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).

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

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

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

Ashland’s First Catholic Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pentecostal Church

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

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

Horror Movie Location

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

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

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

Actress Marlyn Mason

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

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

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

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

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

“Dead agent, dead career”

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

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

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

The Wigmaster

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

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

A Change of Owners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice’s Restaurant?

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

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

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

Renovation and Seismic Retrofit

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

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

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

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

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

The Steeple, the Bats and the Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Community

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