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

Liberty Street Update 2020

The house that moved one block.
How can Liberty Street start and end at Siskiyou?
Two Little Free Libraries…and ending with humor.

This is a greatly expanded version of my April 2018 Liberty Street article. Liberty Street has an Ashland Tree of the Year, architecture from historic to modern, not just one but two “Little Free Libraries,” and access to Ashland’s extensive trail system.

Here’s how Liberty Street can start and end at Siskiyou — it goes from Siskiyou Boulevard to the Siskiyou Mountain Range. 

You’ll find tiny Triangle Park where Liberty meets Siskiyou Blvd.

Triangle Park when quiet. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Triangle Park

You might have wondered why this tiny, triangular park is here. Marjorie O’Harra in her book gave credit to Ashland’s newly formed Woman’s Civic Improvement Club. Formed in April 1908, this large group was described by the Ashland Tidings at the time as promoting “civic improvement agitation.” That agitation led to the creation of Lithia Park, among other accomplishments. But that is another story.

According to O’Harra, here is the Triangle Park story: “When the Temple of Truth Society announced plans to build a structure on Siskiyou Boulevard — on a triangle lot between Beach and Liberty Streets — the ladies believed such a building would ruin the view from the homes on Iowa Street, so they bought the land for $550 and developed it into a park.”

The Temple of Truth Society ended up building its church in 1909 or 1910 on Siskiyou Boulevard, where the expanded Fire Station #1 is now located.

This historic photo shows the Temple of Truth church about 1910, at 457 Siskiyou Boulevard. This interesting structure was torn down in the 1960s. (“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.”) 

Triangle Park tends to be quiet.  You might see high school students eating lunch in the charming gazebo during the school year, or young people walking slack lines attached to the posts in the park.  The one day Triangle Park comes alive with a “boom” and a “bang” is the 4th of July.  When Ashland’s huge Independence Day celebration rolls around, parade headquarters is at Triangle Park.  It becomes a beehive of organizers, marching band members and honored guests ranging from locals, to Oregon’s U.S. Senators, to our Sister-City Queen and city council members from Guanajuato, Mexico.

Triangle Park before the 4th of July parade, when it is packed with people. This photo, taken in 2011, shows Ashland City Band members warming up their instruments. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2011)

2-story camellia and healing massage

At the corner of Alaska Street, Joseph and Janie enlisted some of their friends to turn a large lot into a beautiful cooperative vegetable and fruit garden.  Let’s see how many of the fruits in their garden I can remember: cherries, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries.  Yes, they like berries.  Sorry, they are not for public consumption!

Joseph and Janie are both massage therapists with the business name Advanced Myotherapy.  Janie also teaches Eden Energy Medicine all over the world, but I have benefited from her healing skills in both massage and energy medicine, without going any farther than Liberty Street.

They have the most amazing camellia bush I have seen in my life, and I have seen many.  Is it still a “bush” when it’s two stories tall?  The dramatic two-story camellia is hard to see from the street, so I am including photos of it here, taken in April 2018.

2-story tall Camellia bush. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Camellia bush close-up. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Houses historic and modern

285 Liberty Street, built in 1924, a historic “Bungalow style” architecture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

According to the National Register description of historic properties in Ashland, “the Whitaker house [at 285 Liberty Street] is a fine example of the bungalow style, with the shallow pitched roof, broad eaves, large porch, massive posts and brackets and other elements of the style.”

Bright colors at 289 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Anyone who walks or drives on Liberty Street will remember this colorful house. Some people love it and some think it sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m in the “love it” camp. Traditional neighborhoods where all homes are built in the same style or similar colors can be aesthetically pleasing. But there is freshness that comes with variety, and Liberty Street has variety.

I would like to point out the beautiful, colorful tulip garden in the front yard of this colorful house, at its peak in early April.  Notice the deer fence, without which the tulip garden would not exist.

Tulips at 289 Liberty Street in April 2018. (Photo by Peter Finkle)

Short Ashland deer rant

I may go on a rant about the Ashland deer from time to time as I write my Walk Ashland articles.  The number of plants that Ashland deer do not eat seems to be shrinking from year to year.  For example, during the first 15 years I lived in Ashland, the deer did not touch the Hypericum or Star jasmine in my front yard.  Now they eat both, and I have even seen them nibble on ivy!  At least rosemary, lavender, daffodils and iris seem to be safe for the present.

Little Free Library

A few steps up the street, I came to the first of two “Little Free Library” stands on Liberty Street.  This book sharing movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin placed the first Little Free Library in his front yard.  There are now over 65,000 registered Little Free Libraries in over 80 countries around the world!  (And many more not registered with the official group.) 

