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

Scenic Drive: History Comes Alive!

* 23 Homes more than 100 years old!
* Oregon history comes alive at 531 Scenic Drive.
* 30 Photos.
* Garden of the Month, April 2020.
* Tree of the Year 2004.
* Modern architecture, and more.

I started my Scenic Drive walk here. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I walked Scenic Drive wearing a mask in April of 2020, when the people of Ashland and the entire State of Oregon were being asked to “Stay Home, Save Lives” in order to slow the spread of the pandemic coronavirus. Going for walks was acceptable, as long as we didn’t gather in groups of people.

I began at the “beginning” of Scenic Drive, where it meets Strawberry Lane, and where the first house number is 5 Scenic Drive. 

I was drawn to Scenic Drive this month for two reasons. My first motivation was the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for April, located at 467 Scenic Drive. In addition, I counted 23 homes on Scenic Drive more than 100 years old, built between 1880 and 1915. I know WalkAshland readers love the local history I learn and share here, so be prepared for plenty of history, gardens and architecture in this article.

Old Ashland maps show part of Scenic Drive was originally called Woolen Street, named for Mr. Woolen, who subdivided his farm acreage here to create land for houses. 

Modern Architecture

5 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Before we explore historic houses, let’s start with the modern houses at this end of Scenic Drive. The first house that caught my eye was also the first house number. I spoke with a neighbor, who told me two architects live in and designed this house. 

39 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I spoke with Greg at 39 Scenic Drive. He built much of this attractive 1988 house himself. What really makes the house stand out is the moose antlers mounted on an outside wall. How often do you see moose antlers on the outside of a house? As for me, never before this. Greg told me he purchased the antlers in Alaska from someone who makes spending money by finding places where moose shed their antlers in the winter. I learned something new that day.

Here they are, the moose antlers at 39 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Log house at 35 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I also met the owner of the log cabin at 35 Scenic Drive. I think I got lucky meeting Scenic Drive neighbors out in their front yards because the day I walked was the warmest, sunniest day of the week. You can see from the house photo that it is made of round logs. This is different log-house construction than one I saw – and learned about – on Westwood Drive. You can read about the Westwood Drive log house made with tongue-in-groove D-logs at https://walkashland.com/2019/07/19/westwood-street-log-house-and-eco-house/

45 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This is a lovely, modern Swedish-chalet style house. A neighbor told me it was made using straw bale construction for the exterior walls. 

Historic houses

Now let’s continue down Scenic Drive, looking mostly at a variety of historic houses. I won’t describe and show photos of every one of the 23 houses more than 100 years old along Scenic Drive. I will show houses that either caught my eye or have unusual stories to go with them, then I will list the other historic houses at the end of the article. I will also point out a few modern houses that struck me.

79 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The Craftsman style house set above the street at 79 Scenic Drive was built in 1910 by R.L. Coombe. Born in the Australian island state of Tasmania in 1874, somehow he found his way to Ashland in 1910. That same year, he and his wife Florence built this new home. 

Coombe was one of the leading plasterers in the Rogue Valley, specializing in interior plaster and exterior stucco work. Among the local buildings he worked on were the 1910 Emil and Alice Applegate Peil House and the 1912 Ashland Carnegie Library. You can see in the photo that 79 Scenic Drive has a stucco exterior.

The National Register description of the house says, “As might be expected the exterior of the house was clad in delicately colored stucco with highly detailed quoins and other details, a veritable tour de force of a master craftsman. Sadly, upon leaving Coombe family ownership this original material was painted, forever hiding the original design intent.”

95 Scenic Drive — Do you miss the orange aluminum siding? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

95 Scenic Drive was built about 1915. I talked with current owner, who was working in her beautiful large garden. She told me the house was originally one story with a basement. In the 1970s, downstairs was made into a separate entry apartment. Orange aluminum siding was added to the exterior! Orange? Aluminum? To a historic house?  

In 1997, the current owners did a renovation to remove the orange aluminum siding (yay!) and restore the upper story gable. Let me say now that there was one benefit of the aluminum siding. When it was removed, the original Victorian-style fish scale decorative shingles were in good condition on the gable. These shingles indicate that this 1915 house was a transitional architectural style between Victorian style and the new Craftsman style.

This house detail at 95 Scenic Drive shows the Victorian-style fish scale decorative shingles on the gable. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Here is one example why the street name was changed from Woolen Street to Scenic Drive. This photo was taken on Scenic Drive at the top of Church Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

240 Scenic Drive was built in 1977, so it’s not a historic house; but in a sense it is historic. It is noteworthy because it was long the home of Lenn and Dixie Hannon. Lenn was a long-time Oregon State Senator, and Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library is named after him.

345 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

One of the oldest houses on Scenic Drive, the simple Vernacular style house at 345 Scenic Drive was built about 1886 by Lysander Sackett. The most notable owner of the house after that was H.C. Mecham. According to the Ashland Tidings of March 21, 1910, Mr. Mecham “recently invested in a home on Woolen Street” (the original name of Scenic) and also recently “purchased the planing mill from Carson-Fowler Lumber Company.” A planing mill took lumber that had been initially cut to size in a sawmill and finished it to meet the needs of different types of construction or furniture building.

The simple, attractive house at 365 Scenic Drive was built in 1885 and has a prime spot at the corner of Wimer Street. I’m not sure if the porch detail is original, but if not I expect it has been there a long time. 

View from 365 Scenic Drive, down Wimer Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
407 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This beautifully renovated 1889 house at 407 Scenic Drive is independently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the best examples in Ashland of the Queen Anne/Eastlake architectural style. It was built in 1889 by S. Pedigrift, a mason and plasterer who seems to have lived in Ashland only three or four years.

Notice especially the matching Queen Anne style bay windows. George Kramer wrote in the National Register nomination form that the bay windows are so typical of “Eastlake fancy work” style that Pedigrift may have purchased them from a catalog and incorporated them into the house design.

Through the mid-20th century, the owners of the house also cultivated orchards up the hillside behind the house. Robert Dooms, who owned the house and lived there from the mid-1950s to 1988, told George Kramer that when he was a child in Ashland, the previous owner Robert Johnson “paid him $1 a pound for picking cherries, apricots, and peaches behind the house.”

Ashland Tree of the Year 2004, a Monterey Cypress at 407 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The architecture is not the only impressive sight at this address. The 2004 Ashland Tree of the Year lives here. It is a massive Monterey Cypress, possibly planted in 1889 when the house was built.

