June 24, 2015. 

Dodge, Dani. “More than a face-lift,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 18, 1999.

Erickson, Laura. “Arm & Hammer Bird Trading Cards,” July 6, 2017, Laura Erickson’s For The Birds blog. (accessed 6/11/2020) Also, Carrol Henderson’s book, Oology and Ralph’s Talking Eggs: Bird Conservation Comes Out of Its Shell was quoted in the article.

https://blog.lauraerickson.com/2017/07/arm-hammer-bird-trading-cards.html

Hayden, Curtis. “Taming the ‘White Elephants,’” Sneak Preview, September 9, 1998. 

Kershner, Jim. “Grande dame of Ashland sparkles again,” The Spokesman Review, September 2, 2001. 

Lavagnino, Karolina (Director of Sales and Marketing, Neuman Hotel Group). Personal communication, June 2020.

Lemon, Sarah. “Still standing tall,” Medford Mail Tribune, April 26, 2020. 

National Register of Historic Places, Ashland Downtown Historic District, May 5, 2000.

Neuman, Becky (Co-owner, Neuman Hotel Group). Interview, personal communication and hotel tour, June 10, 2020.

O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.

Rose, William. National Register of Historic Places, Nomination Form for Ashland Springs Hotel (originally Lithia Springs Hotel), December 1977, revised 2002.

[Ashland Daily Tidings July 1, 1925, quoted in National Register Nomination Form, Rose 1977]

Tucker, Kathy. “Oregon State Symbols,” Oregon Encyclopedia. (accessed 6/11/2020)

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/oregon_state_symbols/#.XuLDQS05RUM

Street Scene sculpture: Who are these people?

Name of each person who modeled for Street Scene.
Life and work of sculptor Marion Young.
Complete with 35 photos!

Marion Young flanked by her clay models of Robert Barnett and Kate Sullivan.
Marion Young flanked by her clay models of Robert Barnett and Kate Sullivan.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)
sculptor Marion Young as a child
Marion Young, the future sculptor of Street Scene, as a child with her dog Bruce.
(photo by Olivia Young, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Street Scene: the sculpture today

This engaging 14-foot-high bronze sculpture is located downtown on East Main Street near Pioneer Street, next to the Ashland Chamber of Commerce office and old Black Swan Theater. So far, this is my favorite sculpture in Ashland, primarily because it is filled with vibrant, life-like people. They are so life-like both because of artist Marion Young’s talent, and also because she found vibrant locals to model for her. She came to Ashland in 1988 to sculpt an earlier version of Street Scene, and lived here until her death in 2019.  

Street Scene sculpture by Marion Young, on East Main Street in Ashland, Oregon
Street Scene sculpture by Marion Young, on East Main Street in Ashland, Oregon. (photo by Tom Woosnam)

In this article, I will tell you how the sculpture Street Scene came to be, a little about each person who modeled for the sculpture, and give an introduction to Marion Young’s life and body of work.

Street Scene: how it came to be

Marion Young moved from Los Angeles to Ashland in order to sculpt the Street Scene commission. She was literally surrounded and inspired by the cauldron of creativity at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). For four years, her studio was located within the Old Scene Shop at OSF. Therefore, it is not surprising that many of the live models Young used for Street Scene were associated with OSF, most of them in the acting corps.

Marion Young working on Street Scene, at her studio in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival scene shop.
Marion Young working on Street Scene, at her studio in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival scene shop. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

Marion Young created two versions of Street Scene. The first was commissioned by Atherton Place, an elegant retirement center in Marietta, Georgia. It was 4’ wide by 9’ tall, done in white resin, and included nine people in the sculpture.

This first version of Street Scene was created for the retirement center in Atlanta, Georgia
This first version of Street Scene was created for a retirement center in Atlanta, Georgia. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

Inspired by Ashland culture, she decided to stay and sculpt a larger version of Street Scene. The larger Street Scene sculpted for Ashland is done in bronze, contains twelve people (plus three Shakespeare characters) and stands 14’ tall.

Young always used live models in her sculpting. Her “work,” however, began even before choosing the models. A lifelong student of Carl Jung’s psychology, Young thought in terms of archetypes (universal themes that influence our personalities). She began each sculpture with these themes in mind. As she envisioned Ashland’s Street Scene piece, she created specific universal characters to represent in the sculpture, she thought about relationships between the characters, and she tried to capture the spirit of Ashland.