Little Free Library on lower Liberty Street (photo by Peter Finkle)

The City of Ashland has a map of Little Free Libraries in town. It shows the locations of 14. I think there are many more than that. Just in April 2020, I have seen two new Little Free Libraries as I walk around town.

324 Liberty Street, built about 1910. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Though this house is not set far back from the street, the dense vegetation gives it a secluded feel. I especially like the entry arbor and vines.

This house moved one block

391 Liberty Street. Note the front porch with columns. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

John and Artemisia Easterling moved from Kentucky to Ashland in 1903. During the next few years, he bought and sold properties and businesses around town, especially in the Railroad District. In 1909, the family bought an orchard with a home on Beach Street. They lived there until 1925, when they sold the property to the school district for construction of Lincoln Elementary School. This was to be a training school for teachers educated at nearby Southern Oregon Normal School (now Southern Oregon University), which reopened in 1926.

The Easterlings then purchased a lot one block over on Liberty Street and decided to move their Beach Street house to the new location. Easterling was known as a wheeler-and-dealer. He decided to upgrade his house when it was moved. He found a college building that was being demolished and purchased the columned porch of the building. You can still see it at the front of this Liberty Street home. 

390 Liberty Street, built in 1921. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I met homeowner Bill Quassia as I was taking a photo of his historic 1921 house at 390 Liberty Street. It was in bad shape when he got the house, so he had to do major work on parts of the ceilings and floors. In the older part of the house, he was able to keep the original wood floors and original horsehair-infused plaster interior walls. Yes…horsehair. One hundred years ago, hair from the mane and tail of horses was used in making plaster for walls. These long, strong horsehair fibers provided strength and stability to the plaster.

Louise Antz, previous owner of 390 Liberty Street in yellow blouse, with Grace Pratt-Butler in this 1972 photo. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020; this 1972 photo was in a box that Bill Quassia found after he purchased the house)

A previous owner of the house, Louise Antz, moved to Ashland from New York. She had been the Chair of the Department of Education at New York University. According to Bill, she realized her dream of “living out West” when she retired from teaching. She is the one who enclosed the old porch. Doing so created a hothouse room for growing orchids and other tropical flowers.

Look closely at the 1972 photo above that I am holding in my hand. Do you see the variegated-color window shades behind the two ladies? Now look at the blinds on the current porch, just above the 1972 photo. If they look similar, that’s because they are the same blinds! As with the photo, Bill found them in the old barn/garage behind the house as he went through boxes of possessions Louise Antz had left behind.

Can you see the tree?

Notice the one foot tall tree in the park row in front of 390 Liberty Street, just behind the man with his shirt off. (this 1970 photo was in a box that Bill Quassia found after he purchased the house)

This made my jaw drop, so I want to share it with you. As we were standing out in the front yard, Bill pulled the photo above from the box of old photos Louise Antz had left in the house. He had me look at the tiny tree just behind the man with his shirt off. I thought to myself, “okay, that doesn’t look like much.”

Then Bill said, “Look at that,” as he pointed to a nearby tree. “What!,” I exclaimed as I put two and two together and realized the connection. Take a look at the photo below and see if you make the connection.

390 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I expect you figured it out by now. That is the same tree! It is now 50 years old, very tall and very healthy.

More dramatic trees

Liberty St is home to two other trees that caught my eye.  The first, at 391 Liberty Street (the house moved from Beach Street), was Ashland’s 2001 Tree of the Year.  Each year residents nominate favorite trees around town, the Tree Commission narrows the selection to a few, and then residents vote for their top choice.  The 2001 choice was a majestic Blue Atlas Cedar.  My photo through the electric wires doesn’t do it justice.  I hope you will see it for yourself.

Sign for Tree of the Year 2001, a Blue Atlas Cedar. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Blue Atlas Cedar, Ashland Tree of the Year 2001. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

The other tree, toward the top of Liberty, is a very unusual Ponderosa pine.  Most Ponderosa pines I see are straight as an arrow, reaching for the sky.  Not this one.  It forks, and then forks again.  With tall trees, I have read that a lightning strike can destroy the crown of the tree and lead to a forked top as the tree strives to continue growing. This tree looks like it just decided to be different.

Ponderosa pine near top of Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

More contrasting architecture

Ascending Liberty Street, I took photos of houses with contrasting architectural styles, showing the variety of houses on Liberty. 

Historic house at 575 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

If you like traditional, here is one of the original farm houses on Liberty Street, built in 1886.

Modern architecture is just up the block on Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

If you prefer modern, you might like to view this one on the 600 block.