Ashland Tree of the Year 2004, a Monterey Cypress at 407 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland Garden of the Month for April 2020

Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for April 2020, at 467 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

467 Scenic Drive was chosen as the Garden of the Month by the Ashland Garden Club. Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club wrote: “The lovely garden at 467 Scenic Drive is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for April. It is a work-in-progress by homeowners Elaine Yates and Michael Costello who have had this property for 3.5 years. Although the yard had good bones, with handsome hardscape and fruit trees, the garden had been greatly neglected in recent years.”

467 Scenic Drive. (photo by Larry Rosengren)
467 Scenic Drive. (photo by Larry Rosengren)

Describing the garden, Sloan wrote: “Heathers, grape hyacinths, forsythia, azaleas (in the deer-proof back yard), and rosemary are the stars right now but soon the rhododendrons will burst forth so Elaine encourages readers to delay until late in the month or early next month visiting to admire the garden from the street.”

I have learned a lot and enjoyed being a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can learn more about the club at https://ashlandorgardenclub.org/about/

467 Scenic Drive, house built in 1903. (photo by Larry Rosengren)

Before we move on along to the highlight of my Scenic Drive walk, I must mention that 467 Scenic Drive was built about 1903 in the Vernacular style of the early 1900s.

531 Scenic Drive, the oldest house on the street

531 Scenic Drive as it looks today. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I got to this house, the oldest one on Scenic Drive, I felt like I stepped into a time machine. Come with me, and let’s journey together.

John L. Carter was a sign painter. When he moved to Ashland, he expanded his business to house painting as well. He and his wife Fannie were married in 1845, probably in the northeast where they were both born. I don’t know what year they arrived in Ashland, but the couple built this house around 1880. It was the first house on Woolen Street (now Scenic Drive), very near Orlando Coolidge’s nursery. 

531 Scenic Drive, photo taken in 1993 when Casey Bright was repairing the foundation. You can see just a little of the original vertical 1 1/4 inch thick barnboard walls below the gray asphalt shingles that had been applied over the barnboards at a later date. (photo provided by Casey Bright)

It was a simple house, built in the vernacular architectural style. The original 1880 house was a small two-story rectangular box — the gray building in the photo above — with 1 ¼” thick barnboard walls and layers of newspaper glued to the walls for insulation. Sadly, John Carter died only two years after they moved in, but his widow Fannie continued to live in the house until her death in 1905. 

In this 1995 photo, Casey and Jennifer Bright are on their newly constructed front porch with their daughters Jesse and Lily. (photo provided by Casey Bright)

Casey Bright was working in the front yard when I walked up and started to take photos of the house. He told me that when he and his wife Jennifer decided to move to Ashland in 1992 with their two young girls, this was one of the properties they looked at. The house and yard were a wreck. The house had been abandoned and was falling apart. There were rusty old appliances scattered around the yard. The healthiest part of the scene was a thriving patch of blackberry vines, about 20’ wide and 50’ long and 10’ high. That’s not normally the kind of thriving one looks for in a property! 

Casey laughed as he told me his wife was the visionary in the family. Back in 1992, as the two of them were standing looking at the wreck-of-a-yard, his wife turned to him and said, “This would be a great place for the girls to play.” Casey decided to trust his wife’s vision. He also was and is a contractor, so he agreed that the two of them would buy the house and take it on as a project. 

One reason Casey trusts his wife’s vision when it comes to houses is because she is an interior designer. I found out that Jennifer’s business, Twist Design Studio, can be found online at http://www.twistdesignstudio.com.

This photo was taken mid-renovation in 1995. (photo provided by Casey Bright)

The Bright’s could not find any early photos of the house, so they looked at other vernacular architectural-style houses built in the same period and incorporated those elements as they renovated their house. They were honored by the Ashland Historic Commission for their attention to detail with a Historic Preservation Award in 1997.

When the Brights renovated the house, they found original newspaper insulation glued to the barnboard walls. They left it in place, and built this “picture frame” in the new wall to showcase a small part of the newspaper insulation. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Once we started talking about the history of the house, Casey invited me in (keeping physical distance) and showed me a wall where newspaper had been used for insulation. To memorialize that history, Casey and Jennifer created a frame for a small section of one wall to show the newspaper, as you can see in the photo. 

Original newspaper insulation at 531 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I looked closely (see photo above), I saw page 1 of a newspaper called The New Northwest from Portland, Oregon, an issue dated September 29, 1871. After I got home, I looked up the name of the newspaper and began another journey.

Abigail Scott Duniway 

The New Northwest is important in Oregon history. The newspaper was founded by pioneer Abigail Scott Duniway on May 5, 1871 to press for women’s right to vote (women’s suffrage). Northwest historian G. Thomas Edwards considered the founding of Duniway’s newspaper to be a key event launching the women’s rights movement in Oregon. 

Duniway was also a rare voice standing up for the rights of all people in Oregon, including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. She published the newspaper until 1887.

Women’s right to vote

Oregon voters (all male) defeated women’s right to vote measures in 1884, 1900, 1906, 1908 and 1910. When a women’s suffrage referendum finally passed in 1912, Oregon Governor Oswald West asked an elderly Abigail Duniway (seated in the photo) to sign the official Oregon Proclamation of Women’s Suffrage. She was also honored for her decades-long struggle by being the first woman registered to vote in Multnomah County.  

Abilgail Scott Duniway (seated) is signing Oregon’s Equal Suffrage Proclamation with Governor Oswald West. (photo from the Library of Congress, accessed at the Oregon Encyclopedia)

For more of my time machine journey meeting women who led the women’s rights and women’s right to vote movement of the late 1800s (including the female 1884 Presidential candidate my grandmother was named after), see my in-depth article: History Converges at a House on Scenic Drive.

531 Scenic Drive, original fir wood floor is still in the house. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Now back to the house. In addition to some original walls and newspaper insulation, the fir wood floor in the living room is also from the 1880 house. Reviewing his long journey with this house, Casey told me with a smile, “28 years later, I’m still working on the house, now with the help of my teenage son.”

Unofficial Little Free Library on Scenic Drive, near Maple Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

As I reached the end of Scenic Drive, I saw a family outside in their front yard at 546 Scenic working on their garden and building a new fence. I was happily surprised to see an unofficial Little Free Library artistically built in to the fence. You’ll notice that they have a section for children’s books on the lower level.