Street Scene: Young is “discovered”

As I mentioned above, Young sculpted Street Scene in the old scene shop at OSF. “Word spread of her work as her life-size figures slowly emerged above the beams of this building’s massive interior.” The city of Ashland was at the time creating a new Downtown Development Plan. Planning Director John Fregonese appreciated the value of public art. It was Fregonese who spearheaded the 1987 renovation of the lovely Butler-Perozzi Fountain, which had deteriorated badly since its installation in Lithia Park in 1916.

Fregonese thought Street Scene would be a wonderful addition to Ashland’s downtown, and the Ashland City Council agreed. The city provided $5,000 seed money for acquiring the sculpture, but the rest of the funds had to be raised through private donations.

Street Scene: the funding challenge

The overall budget for Street Scene was $125,000, which did not leave much for Marion Young’s years of work. She was able to sell bronze casts of individual busts from the sculpture to help provide income. 

Bronze contributors to Street Scene, plus hundreds more who contributed with lesser amounts.
Bronze contributors to Street Scene, plus hundreds more who contributed with lesser amounts.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Over 800 individuals, businesses and foundations contributed money toward the project. Many donated their services at no charge, or for a very low fee. For example, since bronze casting for the 2,000 pound statue was done at Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, California, Medford Fabrication and the Thorndike family donated all the transportation costs between Ashland and Berkeley, then helped install the sculpture.

recognition sign by Street Scene sculpture.
Recognition on the wall next to the Street Scene sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Local attorney, businessman and art lover Lloyd Matthew Haines was Chairman of the funding committee. He was, and still is, a strong proponent of public art in Ashland. He was also a friend and strong supporter of Marion Young and her work. When funding for Street Scene fell short even after hundreds of donations, Haines contributed the balance that was needed. 

Lloyd Matthew Haines and Marion Young recognized, Street Scene sculpture
Recognition on the wall next to the Street Scene sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Street Scene: dedication on July 6, 1994

Creating and putting up the massive concrete wall that Street Scene is attached to was a huge project in itself. 

Installation of the concrete wall that Street Scene is attached to.
Installation of the concrete wall that Street Scene is attached to.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

Once that was done, the sculpture was attached. A community dedication took place on July 6, 1994. “As Ashland gallery owner and artist Judy Howard said at the dedication, ‘Art tells a story of a particular culture and reflects the life of those in that culture. This sculpture reflects the spirit of our community and will tell the Ashland story for generations to come.’”

Marion Young speaks at the dedication of Street Scene. Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw looks on.
Marion Young speaks at the dedication of Street Scene. Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw looks on. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Street Scene: who are these people?

If you have looked closely at the Street Scene sculpture, you may have already identified one or more of the local actors and residents who modeled for Young. When I decided to write about the sculpture, I thought it would be simple to find a list of the twelve people who modeled for Young. No…not simple. In fact, it has been a surprisingly long and frustrating journey. 

Fortunately, I had fellow Ashlander Tom Woosnam on the journey with me. He became intrigued with Street Scene when he noticed that his good friend Lee Carrau was one of the twelve people in the statue. Woosnam and Carrau had acted together with The Palo Alto Players when they lived in California. Woosnam also recognized Rex Rabold and Shirley and Bill Patton as models for the statue, and wondered who the other eight people were. That put him on a parallel track to mine, and then we began to cooperate.

We researched on the internet and through newspaper articles. I tracked down Marion Young’s niece Robyn Jones, who helped fill in some blanks and kindly shared photos with me. Jones introduced me to Matthew Haines, the driving force behind fundraising for Street Scene. Haines was kind enough to fill in more blanks and share his collection of information and photos with me. 

Getting the correct names for the two children was the most difficult part. Each time Woosnam and I thought we had the correct names, another possible name would come up. Does this article provide the definitive list? I think so. However, if we learn something new in the future, I will update the article.

Here are the names of the models for Street Scene, with a brief note about each of them, starting from the bottom of the statue:             

Smaller than the humans above, the three whimsical figures at the bottom left are characters in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” 

Marion Young speaks at the dedication of Street Scene. Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw looks on.
The three characters from Midsummer Night’s Dream are at the lower left.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

 *The Fairy Queen was modeled by Seva Anthony, aerialist and Green Show dancer for OSF.