642 Liberty Street has a vibrant, unusual and enjoyable color combination. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Here is a close-up of the porch, wisteria vine and door at 642 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
This front yard at 600 Liberty Street is filled with newly planted trees. I hope I am here in 20 years to see how large they grow, and to take another photo. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
I like the creative house numbers at…what’s the address?…oh, yes…676 Liberty Street. (photo and juvenile humor by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Here is the second Little Free Library on Liberty Street, at 684 Liberty. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
I expect you have heard of “raised bed gardening.” This garden on Liberty Street takes the concept to a whole new level. This is the most creative “raised BED garden” I have ever seen, headboard and all. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“The Road Goes Ever On and On”

Finally, arriving at the top of Liberty Street, you have the option to leave the city streets for the world of trails.  From here, you can connect with a variety of trails and forest service roads that will take you almost anywhere.

End of Liberty Street, Ashland – start of mountain trails. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

As Bilbo said to Frodo in Lord of the Rings: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

From the top of Liberty Street, as well as from many other streets in Ashland, you can follow trails to the top of Mt. Ashland. If you are really swept off your feet, you could end up walking all the way to Canada or Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. If you are not already a subscriber and would like to be notified each time I publish a new article, please write your email address where it says “Subscribe to our Newsletter.” That will be at the top right if you are reading this on a computer screen, or below the article if you are reading this on a mobile phone.

Now follow this trail to a ghost story

There is a connection between 391 Liberty Street and another article I wrote. John Easterling, who moved his house from Beach Street to 391 Liberty Street, also owned the Peerless Rooms on 4th Street from 1904 to 1908. I wrote an article about the ghost of the Peerless: “Mystery of the Peerless Hotel Marbles.” I think you will enjoy it.

References:

Enders, John.  Lithia Park Centennial 1916 – 2019: The Heart and Soul of Ashland, Ashland Parks Foundation, 2016.
National Register of Historic Places, Siskiyou-Hargadine Historic District, September 14, 2002.
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.

Beach Street update April 2020

Meet the “Beach Street bear”
Walk Ashland’s 2-year Anniversary!
Update of my first article

Let’s begin with a sight that I believe is unique to Beach Street.

Beach Street Unique

Writing about Beach Street was my first “Walk Ashland” blog post, published April 12, 2018. So this is our 2-year anniversary!

Beach Street starts at Siskiyou Blvd and ends uphill at the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains. You’ll find a mix of modest homes, large homes, apartments and condos as you walk Beach Street.  The street has open space at Lincoln School, plus many large Ponderosa pines, firs and oaks.

The “Beach Street bear”

Without further ado, let’s get right into stories about the “Beach Street bear,” which even had its photo in the Ashland Daily Tidings in 2006.  I have two personal “Beach Street bear” stories and one told to me by a neighbor.

My sad bear story is encapsulated in the photo below.  The bear was doing what bears love to do…go fishing, in this case in my backyard pond.

“Beach Street bear” with a koi (photo taken by my neighbor Jake)

A bear goes fishing

My wife and I have enjoyed a small pond, with plants and colorful koi fish, for the past 15 years. The first ten years were uneventful. We had seen a cinnamon-colored bear eating plums from a tree in a neighbor’s yard a couple times, but no sign of bears in our yard. Then in 2015 a bear discovered the eight healthy (and mostly fat) koi in our backyard pond.

The first koi to become bear food was our 10-year-old black and white koi named Larry. Within a week, the bear had returned and fished out two big beautiful bright orange koi named Big Guy and Dreamsicle. We couldn’t handle seeing them all picked off one by one, so I got in the pond with a fish net and captured the survivors so we could take them back to the shop where we bought them.

Here is the happy (so far) ending to this story. The youngest of our eight koi, a three-inch long almost-baby named Prospero, eluded my attempts to catch him. He disappeared, probably hiding among the pond’s thick plants. Then, as if by magic, he reappeared two months later. After he survived one year all alone in the pond, we got Prospero a “buddy” the following year. We know we could lose them at any time, but as of spring 2020 (“knock on wood”) we have two koi to watch as we sit by the pond.

A warm summer evening bear encounter

My other bear story was dramatic in a different way.  On a warm summer evening in 2006 shortly after the Daily Tidings article, I was stretched out in a lounge chair in my back yard reading the newspaper.  Our cuddly, chunky female cat GG was stretched out half-asleep next to me.  Ah, a nice relaxing Ashland summer evening.

Suddenly I saw a 5′ tall, 200 pound or so black bear climb over the low side-yard fence 35 feet away from me – way too close – and it was no longer a relaxing summer evening.  I stood up, holding the newspaper.  Then the bear saw me.  It stood up. GG-cat took off running back to the house cat door faster than she had ever run in her entire life.  My wife happened to be at the screen door nearest the bear when it appeared, so she started yelling at the bear. Meanwhile, I backed away slowly, newspaper in hand.

Fortunately, the bear was as afraid of us as we were of it, so it shot up the nearest tree.  After looking around from its perch ten feet up, it decided not to stay up a tree in our yard. It came down the tree, climbed over the fence, and then lumbered off through two neighbors’ yards to Liberty Street and hopefully uphill to the forest.