I will close with a quote from Abigail Scott Duniway that is as important today as it was more than 100 years ago.

“The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times by spreading the light of freedom and truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.” 

Abigail Scott Duniway

I would like to recognize the Scenic Drive houses more than 100 years old that I did not describe in the article:

* 67 Scenic Drive, built 1909, Craftsman style
* 71 Scenic Drive, built c1910, Bungalow style
* 101 Scenic Drive, built 1910, Bungalow style, 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic
* 160 Scenic Drive, built 1910, Bungalow style, 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic
* 125 Scenic Drive, built 1905, Craftsman style architecture, enlarged and modified in 1990s, but still has most of its historic characteristics
* 275 Scenic Drive, built 1888, Vernacular style
* 283 Scenic Drive, built 1884, added to in 1888, Rural vernacular style
* 299 Scenic Drive, built c1886, Rural vernacular style, 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic
* 309 Scenic Drive, built 1910, Bungalow style, according to the National Register, a 1890 house here was razed, then this house was built in 1910. 
* 319 Scenic Drive, built c1900, Craftsman style
* 337 Scenic Drive, built c1905, Vernacular style, on a heavily landscaped lot
* 338 Scenic Drive, built 1888, Vernacular style, this is one of the few 19th century houses on the downhill side of Scenic Drive. It has been beautifully restored, but the 1990s remodel changed it so much that it’s no longer considered historic.
* 355 Scenic Drive, built 1911, Craftsman style
* 361 Scenic Drive, built 1905, Craftsman style, the projecting bay windows are not compatible with the historic architecture
* 447 Scenic Drive, built c1915, Bungalow style, but much altered and extended through the decades
* 487 Scenic Drive, built c1910, Craftsman style, by Henry Leavitt who had orchards in the area. 
* 532 Scenic Drive, built c1890, Vernacular style

References:

Bright, Casey, author interview, April 11, 2020.

Chambers, Jennifer. Abigail Scott Duniway and Susan B. Anthony in Oregon: Hesitate No Longer, The History Press, 2018. 

Duniway, Abigail Scott. Speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C. March 4, 1884 [Abigail Scott Duniway Papers*]

Duniway, Abigail Scott. “Ballots and Bullets,” speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C., circa January 21-23, 1889 [Sunday Oregonian 9 Sept. 1906]

Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990; pg. 16, as noted in Wikipedia, April 14, 2020.

Kramer, George. National Register Nomination Form for 407 Scenic Drive.

Kramer, George and Atwood, Kay. National Register of Historic Places, Skidmore Academy Historic District, August 14, 2001.

Sloan, Ruth. “467 Scenic Drive, Garden of the Month, April 2020,” Ashland Garden Club.

Stone, Jason. Portland New Northwest 1871-1887, at Historic Oregon Newspapers, University of Oregon, accessed April 14, 2020. https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/history/newnw/

Ward, Jean M. “Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915),” Oregon Encyclopedia, accessed April 15, 2020.

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. 

History Converges in a House on Scenic Drive

531 Scenic Drive

When I walked Scenic Drive recently, I was interested in the oldest house on the street. 531 Scenic Drive was built in 1880. Little did I know the learning adventure on which this house would take me. Come join me on a trip through time, space and Oregon history.

531 Scenic Drive, Ashland, Oregon. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The original 1880 house was a small two-story rectangular box with 1 ¼” thick barnboard walls and layers of newspaper glued to the walls for insulation. When Casey and Jennifer Bright bought the house in 1992, it was abandoned and falling apart. They lovingly restored it and received a Historic Preservation Award in 1997 from the Ashland Historic Commission.

Casey invited me in (keeping physical distance) and showed me a wall where newspaper had been used for insulation. To memorialize that history, Casey and Jennifer created a frame in a small section of the wall to show the newspaper, as you can see in the photo.

Original newspaper wall insulation, framed during renovation. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I looked closely, I saw the masthead of a newspaper called The New Northwest from Portland, Oregon, an issue dated September 29, 1871. After I got home, I looked up the newspaper, stepped into the time machine, and began my history journey, which I will share with you.

“The New Northwest” newspaper masthead, part of the insulation at 531 Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Abigail Scott Duniway

Abigail Scott Duniway portrait, between 1870 and 1890, with her signature and her motto “Yours for Liberty.” (photo from Library of Congress)

 The New Northwest is important in Oregon history. The newspaper was founded by pioneer Abigail Scott Duniway on May 5, 1871 to press for women’s rights, especially women’s right to vote (known as women’s suffrage). Northwest historian G. Thomas Edwards considered the founding of Duniway’s newspaper to be a key event launching the women’s rights movement in Oregon. 

Abigail Scott Duniway was born into a farm family in Illinois in 1834. Though she had only about one year of formal schooling, she learned to read and write. More important – she loved to read and write. When her parents and their nine children took the long Applegate Trail to Oregon in 1852, 17-year-old Abigail was given the responsibility of writing a daily journal of their trip. Their wagon train was led by Jesse Applegate, part of the family that blazed the Applegate trail. 

In Oregon, Duniway married, farmed, taught school and owned a millinery (hat) shop. When she founded a weekly newspaper in 1871 at the age of 36, she broke with the past and made writing her career. 

Her newspaper was based in Portland, but she had large aspirations, as evidenced by the paper’s name: The New Northwest. The paper’s motto was “Free Speech, Free Press, Free People.” Here’s how she described her newspaper in an 1884 speech: 

“No sooner had we begun to agitate the question of equal rights than men responded to our plea; and the result was, first, the establishing in 1871, and its maintenance ever since, of a weekly journal, the New Northwest, devoted to the promulgation of equal political and financial rights between the sexes; and secondly, to the respectful bombardment of biennial legislatures with the pleas, plans and purposes of women, who made the paper their standard-bearer, and who had learned to recognize the ballot as the basis of all rights under any government claiming to be ‘of the people and by the people.’”

Duniway was also a rare voice standing up for the rights of all people in Oregon, including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. She published the newspaper until 1887.