Fairy Queen Titania in Street Scene sculpture
Seva Anthony as the Fairy Queen in Midsummer Night’s Dream. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

*Bottom was a weaver who was given a donkey’s head by the mischievous fairy Puck. Anthony de Fonte, who played Bottom in the Festival’s 1993 production of “Midsummer,” was the model.

 *Peaseblossom was one of Fairy Queen Titania’s fairies who waited upon Bottom. Liz Wood (now Liz Finnegan), a Green Show dancer at OSF, modeled for Peaseblossom.

Bottom and Peaseblossom, Street Scene sculpture
Bottom (modeled by Anthony de Fonte) and Peaseblossom (modeled by Liz Wood).
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Kate Sullivan in Street scene sculpture

*Kate Sullivan, OSF actor — (The inviting spirit) With her arm extended and hand open, actor Sullivan portrays the pivotal figure who draws us in. “She is the spirit who invites us into the piece, into the magic of living.”

Virginia Kooiman, "the child," in Street scene sculpture

*Virginia Kooiman, local child — (The child) She was in kindergarten at Briscoe School. “A crack Old Maid player at age 5, she was the sculptor’s most eternally figity [sic] model and became the child of this young family. She holds a ball covered with stars.”

Marco Barricelli in Street Scene sculpture

*Marco Barricelli, OSF actor — (The hero-father) A “leading man of prodigious presence and talent,” Barricelli’s role in the sculpture is the hero-father. He was described as having “a 2000-year-old classic Roman head.” 

Marie Baxter

*Marie Baxter, Hanson Howard gallery co-owner — (The ethereal young mother) Young discovered Marie Baxter at Ashland Food Coop. After they got to know each other, the gallery started to represent Young’s sculptures in Southern Oregon, and Baxter agreed to model for Street Scene.

Phyllis Courtney in Street Scene sculpture

*Phyllis Courtney, OSF actor — (The charming middle-aged aunt) Courtney renovated John and Lizzie McCall’s beautiful 1883 historic home on Oak Street and opened McCall House B&B there in 1981. Also a long-time actress, she portrays half of the charming middle-aged couple, everyone’s favorite aunt.

Lee Carrau in Street Scene sculpture

*Lee Carrau, writer-producer — (The charming middle-aged uncle) As a career, Carrau produced industrial and scientific films. He also loved acting for the fun of it. Young chose him to model as the other half of the charming middle-aged couple, everyone’s favorite uncle.

BlackStar in Street Scene sculpture

*BlackStar, Native American healer — (The healer, and connection to the land) Young felt called to include a Native American female elder in the sculpture. She found BlackStar (Eunice E. Rotz), born 1918 in Texas and trained as a Comanche traditional healer. BlackStar lived the last decades of her life in Southern Oregon, creating silver jewelry and providing healing, before she passed away in 2007.

BlackStar modeling for Street Scene sculpture
This photo shows BlackStar modeling for Marion Young, with the partially completed clay bust beside her. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)
Robert Barnett in the Street Scene sculpture

*Robert Barnett, OSF actor — (The story teller) When Young saw Barnett perform in an OSF play, she thought “his Norman Rockwell face and Harold Lloyd smile were irresistible…filled with warmth and friendliness.” Barnett is signing “I love you” to the viewer.

Elijah Apilada in Street Scene sculpture

*Elijah Apilada, local child — (The typical kid) Young found an Ashland Middle School boy with a feisty but smart attitude.

Rex Rabold in Street Scene sculpture

*Rex Rabold, OSF actor — (The wisdom of Shakespeare) With so much of Ashland’s creative and economic life intertwined with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Young introduced these elements in her figures at the top of the sculpture. A beloved OSF actor, Rabold died in 1990 at the age of 39. In Street Scene, he modeled for Young in his role as Shakespeare’s Richard II. 

At the top of Street Scene are Shirley and Bill Patton. “As the magical figure at the bottom of ‘Street Scene’ draws us into the spirit of Ashland, the sculptor wanted an elegant dancing couple at the top to take us on into life, to remind us that life has more potential than we ever dreamed possible.”

Shirley and Bill Patton in Street Scene sculpture

*Shirley Patton, OSF actor — (The elegant dancing couple) Shirley Patton has touched thousands of lives through her 75 years of acting (30 years of it at OSF), her vivacity, her kindness and her lifetime of service. Many people know Shirley as the voice of Jefferson Public Radio’s “As It Was” history spots, which she has narrated five days a week since 2005, almost 4,000 in all!