My neighbor Brad’s bear story

Speaking of bears, during 2018 I met my neighbor Brad as he was “playing with rocks,” – as he put it – building a no-mortar rock retaining wall.  We were discussing how all of upper Beach Street a century ago was likely a farm and orchard.  He told me about his old cherry and apple trees, and then declared his frustration that every summer a bear crushes his chain-link fence in order to get in and enjoy ripe cherries.

Little Free Library

This unofficial Little Free Library just appeared on Beach Street in March 2020. You might be able to tell that young children were involved in designing the installation.

Nina’s angels

Changing the subject from bears to angels, I met Nina as I was admiring her front yard full of angel sculptures.

Nina told me a “small world” story.  Decades ago, she worked as an intern for six months at Presidio Hill School in San Francisco.  When her new neighbor moved in, they found something in common.  The new neighbor had followed Nina as an intern at Presidio Hill School, but then stayed on the staff for 40 years…before retiring to Ashland, right next door to Nina!

Historic bungalow style houses

295 Beach Street, historic home built in 1930. According to the National Register survey, this house is a fine example of the early 20th century Bungalow architectural style.
This 1910 house at 329 Beach Street is another classic Bungalow architectural style house. It was built by Nathan Bates of the successful Bates Brothers Barber Shop.

Lincoln Elementary School building

The elementary school was originally used for the teacher training program at Southern Oregon State Normal School (now SOU) one block away. Due to declining elementary school enrollment, Lincoln was closed in 2005, but is still owned by the school district.

Former Lincoln Elementary School, built in 1926, at 320 Beach Street.

Lincoln Elementary School has an interesting history. In July 1925, Ashland’s only elementary school was overcrowded and voters passed a bond to finance the construction of a second school. By 1926, Lincoln School opened, with a dual mission to educate elementary students and to train new teachers who attended the nearby Southern Oregon State Normal School (now SOU).

The Lincoln School building was designed by the same well-known Portland architectural firm that in 1924 designed Ashland’s Lithia Springs Hotel (now Ashland Springs Hotel). The core of Lincoln School, with its formal Corinthian-inspired columns, remains as it was in 1926.

The building was expanded and remodeled several times through the years. In the mid-1940s, elementary schools were again getting overcrowded and there was discussion of expanding Lincoln School. A 1946 fire that destroyed much of the school led to remodeling and soon after that, the addition of three classrooms and a multipurpose room. As Ashland continued to grow, two more classrooms were added to the school in 1955.

Then population trends changed, and by the 1990s Ashland elementary school enrollment was dropping fast. There were five elementary school buildings to keep up and not enough students to fill them. It was an agonizing decision, but the Ashland School Board first closed Briscoe Elementary School in 2003 and then Lincoln Elementary School in 2005.

Now…something different

Colorful, creative yard art at 302 Beach Street, next to Lincoln School.

Do you recognize the “Fortmiller” name?

Up the street a bit, I met someone with a name that Ashland “old-timer” readers will recognize: Fortmiller.  I met Lisa Beach (formerly Lisa Fortmiller), owner of the now-closed A Midsummer’s Dream Bed & Breakfast at 496 Beach Street.  Her parents owned Fortmillers Department Store in downtown Ashland, at the current location of Earthly Goods.  She remembers being able to pick her favorite clothes off the racks as a child.

This house at 496 Beach Street was an early farm house for this area.

Lisa left Ashland for 35 years, then moved back and ran the beautiful B&B for 15 years.  The B&B had been created in 2001 by restoring a 1901 Victorian farm house where the family that owned the old Beach Street farm/orchard had lived.

Some things change…like historic houses being altered beyond recognition (sad face) or being renovated to restore their historical look (happy face).

Some things don’t change…like Lisa (Fortmiller) Beach still having the same reserved seats at Ashland High School football games that have been in her family for 50 years.

Garden highlight

Here is a garden highlight of the 2018 walk — beautiful daffodils, which the deer have left alone for us to enjoy.

I hope you have enjoyed this story.  Please sign up to receive an email each time I post a new story as I walk every street in Ashland.

I will close with a poem I wrote about Beach Street.

Beach Street

Beach Street is not by the sand
or even near the beach.

Named after Ashland pioneer
Henry Beach Carter, it is near
Southern Oregon University,
where thousands of students – and
their teacher/mentors – share
with Beach Street residents and the community
inspiring music, art, sports and learning.

To the north, Beach Street ends at
Siskiyou Boulevard and
Ashland High School,
where young actors, athletes and adults
are shaped and forged.

To the south, Beach Street ends at the
Siskiyou Mountain range,
where mountain hikers and mountain bikers
find a paradise to explore.