Though lacking formal schooling, she sounded like a politician and psychologist. In an 1889 speech, she referred to 15 years of travel throughout the Oregon Territory (later the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho) speaking on behalf of women’s right to vote: 

“The Declaration of Independence and the Preamble and constitution of the United States formed the basis of my many sermons through all those weary years. … we can only secure our right to vote by and through the consent of voters; and we have only gone ahead in the prosecution of our case when we have succeeded in gaining men’s consent. Whenever our demand for our right to vote is based upon an alleged purpose to take away from men any degree of what they deem their liberties, or own right of choice, we simply throw boomerangs that recoil upon our own heads.”

As noted in her speech excerpt above, Duniway recognized the uncomfortable fact that in Oregon only men voted (white males, actually). In order to pass women’s right to vote, women had to convince male voters they would gain more than they would lose by allowing women to vote. How to accomplish this led to large conflicts within the Oregon women’s suffrage movement, often pitting Duniway against the majority of women activists.

In 1871, Duniway had invited national women’s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony to do a speaking tour in the Northwest. They traveled around Oregon for six weeks, then went north to the territory of Washington. Being seen with Anthony gave Duniway’s fame in Oregon a huge boost.

Susan B. Anthony portrait photo by Mathew Brady, about 1870, the year before she toured Oregon. (photo from Library of Congress)

Oregon women first got women’s suffrage on the state ballot for the 1884 election. In this first opportunity to decide whether women should have the right to vote, only 28% of male voters (11,223 men) said yes.

Was the low “yes” vote the fault of the anti-liquor Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, or was it the fault of Duniway’s unwillingness to collaborate with others who did not share her approach?

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and Oregon

 The nationwide movement that became the WCTU began on December 22, 1873 in Hillsboro, Ohio. Inspired by an evening talk, 50 women began the very next day to ask every druggist, grocer, physician, innkeeper and saloon owner in town to sign a pledge that they would no longer sell alcohol. The thirteen businesses that did not sign found groups of women praying and singing in their establishments. This shook up the patrons and owners so much that within a few weeks, nine of the thirteen non-cooperating establishments were out of business. 

The news from Hillsboro, Ohio swept across the country. In August of 1874, the formal Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was formed in Lake Chautauqua, New York. The primary goal of the organization was prohibition of alcohol, in order to protect women and children, and to improve men. 

Like today, domestic violence was often fueled by drunkenness. Unlike today, wives had no legal recourse and little or no community support. Women of the 1870s had few legal or property rights. In most states, the home, the land, the family possessions, even the wife’s earnings if she made money, all belonged to the man.

These simple, stark facts explain two important points. One, women of all social classes had friends whose lives were devastated by the effects of alcohol, so the WCTU message touched a nerve – and a real need – and swept like wildfire throughout the country. Second, despite what most of us learned in history class, the WCTU was not solely an anti-alcohol crusade. It was actually one of the strongest forces for women’s rights in the late 1800s.

According to Sarah Gelser: “While suffragettes appealed mainly to middle- and upper-class white women, the WCTU also served and attracted working class women and women of color. The participation of working class women was demonstrated by the organization’s support of the noon rest hour, employment agencies, labor unions, and vocational training. The participation of women of color was just as striking, with large numbers of African American and Native American women officers and members.”

Thinking about this in hindsight, it seems as though Duniway would have benefited greatly by building bridges with the Oregon WCTU and expanding her base of support for women’s suffrage in the 1884 election and beyond. Instead, she was angry that WCTU didn’t support her tactics of quietly lobbying men’s groups behind the scenes in order to convince men to vote for women’s suffrage.

Granted, the WCTU could be “in your face” when it came to their tactics. On top of that, in 1883 the Oregon chapter invited national WCTU President Frances Willard for a large convention. Because of Willard’s presence and inspiration, the Oregon WCTU was very active in the years 1883 and 1884.

Duniway believed, and some historians have written, that the WCTU scared the liquor industry (nationally and in Oregon), and also scared many traditional beer and whiskey drinking males in the state of Oregon. 

One could make a case that increased WCTU activity made the liquor industry (with lots of money to spend) more active campaigning against women’s suffrage. The industry and many male voters may have believed that allowing women to vote would lead to a law banning the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Illustration by LM Glackens making fun of the WCTU on the cover of Puck magazine, January 15, 1908. One lady carries a banner that says: “The lips that touch corn likker shall never touch ourn.” (from Library of Congress)

Whatever the reasons, Oregon’s male voters defeated women’s right to vote measures on the ballot four more times – in 1900, 1906, 1908 and 1910. Oregon women’s suffrage finally passed at the ballot in 1912. 

In light of the discussion in the last few paragraphs, it is interesting to note that in 1914, the first election after women got the right to vote, statewide prohibition passed by a vote of 136,842 to 100,362. As of “January first, 1916, the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the State of Oregon, except upon prescription of a physician or for scientific, sacramental or mechanical purposes” was prohibited. 

If you want a surprising example of how Oregon prohibition affected Ashland in 1916, click on the link to read my article: Wah Chung and the Chinese Community in Ashland: Late 1800’s and Early 1900’s

1912 – Women’s suffrage finally passed in Oregon

When the women’s suffrage referendum passed on the sixth try in 1912, an elderly Abigail Duniway (seated in the photo) was asked by Governor Oswald West to sign the official Oregon Proclamation of Women’s Suffrage. Though it was the sixth try here, Oregon still gave women the right to vote eight years before women achieved that right nationally. Duniway was also honored for her decades-long struggle by being the first woman registered to vote in Multnomah County.   

Abigail Scott Duniway (seated) signs the Oregon Proclamation of Women’s Suffrage in 1912, with Governor Oswald West on the right. Also standing is Dr. Viola M. Coe, the acting President of the National Women’s Party. (photo from Library of Congress)

A quote for all young women

Here is an important quote from Abigail Scott Duniway that is just as applicable today as when she said it more than 100 years ago.

“The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times by spreading the light of freedom and truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.” 

Marietta Stow

Marietta Stow. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 Our journey next leads us to the connection between fellow-suffragist Marietta Stow of California and Abigail Scott Duniway of Oregon. In San Francisco, Marietta Stow had also founded a newspaper (Women’s Herald of Industry) that featured women’s issues. The paper only lasted from 1881 until 1885, but it gave her a strong platform. 

Both the Republican and Democrat parties of the time ignored women’s rights. Some leading suffragists, such as Susan B. Anthony, believed their best hope for success was to work with one of the major political parties, despite being ignored. Others, like Stow, thought women needed to take the lead and form their own political party. In July 1884, Stow took the big step of forming the Equal Rights Party. 