Bill Patton in Street Scene sculpture

*Bill Patton, long-time OSF Executive Director (The elegant dancing couple) Bill Patton worked at OSF from 1948 to 1995, including 42 years as General Manager and then Executive Director, helping to guide OSF. After Bill died in 2011, Paul Nicholson, who followed Bill as Executive Director, said of him: “Under his astute guidance the Festival grew from 29 performances and an audience of 15,000 to 752 performances and 359,000 in attendance the year he retired. He was a gentleman in every way, kind, thoughtful and caring.” Haines recalls Young holding the intention of having Bill Patton “walk into the sunset” at the top of the sculpture, since he was only a few years from leaving his post at OSF when she sculpted him. 

Marion Young’s life story and key sculptures

Sculptor Marion Young was born in California November 25, 1934 and died in Ashland April 12, 2019. She had happy years as a child living on a farm in the Oakland hills. Her niece Robyn Jones remembers Young speaking fondly of hours exploring redwood forests near her home with her collie dog Bruce at her side. 

Marion Young as a child, with her dog Bruce.
Marion Young as a child, with her dog Bruce. (photo by Olivia Young, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Young grew up in a very artistic family. Her mother was a poet and musician, her father a painter and musician. She attended San Francisco State University, with a major in biology and a minor in art. Her plan was to become a medical illustrator. Instead, she became an actor. After a few years, she transitioned to co-owning a bronze artworks foundry and then an art gallery in Los Angeles with Thomas Holland, her romantic as well as business partner for a time. 

Marion Young in 1956.
Marion Young in 1956. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Her artistic and life journey finally brought her to creating sculpture, where she was able to express all of her skills. Holland was her first sculpture teacher. She continued to study on her own, including spending months absorbing every nuance she could of Auguste Rodin’s genius through the Rodin sculpture collection at Stanford University. Young sculpted primarily in clay from live models. 

Her biography notes that she was “an ardent student of the writing and thought of [Carl] Jung.” This quote from Carl Jung, a favorite of Marion Young, expresses in very philosophical language what Young tried to capture in the physicality of her sculptures.

“Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks in a thousand voices: he enthralls and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever-enduring. He transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.”    Carl Gustav Jung

I had to read Jung’s quote at least three times to understand it! And then three more times to understand how it could apply to Marion Young’s Street Scene sculpture. The depth of her study of human nature helps take the feeling of the sculpture out of “the occasional and the transitory” and out of the “personal” into a universal feeling.

How did she achieve that depth of understanding human nature? From what I have learned of her, it was a combination of factors. As with most of us, it began with the role models provided by her parents, who were artists in multiple mediums of expression and creativity. It expanded as Young took dance lessons beginning at age four. Later, as an actor after graduation from college, she explored the emotional and psychological aspects of human nature from the inside of multiple roles. After beginning to sculpt, she took a deep dive into exploring the physical aspects of what it means to be human. How deep? How about not only taking anatomy, but also dissecting human bodies at UCLA School of Medicine? As her biography put it: “In order to obtain the kind of knowledge necessary for her work, Marion found that she had ultimately to perform her own dissections on the human body.”

That experience led to the creation of her sculpture called Essentia, which is now at the Columbia University School of Medicine (in the anatomy department). The sculpture accurately portrays the anatomy of a young woman, both muscles and fascia without the covering of skin. It captures the beauty of the essential, beneath the surface. Young went on to capture the beauty of essential aspects of human nature in Street Scene, but in a different way.

Essential sculpture by Marion Young
Essentia sculpture by Marion Young, front and back views.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

How Marion worked: insights from the Van Gogh bust

If you visit the Ashland Library, you have surely noticed another one of Marion Young’s sculptures. Just within the library front doors is a life size bust of Vincent Van Gogh. Henry Woronicz, former OSF actor and Artistic Director, served as the model. But he didn’t just “sit there,” nor did she “just sculpt.” This sculpture provides a good example of her deep preparation for a piece, combining her Jungian studies, her theater background, and her desire to capture universal rather than superficial feelings.

First, Woronicz and Young created a half-hour script edited from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. Then, studying Van Gogh’s paintings, Young reproduced his bedroom in her studio, using OSF props. Only after all this preparation did Woronicz get into his “role,” sit on the “set,” and model for Young!