Actors, doctors, students, families, business people
and more all share Beach Street with
deer, bears, raccoons and
massive trees full of squirrels and jays.

Peter Finkle   April 7, 2018

References:
National Register of Historic Places, Siskiyou-Hargadine Historic District, September 14, 2002.
Squire, Jennifer. “So long, Lincoln,” Ashland Daily Tidings, May 27, 2005.

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 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).

Mystery of the Peerless Hotel Marbles

The Peerless Hotel marbles (photo by Peter Finkle)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OAK STREET TANK & STEEL: An Ashland family business since 1912

Painting of Oak Street Tank & Steel by Dorothy Nugent

In The Beginning…

To understand Oak Street Tank & Steel, you have to go back to the beginning of time
(well, Ashland time, anyway).  

In the year 1852, Abel Helman and Eber Emery were the first settlers to claim land along Ashland Creek. The two friends from Ohio had tried, and failed, to find gold together in California.  As a fallback, they used their carpentry skills to start a business, as they built the first sawmill in Southern Oregon on the creek.

Helman is remembered today by the names of Helman Street and Helman School.  I will tell you much more about Abel Helman when I write about the Ashland Plaza.  Emery hosted Ashland’s first school classes in his home.  Keep an eye out for his name later in this article in connection with Oak Street Tank & Steel.

Two years later, in 1854, Helman and Emery built a flourmill.  These two mills formed the nucleus of the brand new town of 23 people then called Ashland Mills.  

Founding of the Business

Ashland, Park Garage (original business name for Oak Street Tank)
Park Garage 1915 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)

Fast-forward 60 years from the beginning of Ashland.  In 1912, the business now called Oak Street Tank & Steel began life as the Park Garage, founded by Sim Morris.   In the 1915 photo above, Sim Morris is the man on the right wearing a tall hat.  

If you had wanted to find Sim at the Park Garage in 1915, you would have walked across the street from the newly developed Lithia Park, which had its “Grand Opening” in 1916.  This address (now 51 Winburn Way) housed the Ashland Hillah Temple for decades, and is now home of Ashland’s Community Development department.  

In 1925, Sim Morris and his son Harry moved the business to a brand new building at 101 Oak Street. First called Oak Street Garage, it later became Oak Street Tank & Steel (AKA Oak Street Tank), a name they have kept through two additional moves.  

At 101 Oak Street, Sim and Harry expanded the business beyond auto repair to include a blacksmith and machine shop.  They finally found their niche in 1938 when they started making steel tanks, which they have now been doing for 80 years through many generations of the Morris family. 

Ashland, Oak Street Tank
(photo courtesy of Oak Street Tank & Steel)

The building at 101 Oak Street is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Long-time Ashlanders may remember it as the site of Pioneer Glass & Cabinet from 1953 to 1996.  It is now the site of popular brewpub Standing Stone Brewing Company.  

In 1945 they needed more room for their growing tank business, so Harry moved Oak Street Tank a short distance to a block-long building at the corner of A Street and Oak Street.  This building is still often called the Oak Street Tank building, even though the business moved out 18 years ago.  Next to the railroad tracks, the location was perfect for the expanding business that sent and received products by rail as well as by truck.

Harry Morris married the great-granddaughter of Ashland founder Eber Emery.  Harry’s son Gene Morris ran the company for decades.  It is now managed by Gene’s son Jim Morris and his daughter Chris Decker.  That makes Chris’ son Nick, who works in the business, the 5thgeneration family member (and a 6thgeneration Ashlander) to work at Oak Street Tank & Steel! 

Fascinating fact: Oak Street Tank is the third oldest business in Ashland, after the Ashland Daily Tidings (since 1876) and the Ashland Greenhouse (since 1906)  

The A Street location had been a successful fruit packing plant for Ashland’s orchards for many years. In the early 1900’s, each year hundreds of train cars full of peaches, apples, pears and other fruit would leave Ashland from that building for sale around the country.

Oak Street Tank Products

Ashland, Oak Street Tank
(photo of aluminum boat courtesy of Oak Street Tank & Steel)

Oak Street Tank stayed in business by adapting to the times.  They made many products through the years in addition to tanks: aluminum hulled boats (photo above), “wigwam” burners for local lumber mills, steam cleaners, steel boxes, bomb shelters, and more.  

Yes…even bomb shelters!

During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Cave Junction resident Art Robinson exhibited at State and County fairs, where he found a market of “preppers” who wanted to purchase bomb shelters.  He contracted with Oak Street Tank to make the shelters for him.  Gene Morris’ daughter Sharon told me she estimated about 50 of them were made for Art, both a basic 8′ by 15′ size and a larger 9′ by 24′ size.  

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of an Oak Street Tank bomb shelter, but here are photos of some of their other unusual products.