Because she knew and respected Duniway, Stow nominated Abigail Duniway as the Equal Rights Party candidate for President. Surprisingly, she did this in a newspaper article without consulting with Duniway first! 

Duniway responded in her own newspaper, The New Northwest, saying she would not accept the nomination. She believed women running for office in 1884 would distract from and weaken the movement for women’s right to vote. Duniway wrote that “a disenfranchised candidate of a disenfranchised people will make a sorry run for any office.”

My grandmother and Belva Lockwood

After Duniway’s refusal, Stow turned to Belva Lockwood as the 1884 Presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party. Lockwood was nationally known, and her life story was quite extraordinary.

This is my paternal grandmother, Belva Hovey Finkle. (photographer unknown)

This gets us to the connection with my paternal grandmother. I feel a special affinity for women who fought for the right to vote in the late 1800s because my grandmother Belva Finkle, born in 1891, was named after Belva Lockwood. My great-grandparents must have been strong supporters of women’s right to vote.

Belva Lockwood’s life

Belva Lockwood between 1880 and 1890. (photo from Library of Congress)

Lockwood was born into a farm family in 1830. She went to college, became a seminary teacher, then at the age of 40 decided to attend law school. Every step was a battle. At this time, there were only a handful of female lawyers in the entire country, and law schools refused to admit her. She was finally admitted to the National University law school in Washington DC. When she graduated in 1873, they refused to give her a diploma! Frustrated, she sent the following letter to the ex officio president of the law school, none other than the President of the United States, Ulysses Grant. 

SIR,

You are, or you are not, President of the National University Law School. If you are its President, I desire to say to you that I have passed through the curriculum of study in this school, and am entitled to, and demand, my diploma. If you are not its President, then I ask that you take your name from its papers, and not hold out to the world to be what you are not.

Very respectfully, 
Belva A. Lockwood

According to an article at The George Washington University (formerly National University) website, “She never received a direct reply—but a week later, her diploma arrived in the mail.”

She became a successful lawyer, but she was denied the ability to practice law in Federal courts because she was a woman. Again, she was not one to give up. “In 1879, a bill was passed through both houses of Congress and signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes which allowed Belva to become the first woman to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.” [N.Y. Library] By the way, President Hayes and his wife visited Ashland the following year, in September 1880.

Belva Lockwood’s signature from Supreme Court records (from Library of Congress)

The 1884 Presidential election

“I cannot vote, but I can be voted for.” 

Belva Lockwood, 1884

When Marietta Stow asked Belva Lockwood to be the Equal Rights Party candidate for President, Lockwood said yes. Stow was her Vice-Presidential running mate. Lockwood campaigned for equal rights for all Americans in order to make the United States “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” In addition to rights for women, she believed Native Americans should become U.S. citizens. She went further than most reformers by her opposition to the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted most Chinese immigration for decades. She called it “anti-Christian and unconstitutional.” This was diametrically opposed to the position of Stow, who was very racist despite advocating for women’s rights. 

Voting ballot for 1884 election. (from collection of the Oakland Museum of California)

Lockwood was officially on the ballot of only eight states, though that in itself was a huge accomplishment. Nevertheless, she campaigned nationwide. Lockwood and Stow received 4,194 votes in those eight states. Remember, this was a time when women could not even vote for President of the United States. 

I am honored that my grandmother was named after such a trail-blazing woman, who along with many other courageous women and men contributed to the increase of liberty, freedom and mutual respect we continue to fight for today. I am glad that my visit to 531 Scenic Drive in Ashland, Oregon took me on this learning journey.

*****

My thanks to the Ashland Tidings for publishing an edited version of this article on April 30, 2020.

References:

Anon. “Women show ability,” The Sunday Oregonian, September 29, 1912, Section Five, p5, at https://thebrewstorian.tumblr.com/post/172330891121/mrs-conklin-miss-louie-church-some-things-i/embed

Anon. State Suffragists Prepare for Fight Part 1,” Oregonian, November 1, 1912, 4.  

Anon. “Nevertheless, They Persisted: Women’s Voting Rights and the 19th Amendment,” Oregon Historical Society website, accessed April 23, 2020.
https://ohs.org/museum/exhibits/nevertheless-they-persisted.cfm

Anon.   Belva A Lockwood Collection [1830-1917], New York State Library, accessed April 15, 2020.
http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/msscfa/sc21041.htm

Bozeman, Anne, “The Presidential Campaigns of Belva Lockwood” (2009). Undergraduate Research Awards. 4. Georgia State University.
https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/univ_lib_ura/4

Breedlove, Anne M. “San Francisco Women Newspaper Publishers,” California History at The Free Library online, accessed April 15, 2020.
https://www.thefreelibrary.com/%22Inspired+and+Possessed%22-a079588561

Bright, Casey, author interview, April 11, 2020.

Chambers, Jennifer. Abigail Scott Duniway and Susan B. Anthony in Oregon: Hesitate No Longer, The History Press, 2018. 

Duniway, Abigail Scott. Speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C. March 4, 1884 [Abigail Scott Duniway Papers*]

Duniway, Abigail Scott. “Ballots and Bullets,” speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C., circa January 21-23, 1889 [Sunday Oregonian 9 Sept. 1906]

Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990; pg. 16, as noted in Wikipedia, April 14, 2020.

Gelser, Sarah Anne Acres. “Beyond the Ballot: The Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Politics of Oregon Women, 1880-1900.” M.A. thesis for Oregon State University, December 7, 1998.

Hardy, Sarah B. “Suffrage and Temperance: Differing Perspectives,” Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote, 1912-2012, accessed 4/27/2020.
http://centuryofaction.org/index.php/main_site/document_project/suffrage_and_temperance_differing_perspectives

Kramer, George and Atwood, Kay. National Register of Historic Places, Skidmore Academy Historic District, August 14, 2001.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon,” The Oregon Encyclopedia, accessed April 24, 2020.
https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/woman_suffrage_in_oregon/#.XqIQcC85RUM

Norgren, Jill, Belva Lockwood: ‘I cannot vote, but can be voted for,’ at HistoryNet.com, accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.historynet.com/belva-lockwood.htm

Oregon Secretary of State website, accessed May 12, 2020.
http://records.sos.state.or.us/ORSOSWebDrawer/Recordpdf/7255099

Ashland History ‘Firsts’ – Part 3

Who was the first U.S. President to visit Ashland?
When did Ashland get its first shopping mall?
Which Shakespeare play was first performed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival?