Bronze bust on the left and clay model on the right, of “Henry Woronicz as Vincent Van Gogh,” by Marion Young. (photographers unknown, photo on left courtesy of Robyn Jones, photo on right courtesy of Matthew Haines)

How Marion worked: insights from Shirley Patton

As mentioned above, Shirley and Bill Patton both modeled for Young’s Street Scene sculpture. Shirley shared these memories with me that illuminate Young’s internal and external process.

I was an accidental model.  Marion had chosen her models, I believe, in a number of ways.  She had a cast of characters in mind and found the people through conversations with friends and townspeople, and she was influenced by the Festival’s plays.  It was in the OSF souvenir program that she discovered Bill. She was attracted to Bill’s face and bone structure.  She’d had in mind a couple out on the town, enjoying the area’s nightlife. Dressed up with a tux and top hat!  (Not our usual dress for an evening in town, is it?)

I think I was introduced to Marion after the work had begun.  I came by where they were working to pick him up one afternoon, and she looked at me and said, “Oh, you can be Bill’s dancing partner!”  So I was added to her “cast.”  And I must confess that I’m glad it is me up there rather than another model.

 I remember the time Marion asked me to stop by her makeshift studio in the old scene shop building.  She was almost done with Bill’s likeness but she wasn’t satisfied.  It was missing a certain “spark.”  She said she had noticed that when I’d stop by the studio during his sittings that his eyes lit up, so she wanted me to come to his appointments so she could watch us interact.

She was looking for an elusive quality that would bring animation to a static piece of clay.  It’s a mystery to me but Marion kept at it until there was life in Bill’s eyes.   There was a difference.  She said it was the spark she was looking for.  She’d noticed that it came when we were laughing and talking together.  Now that was a dear thing for her to say.

Shirley Patton

The Hero’s Journey

Marion Young’s major unfinished work is called The Hero’s Journey. She described it as “about 60 inches tall with a walnut base. Each of the 12 characters that circle this sculpture is a representation of one of the archetypes of the journey of life.” As in Street Scene, Young used OSF actors as models. Sadly, Young developed mental health problems and early dementia at a relatively young age, and quit sculpting shortly before she completed The Hero’s Journey.

Matthew Haines learned of The Hero’s Journey from Young’s niece Robyn Jones. Jones told Haines it was still in clay form, and was in the basement at a friend’s house. Haines retrieved the unfinished sculpture and brought it to local sculptor Jack Langford to repair. Now, in May 2020, Langford is casting it in bronze at his Talent studio.

Closing Words

Ashland enriched Marion Young’s later years, and she continues to enrich Ashland beyond her time on earth. Each year, thousands of people see and are moved by her Street Scene sculpture on East Main Street and her Van Gogh bust at the Ashland Library.

Marion Young's signature on Street Scene sculpture
Marion Young’s signature on the Street Scene sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Label at bottom of Street Scene sculpture.
Sign below the sculpture: “Street Scene, a portrait of Ashland.” (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“Stay tuned” for more articles about public art in Ashland.

References:

Quotes not credited are from unsigned written information about Street Scene and about Marion Young, provided to me by Robyn Jones and Matthew Haines.

Darling, John. “‘Street Scene’ sculptor dies,” Ashland Tidings, June 21, 2019.

Haines, Lloyd Matthew. Personal communications, photographs, written documents.

Jones, Robyn Michele. Marion Young’s obituary, CaringBridge website, accessed April 2020.
https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/marionlenoreyoung

Jones, Robyn Michele. Personal communications, photographs, written documents.

Patton, Shirley. Personal communication.

Shippen, Julie. “City primes bronze art project,” Medford Mail Tribune, April 14, 1989

TJT. “Erecting public art is a monumental task,” Ashland Daily Tidings, July 14, 1994. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Walker

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

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

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

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

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

Elmo Stevenson

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

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

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

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

Lance Locke

Lance and Vivian Locke (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

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

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

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

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

A life-changing day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The banister that saved the house

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

Detail of front stairway banister (photo by Peter Finkle)

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

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

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

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

“My greatest skill is destruction”

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

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

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

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

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

Writing on the walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quilts on the walls

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

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

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

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

The window renovation party

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

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

Door renovation details

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

Front door

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

Interior door

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

French toast on the floor

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

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

Above and beyond

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

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

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

Ashland is fortunate

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

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

Selected References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogue News, March 24, 1967

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