Ashland, Oak Street Tank
(brochure courtesy of Oak Street Tank & Steel)

As company office manager Chris (Morris) Decker was showing me some company historical documents, this brochure (date unknown) jumped out at me.  Look at the “Sunmate,” described in the brochure as “The First Aluminum Surf-Paddleboard in America.”  Do you see in the description: “For added sport – use a sail.”?   Yes, the Oak Street Tank surf-paddleboard could even be used for windsurfing! 

Modern windsurfing was invented in the 1960’s and took off in the 1980’s, when it became an Olympic sport for the first time in 1984.  The brochure states that Oak Street Tank has been building aluminum watercraft since 1937. Could this old-fashioned steel tank company in Ashland have been a pioneer in both windsurfing and SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard)?  

Ashland, Oak Street Tank
(photo courtesy of Oak Street Tank & Steel)

Chris (Morris) Decker told me this photo (date unknown) was taken in Ashland.  Based on the clothing people in the photo are wearing, my guess is the early 1950’s.  

Do you recognize the purpose of the white machine on wheels?  Chris said it’s a coin collection box for the City of Ashland parking department.  Oak Street Tank made the steel box that holds the coins.

Ashland, Oak Street Tank, Wigwam burner
(photo courtesy of Oak Street Tank & Steel)

This is one of the “wigwam burners” built of steel by Oak Street Tank.  It looks like it must be 50 feet tall.  They were used at lumber mills to dispose of wood scrap by burning.  The heavy (unfiltered) smoke that came out of the top was gradually recognized as a health hazard.  The last wigwam burners (also called beehive burners or teepee burners) were shut down in Oregon in the 1980’s for health and environmental reasons.  

Some Family Stories

When I interviewed Sharon (Morris) Laskos and her husband Ed for this article, she shared with me some family stories and old newspaper articles the family has kept.

Gene Morris (Sharon’s father) started welding at the company when he was 13 years old and later ran the company for decades.

Gayle Morris (Sharon’s aunt) started working at the old Oak Street Garage when she was 15 years old. She said: “I did anything they needed done.  I would meet with customers or run to the post office.”  After her high school graduation in 1946, she ran the office for the next 50 years!  That is dedication to a family business.

Sharon told me that as children, she and her four siblings would separate scrap metal at the company or help out in the office to make some spending money.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

How many more years, and how many more generations, can Oak Street Tank stay in business?  Based on their history, I think we would have to live a long, long time to find out!

Ashland, Oak Street Tank
This is the current home of Oak Street Tank & Steel on Jefferson Avenue,
part of a small industrial area in southern Ashland.

References:

Interview with Sharon (Morris) Laskos and Ed Laskos, September 24, 2018.

Interview with Sharon (Morris) Laskos and Ed Laskos, September 24, 2018.

Interview with Chris (Morris) Decker, December 10, 2018.

Kaltenbach, Jacob. “Oak Street Tank & Steel,” Lithiagraph, October 1993.

Nishball, Shirley Bender. “Firm has long history in Ashland,” Ashland Daily Tidings, June 15, 1989.

Panebaker, Alan. “Change keeps businesses constant,” Ashland Daily Tidings, June 14, 2006.

Watson, Louise. “Morris marks 50 years at Ashland firm,” Ashland Daily Tidings, January 21, 1995.

Liberty Street Walk

How can Liberty Street start and end at Siskiyou?

I walked Liberty Street on a windy, partly cloudy afternoon in April 2018.  Liberty Street has an Ashland Tree of the Year, architecture from historic to modern, not just one but two “Little Free Libraries,” and access to Ashland’s extensive trail system.

Here’s how Liberty Street can start and end at Siskiyou — it goes from Siskiyou Boulevard to the Siskiyou Mountain Range. 

You’ll find tiny Triangle Park where Liberty meets Siskiyou Blvd.

Triangle Park

Triangle Park

Triangle Park tends to be quiet.  You might see high school students eating lunch in the charming gazebo during the school year, or young people walking slack lines attached to the posts in the park.  The one day Triangle Park comes alive with a “boom” and a “bang” is the 4th of July.  When Ashland’s huge Independence Day celebration rolls around, parade headquarters is at Triangle Park.  It becomes a beehive of organizers, marching band members and honored guests ranging from locals, to Oregon’s U.S. Senators, to our Sister-City Queen and city council members from Guanajuato, Mexico.

A few steps from the park, you will see a historic bungalow-style house built in 1910, called the Grubbs Rental House.  There are many historic houses on Liberty Street, but this simple one caught my eye to share with you.

Historic 1910 bungalow

Lovely Garden and Healing Massage

At the corner of Alaska Street, Joseph and Janie enlisted some of their friends to turn a large lot into a beautiful cooperative vegetable and fruit garden.  Let’s see how many of the fruits in their garden I can remember: cherries, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries.  Yes, they like berries.  Sorry, they are not for public consumption!