First Church and First Church Building

Beginning in 1864, fourteen Methodist families began to meet in their Ashland homes. They ambitiously began raising money for both a church building and a college. 

Ashland First Methodist Church 1908
Methodist Church, photo taken between 1908 and 1915 (from Oregon Encyclopedia, courtesy of Ann Nicgorski)

The original First Methodist Church building first hosted services in 1877, at the corner of North Main Street and Laurel Street. After a windstorm toppled the steeple in 1904, a sturdier church was built on the foundations of the original, and opened its doors in 1908. That is the church you still see today.

First Library

Ashland library can be traced to December 1879, when the Ashland Library and Reading Room Association was created – by women of the community of course. They were able to collect donations of 200 books. In 1891, they got “serious” and created the new Library Association with dues of $1 each per year.

Ashland Library 1891
A large 1891 fundraiser for the new Ashland Library Association.
(photo courtesy of the Ashland Public Library)

By January 1, 1900, the library had 1,200 books and a dedicated room in city hall that was open for reading each Saturday afternoon.

Ashland Library 1912, Carnegie library
The Ashland Carnegie library in 1912
(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.)

In 1909, thirty years after the first library association was formed, Ashlanders received word that the Andrew Carnegie’s foundation would donate $15,000 toward building an Ashland library. The building was dedicated in 1912. It’s still there at the corner of Siskiyou Blvd. and Gresham Street. The Carnegie Foundation funded 1,687 public libraries in USA, 31 of them in Oregon between 1901 and 1915. Of the 31 in Oregon, only 11 are still operating as libraries. Ashland’s library is one of those 11.

Ashland Library 1912 interior
The new Carnegie library interior in about 1912. This area is now the children’s section of the library.
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

The small 1912 Carnegie library building served Ashland until the 1950s, when an extension was built in the rear and the Gresham room was built in the basement level. A much larger expansion took place in 2003, yielding the library we see today.

First Presidential Visit

On September 28, 1880, as stagecoach full of VIPs rolled into Ashland. Very, very important people…the President of the United States Rutherford B. Hayes, the First Lady, and Civil War hero General Sherman. The Ashland Tidings estimated 2,000 people gathered in the Plaza to greet the President. It is certainly possible that among the crowd were all 854 residents of Ashland, from the youngest to the oldest.

President Rutherford B. Hayes

According to O’Harra, four young girls presented the President and First Lady a selection of Ashland’s agricultural bounty: peaches, pears, apples, plums, grapes, blackberries, almonds and figs! [O’Harra 1986]

Rutherford B. Hayes was President of the United States from 1877 to 1881. This photo was taken between 1870 and 1880. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Lucy Webb Hayes was First Lady, wife of President Hayes. This photo was taken between 1870 and 1880. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

William Tecumseh Sherman was a famous Union army Civil War General. This photo was taken between 1865 and 1880. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First Bank

Henry Beach Carter was a pioneer farmer in Iowa as a young man. Retiring from the farm, he opened a general store in Elkader, and in 1871 established the First National Bank of Elkader, Iowa. When he and his family moved to Ashland in 1884, he duplicated the feat by cofounding the Bank of Ashland.

In this 1909 photo, the 1884 Bank of Ashland building is on the left, and the Masonic building is on the right.
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

The Bank of Ashland building at 15 North Main Street on the Plaza is still there, now the home of Tree House Books. Bank of Ashland was the only bank in town until 1909, and finally went out of business in 1939.

Bank of Ashland building in 2019
Here is the Bank of Ashland building on the Plaza in 2019. (photo by Peter Finkle)

As a side note, I live on Beach Street, named after Ashland pioneer Henry Beach Carter. How many people have a street named after their middle name? Not many, I would guess.

First City Park

Ashland’s first park was probably the 7 ½ acre Chautauqua Park. It was located on land that was purchased in June 1893, after the first Chautauqua meeting in Southern Oregon was moved at the last minute from Central Point to Ashland. The national Chautauqua meetings were one to two week summer program of educational lectures, musical performances, sermons and more. This fit in with Ashland citizens’ strong commitment to education.

Talk about “last minute” – the domed structure large enough to seat 1,000 people was built in only one week, and was completed just one day before the 1893 Chautauqua opened! The last summer for the Chautauqua festival in Ashland was probably 1924. 

You may have heard that the concrete foundation of the 1917 Chautauqua building was incorporated into Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Allen Elizabethan Theater.

Ashland Chautauqua building 1893
This was the first Chautauqua building in 1893. There was a small park area around it.
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

First Creamery

You may be familiar with the Butler-Perozzi Fountain in Lithia Park. It is named partly for Domingo Perozzi, who in 1895 founded the first creamery in Ashland, located where you’ll now find the winter skating rink on Winburn Way. This was also the first creamery in the entire Jackson County. As a result, his Ashland Creamery thrived, and Perozzi donated funds along with Gwin Butler to purchase the fountain for the 1916 grand opening of Lithia Park. Butler and Perozzi bought the fountain, carved from Verona marble by Italian sculptor Antonio Forilli, at the close of the 1915 San Francisco Pan-Pacific Exposition.

Ashland Creamery c1897
Wagons are lined up at the Perozzi Creamery c1897
(This image from Southern Oregon Historical Society is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)
Lithia Park 1916
This photo shows the Butler-Perozzi Fountain in Lithia Park, probably taken in 1916.
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

First Hospital – is it #1 or #2?

Southern Oregon Hospital c1908
Fordyce-Roper house on East Main Street, converted to a small hospital, photo c1908 
(photo courtesy of Ben Truwe)

#1: In late 1907, the Fordyce-Roper house on East Main Street was converted into a small hospital. Sadly, it was badly damaged by fire in March 1909, though all patients got out safely.

Southern Oregon Hospital fire 1909
1909 fire at the small hospital on East Main Street
(photo courtesy of Ben Truwe)

As the house was being repaired, citizens discussed the need for a larger and more modern hospital. (Side-note: If you want to see the Fordyce-Roper house now, you won’t find it on East Main Street. You will find it if you walk up to the top of 2nd Street, and look to your right at the Winchester Inn. In 1910, the entire house was moved up the steep street by the power of one horse! But that’s a story for another time.)

1923 photo of the Granite City Hospital on Siskiyou Boulevard, now the site of the Stevenson Union at SOU
(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.)

#2: In 1910, the brand new two-story, eighteen-room Granite City Hospital was built. This was a “real” hospital. Designed by noted Southern Oregon architect Frank Clark, it occupied the current site of SOU’s Stevenson Union. 

First “Shopping Mall”

Henry Enders Sr. and family moved to Ashland from Boise, Idaho in 1907. In Idaho, Enders had owned a department store. In Ashland, he built in 1910 what you could call the first shopping mall in Southern Oregon. The Enders Building is located on East Main Street between 1st Street and 2nd Street. The entire group of stores was connected with interior doors, so people could walk from one to another without going outside. Sounds like a shopping mall! 

Enders Building in Ashland, Oregon
The Enders Building on East Main Street, possibly in the 1930s. Note the Columbia Hotel sign.
(photo courtesy of John Enders)

According to Henry Enders Jr.: “Well, we had everything!  We had men’s clothing, furnishings, men’s and ladies’ shoes, ladies’ ready-to-wear, ladies’ dry good and piece goods, a fifteen cent store, a music store, a confectionary, hardware and sporting goods and a grocery store.”  [page 2, History of Ashland Oregon, 1977, as told to Morgan Cottle]

Enders Building 2019
The Enders Building on East Main Street in 2019. Note that the Columbia Hotel is still there.
(photo courtesy of John Enders)

Enders’ shops were popular with more than just Ashland residents. In the 1910s and 1920s, people from other towns would arrive in Ashland on a morning train, spend the day shopping in the Enders shops and seeing the sights of Ashland, and then go home on an afternoon or evening train. Some even stayed overnight at the Columbia Hotel above Enders’ shops, which is still in business at the same location after 110 years.

First Shakespeare Plays

Angus Bowmer moved to Ashland in 1931 to be an English professor at Southern Oregon Normal School. The expanded 1917 Chautauqua dome had been torn down in 1933, but its concrete foundation walls remained. As described on the Oregon Shakespeare Theater’s website, Bowmer “was struck by the resemblance between the Chautauqua walls and some sketches he had seen of Elizabethan theatres.” And today, “The Chautauqua walls remain standing; covered with ivy, they surround the Allen Elizabethan Theatre….” 

Bowmer talked the city into supporting the production of two Shakespeare plays as part of Ashland’s 1935 4th of July holiday celebrations. The city gave him money (“not to exceed $400”) and state funds helped get the stage built. However, the city insisted that afternoon boxing matches be held on the stage as a way to bring in patrons and income.

Bowmer directed and starred in Twelfth Night on July 2 (the first play), Merchant of Venice on July 3, and Twelfth Night again on July 4. To the surprise of non-theater-lovers, income from the many patrons of the evening Shakespeare plays covered losses from the boxing matches.

1935 playbill from “The First Annual Shakespearean Festival” in Ashland  
(from Oregon Shakespeare Festival website)

I hope you have enjoyed this series of brief vignettes of Ashland history “firsts.” 

Here is a link to Part 1 of the series: 

Here is a link to Part 2 of the series:

As part of his contribution to building community, Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street.  Please subscribe with your email address, and you will be notified each time a new article is published.

References:

Anon. 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.
Ashland Daily Tidings, February 26, 1927.
Atwood, Kay.  Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975.
Atwood, Kay. Mill Creek Journal: Ashland, Oregon 1850 – 1860, self-published 1987.
Enders, John. Lithia Park: The Heart & Soul of Ashland, 2016.
Green, Giles. A Heritage of Loyalty: The History of the Ashland, Oregon, Public Schools, School District No. 5, 1966.
LaLande, Jeff. from The Oregon Enyclopedia, https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/ashland/#.XdYMxi2ZM2I
Lewis, Raymond (possibly), “Abel D. Helman, Founder of Ashland,” Table Rock Sentinel, October 1981 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival website. https://www.osfashland.org/en/company/our-history.aspx (accessed 1/22/2020)
Ott, Katherine. History of the Ashland Public Library, 1938 (8 pages).

Ashland History ‘Firsts’ – Part 2

How did a 3-year-old help start Ashland School District No. 5?
Which Presidential candidate did Ashlanders vote for in 1860?
What year was the Ashland Tidings newspaper founded?
How many name changes has SOU had in its first 148 years?

Part 1 began with a brief introduction to a Native American village where Lithia Park is now located, as described by some of the first Americans who settled in Ashland. Part 1 ended with a description of the first formal schooling in Ashland. Classes began October 3, 1854 with a handful of children in the home of Eber Emery.

To begin Part 2, let’s pick up that story three years later with another surprising school story.

First Ashland School District

Three years after a handful of students began meeting for school in Eber Emery’s house, locals decided to organize a formal school district. This would enable Ashland to receive public funds to help with school expenses. Here’s how Marjorie O’Harra described what happened. “An enrollment of thirteen children was necessary to establish the district….  After a thorough scouring of the community only twelve children could be found. Pioneers being resourceful folks, three-year-old John Helman was pressed into service and School District No. 5 came into being.”

I guess you could say that John Helman was “small but mighty” with his power to bring School District No. 5 into being!

Ashland history, Abel and John Helman 1865
Abel Helman with son, probably John Helman, in 1865 (photo detail from http://wrightarchives.blogspot.com/2012/09/ashland-oregon-founders.html)

First Post Office

In the first three years of the tiny community, a local resident had to travel to Jacksonville’s post office once a week to get mail for Ashland, and then people picked up their mail in Abel and Martha Helman’s kitchen. 

Ashland graduated to an official Post Office in 1855. Mail still came only once a week, but the post “office” moved from Helman’s kitchen to the Ashland Flour Mill office. Abel Helman was Postmaster of Ashland for the first 27 years of the local Post Office. 

Ashland history, Abel Helman portrait
Abel Helman in his later years (from Portrait and Biographical Record….,1904)

First School Building

Ashland citizens built the first dedicated school house in 1860. About 18 students attended regularly, not many more than the 13 students enrolled back in 1857. In this photo, the students are with blind music instructor Professor Rutan, in front of the first school building.

Ashland history, first school
Ashland schoolchildren with music Professor Rutan, date unknown, 1860-1890 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

First Ashland Presidential Election

“Ashlanders voted for Lincoln in 1860, while the remainder of the region strongly supported the pro-slavery candidate, and the town remained a dependably Republican island in a Democratic sea for decades thereafter.” [quote from LaLande, Oregon Encyclopedia]

First Residential Streets

Ashland’s first known map, drawn in 1860, showed the Plaza and one street, called “Street!” This one street was actually the Jacksonville-to-Yreka stage road.