Joseph and Janie are both massage therapists with the business name Advanced Myotherapy.  Janie also teaches Eden Energy Medicine all over the world, but I have benefited from her healing skills in both massage and energy medicine, without going any farther than Liberty Street.

They have the most amazing camellia bush I have seen in my life, and I have seen many.  Is it still a “bush” when it’s two stories tall?  The dramatic two-story camellia is hard to see from the street, so I am including photos of it here for you.

Anyone who walks or drives on Liberty Street will remember this colorful house.

Some people love it and some think it sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m in the “love it” camp. Traditional neighborhoods where all homes are built in the same style or similar colors can be aesthetically pleasing. But there is freshness that comes with variety, and Liberty Street has variety.

I would like to point out the beautiful, colorful tulip garden in the front yard of this colorful house.  Notice the deer fence, without which the tulip garden would not exist.

Short Ashland Deer Rant

I may go on a rant about the Ashland deer from time to time as I write my Walk Ashland articles.  The number of plants that Ashland deer do not eat seems to be shrinking from year to year.  For example, the first 15 years I lived in Ashland, the deer did not touch the Hypericum in my front yard.  Now they eat it regularly.  At least rosemary, lavender, daffodils and iris seem to be safe for the present.

Little Free Library

A few steps up the street, I came to the first of two “Little Free Library” stands on Liberty Street.  This book sharing movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin placed the first Little Free Library in his front yard.  There are now over 65,000 registered Little Free Libraries in over 80 countries around the world!  (And many more not registered with the official group.)  Ashland has at least six in total.  I will find them all as I walk every street in town.

Little Free Library

Dramatic Trees

Liberty St is home to two striking trees that caught my eye.  The first, at 391 Liberty St., is Ashland’s 2001 Tree of the Year.  Each year residents nominate favorite trees around town, the Tree Commission narrows the selection to a few, and then residents vote for their top choice.  The 2001 choice is a majestic Blue Atlas Cedar.  My photo through the electric wires doesn’t do it justice.  You have to see it for yourself.

Blue Atlas Cedar, Ashland Tree of the Year 2001

The other tree, toward the top of Liberty, is a very unusual Ponderosa pine.  Before this, every Ponderosa pine I have ever seen was straight as an arrow, reaching for the sky.  Not this one.  It forks, and then forks again.  With tall trees, I have read that a lightning strike can destroy the crown of the tree and lead to a forked top as the tree strives to continue growing. This tree looks like it just decided to be different.

Ponderosa pine near top of Liberty St

Here is a close-up of the forked section of the Ponderosa pine.  Does anyone have an explanation how or why this tree is so different?  If you do, please leave a note in the comments.

Ponderosa pine near top of Liberty St

Architecture Old and New

Ascending Liberty Street, I took photos of two houses with contrasting architectural styles.  This is another example of the variety of houses on Liberty.  If you like traditional, here is one for you – on the 500 block.

If you prefer modern, you might like to view this one on the 600 block.

If you love bedtime stories, this one might be more to your liking.

“The Road Goes Ever On and On”

Finally, arriving at the top of Liberty Street, you have the option to leave the city streets for the world of trails.  From here, you can connect with a variety of trails and forest service roads that will take you almost anywhere.

End of Liberty Street, Ashland – start of mountain trails

As Bilbo said to Frodo in Lord of the Rings: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

From the top of Liberty Street, as well as from many other streets in Ashland, you can follow trails to the top of Mt. Ashland. If you are really swept off your feet, you could end up walking all the way to Canada or Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I hope you have enjoyed walking Liberty Street with me.  Stay tuned for the next installment.

Beach Street walk 2018 — Meet the “Beach Street bear”

by Peter Finkle

In addition to highlights of my Beach Street walk, you will read stories here about my up-close and personal encounter with the “Beach Street bear” and about the humans of Beach Street whom I encountered during my walk. Here is a sight that I believe is unique to Beach Street.

Beach Street Unique

Beach Street has imposing trees, interesting people, a former elementary school with a large open space, and proximity to many of the pleasures of Ashland.

This is my first “Walk Ashland” blog post, and it is about Beach Street.  Why?  Because I have lived on Beach Street for 27 years.

Walking Beach Street on Saturday April 7, 2018, here is what I saw and heard, people I met, plus garden, nature, animal, historical and architectural highlights.

Beach Street starts at Siskiyou Blvd and ends uphill at the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains. You’ll find a mix of modest homes, large homes, apartments and condos as you walk Beach Street.  The street has open space at Lincoln School, plus many large Ponderosa pines, firs and oaks.

The “Beach Street Bear”

I saw five deer on my walk, but more interesting than deer is the “Beach Street bear,” which even had its photo in the Ashland Daily Tidings in 2006.  I have two “Beach Street bear” stories to tell you here.

The sad story involves a black bear and a beautiful large orange koi fish (see photo below taken by our neighbor in May 2015).  The bear was doing what bears love to do…go fishing, in this case in my backyard pond.

“Beach Street bear” with a koi

A Warm Summer Evening Bear Encounter

My other bear story was dramatic in a different way.  On a warm summer evening in 2006 shortly after the Daily Tidings article, I was stretched out in a lounge chair in my back yard reading the newspaper.  Our cuddly, chunky female cat GG was stretched out half-asleep next to me.  Ah, a nice relaxing Ashland summer evening.

Suddenly I saw a 5′ tall, 200 pound or so black bear climb over the low side-yard fence 35 feet away from me – way too close – and it was no longer a relaxing summer evening.  I stood up, holding the newspaper.  Then the bear saw me.  It stood up. GG-cat took off running back to the house cat door faster than she had ever run in her entire life.  My wife happened to be at the screen door nearest the bear when it appeared, so she started yelling at the bear. Meanwhile, I backed away slowly, newspaper in hand.

Fortunately, the bear was as afraid of us as we were of it, so it shot up the nearest tree.  After looking around from its perch ten feet up, it decided to leave, and lumbered off through two neighbors’ yards to Liberty Street and presumably uphill to the forest.

My Neighbor Brad’s Bear Story

Speaking of bears, during my walk I met my neighbor Brad as he was “playing with rocks,” – as he put it – building a no-mortar rock retaining wall.  We were discussing how all of upper Beach Street a century ago was likely a farm and orchard.  He told me about his old cherry and apple trees, and then declared his frustration with a bear that keeps crushing his chain-link fence in order to get in and enjoy the cherries each summer.

Nina’s Angels

Changing the subject from bears to angels, I met Nina as I was admiring her front yard full of angel sculptures.

Nina told me a “small world” story.  Decades ago, she worked as an intern for six months at Presidio Hill School in San Francisco.  When her new neighbor moved in recently, they found something in common.  The new neighbor had followed Nina as an intern at Presidio Hill School, but then stayed on the staff for 40 years…before retiring to Ashland, right next door to Nina!

Nina lives near Lincoln School, which was built in 1926.  The elementary school was originally used for the teacher training program at Southern Oregon State Normal School (now SOU) one block away. Due to declining elementary school enrollment, Lincoln was closed in 2006, but is still owned by the school district.

Lincoln School

On the edge of the Lincoln School grounds, I saw two young men with a slack line tied between two trees. I stopped to talk, and found out that Bryant was teaching his friend David how to walk a slack line.

Bryant teaching Dave how to walk the slack line

Do You Recognize the “Fortmiller” Name?

Up the street a bit, I met someone with a name that Ashland “old-timer” readers will recognize: Fortmiller.  I met Lisa Beach (formerly Lisa Fortmiller), the owner of A Midsummer’s Dream Bed & Breakfast at 496 Beach Street.  Her parents owned Fortmillers Department Store in downtown Ashland, at the current location of Earthly Goods.  She remembers being able to pick her favorite clothes off the racks as a child.

A Midsummer’s Dream B&B on Beach Street

Lisa left Ashland for 35 years, then moved back to run the beautiful B&B.  The five bedrooms are all charming.  Each comes with a marble fireplace, a relaxing spa tub and an elegant glass block shower.  The B&B was created in 2001 by restoring a 1901 Victorian farm house where the family that owned the old Beach Street farm/orchard had lived.

Some things change…like the old farm house becoming a new B&B.

Some things don’t change…like Lisa (Fortmiller) Beach still having the same reserved seats at Ashland High School football games that have been in her family for 50 years.

Garden Highlight

Here is my favorite garden highlight of the walk, beautiful daffodils, which the deer have left alone for us to enjoy.

I hope you have enjoyed this story.  Please sign up to receive an email each time I post a new story as I walk every street in Ashland.

I will close with a poem I wrote about Beach Street.

Beach Street

Beach Street is not by the sand
or even near the beach.

Named after Ashland pioneer
Henry Beach Carter, it is near
Southern Oregon University,
where thousands of students – and
their teacher/mentors – share
with Beach Street residents and the community
inspiring music, art, sports and learning.

To the north, Beach Street ends at
Siskiyou Boulevard and
Ashland High School,
where young actors, athletes and adults
are shaped and forged.

To the south, Beach Street ends at the
Siskiyou Mountain range,
where mountain hikers and mountain bikers
find a paradise to explore.

Actors, doctors, students, families, business people
and more all share Beach Street with
deer, bears, raccoons and
massive trees full of squirrels and jays.

Peter Finkle   April 7, 2018