Ashland history, 1860 map of Ashland
1860 map of Ashland (from Kay Atwood 1987)

By the time of B.F. Myer’s 1867 official map, Ashland had grown. Not only was the stage road through town now called “Stage Road,” but also there were nine residential streets shown on the map! The streets radiated out from the Ashland Plaza, and about four blocks west along what is now North Main Street. From East to West, the street names are Oak Street, Water Street, Granite Street, Church Street, Pine Street, Bush Street, Laurel Street, Manzanita Street and Factory Street (now Central Avenue).

Ashland history, 1867 map of Ashland
1867 map of Ashland (from City of Ashland website)

First College

Creating a college was a vision of Southern Oregon Methodists, which got a boost in 1869 when a Methodist conference was held in Ashland. Reverend Joseph H. Skidmore made it a reality in 1872. He used his carpentry skills to finish a half-built structure, then opened Ashland Academy for training teachers in the new building. After failing financially and then opening again in 1882, the renamed Ashland College and Normal School had 42 students and 4 teachers. At that time, it was located at what is now the Briscoe School site on North Main Street. 

Today, after a total of 10 name changes (!), Southern Oregon University has 6,000 students on a 175 acre campus and is one of the jewels of Ashland.

Ashland history, Ashland Academy building in 1900
This was the Ashland Academy building in 1900. According to Southern Oregon Digital Archives, Abel Helman sold the land for Ashland Academy to the Reverend Joseph Skidmore in 1872. 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

First Fraternal Organization

Fraternal organizations were an important part of community life in frontier America. In Ashland, the first fraternal organization was formed in 1873 — Ashland Lodge No. 45 of the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). 

After the Plaza fire of March 11, 1879, the Odd Fellows built a two-story structure with local bricks. To this day, their brick building anchors the corner of the Plaza, and still proudly identifies itself with “I.O.O.F. 1879” visible at the top of the building.

Ashland history, Ashland I.O.O.F. building in 1883
This 1883 drawing of the I.O.O.F. building is from West Shore Magazine
Ashland I.O.O.F. building in 2019
Detail photo of I.O.O.F. building in 2019 (photo by Peter Finkle)

First Newspaper

June 17, 1876 marked the day Ashland residents got their own newspaper, the Ashland Tidings. Before that, they got their news from Jacksonville newspapers. It began as a weekly paper and became a twice-weekly by 1896. Becoming a daily paper in 1912, the name was changed to the Ashland Daily Tidings. And what is the name now? Once again, it is the Ashland Tidings as of 2019. For a small-circulation newspaper in a small town, it is amazing that the Tidings has been able to survive for 144 years!

First City Band

According to the Ashland City Band website, an Ashland Brass Band came into being in 1876. It quotes the April 14, 1877 issue of the Ashland Tidings: “The article, about a musical program given at the Ashland Academy, ends with, ‘We cannot omit to mention the Ashland Brass Band whose valuable services were tendered without charge and enlivened the occasion with many pieces of music.’” Now the Ashland City Band, our community band has had four (and possibly six) names in the past 144 years.

The band became more prominent in town after 1890, when Otis Helman was named the conductor. Helman had attended and graduated from the Chicago School of Music, so he raised the quality of the music. Under Helman, this band was also known as the “Helman Red Suit Band.”

Ashland history, Ashland City Band plays at Lithia Park bandstand, possibly 1916
Ashland City Band at the Lithia Park bandstand, possibly 1916
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

The city band has marched in Ashland parades for more than 100 years. Even today, the Ashland City Band leads the 4th of July parade, immediately after the Color Guard.

Ashland City Band leads 4th of July parade
Ashland City Band leads the 2019 4th of July parade (photo by Peter Finkle)

I hope you are enjoying this series of brief vignettes of Ashland history “firsts.” 

Here is a link to Part 1 of the series: 

Part 3 will introduce you to the first United States President to visit Ashland, the first “shopping mall” in town, the first play performed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and more.

As his contribution to building community, Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street.  Please subscribe with your email address, and you will be notified each time a new article is published.

References:

Anon. 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.
Ashland Daily Tidings, February 26, 1927.
Atwood, Kay.  Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975.
Atwood, Kay. Mill Creek Journal: Ashland, Oregon 1850 – 1860, self-published 1987.
Enders, John. Lithia Park: The Heart & Soul of Ashland, 2016.
Green, Giles. A Heritage of Loyalty: The History of the Ashland, Oregon, Public Schools, School District No. 5, 1966.
LaLande, Jeff. from The Oregon Enyclopedia, https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/ashland/#.XdYMxi2ZM2I
Lewis, Raymond (possibly), “Abel D. Helman, Founder of Ashland,” Table Rock Sentinel, October 1981 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.

Ashland History “Firsts” — Part 1

Before the city of Ashland existed

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

Archeology digs and pioneer writings suggest that during the winter they lived in villages of semi-permanent plank or bark-covered structures. Captain Thomas Smith and James Cardwell both arrived in the winter of 1851-1852. Both described an Indian village of perhaps 100 people along Ashland Creek, located in the area that is now Lithia Park and the Plaza.

Between 1852 and 1856, there were a series of battles in Southern Oregon between settlers and the Native Americans who were defending their ancestral land. Suffering from diseases, hunger and deaths from the fighting, in 1856 the remaining Shasta and Takelma were forcibly marched to the Siletz Indian Reservation, 150 miles north along the Oregon coast.

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

First known Euro-Americans in the Rogue Valley

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

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

First American settlers in Ashland

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

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

First house in Ashland

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

First commercial building in Ashland

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

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

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

First town name — Ashland Mills

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

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

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

First American child born in Ashland

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

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

First hotel/lodging house in Ashland

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

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

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

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

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

First school class in Ashland

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Walker

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

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

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

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

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

Elmo Stevenson

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

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

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

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

Lance Locke

Lance and Vivian Locke (photo courtesy of Lance Locke)

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

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

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

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

A life-changing day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The banister that saved the house

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

Detail of front stairway banister (photo by Peter Finkle)

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

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

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

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

“My greatest skill is destruction”

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

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

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

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

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

Writing on the walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quilts on the walls

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

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

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