Fordyce Street: from sawmills to art!

Fence murals? Yes!
(Learn about the artists)
Yard art? Yes!
43 photos!
Ashland Neighborhood Art series.

“There’s a 25’ long multi-colored Jellyfish on Fordyce Street!” That’s the email message I got from a friend who reads my Walk Ashland articles. No, we don’t have a new aquarium on Fordyce Street, but we do have a jellyfish. My friend proved it to me with attached photos. Here’s one for you.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Overview of the Jellyfish mural on Fordyce Street, painted by J. Mike Kuhn. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I went to Fordyce Street to investigate, what I found surprised me.

Art and Community

I have recently been writing many articles about art in Ashland. The Fordyce Street mural artists with whom I spoke believe in the power of visual art to elicit smiles, to bring people together, even to change lives for the better. They believe, as I do, that art within the community is important. Going to an art museum is a rare experience for most people, and a “never” experience for many. On the other hand, driving or bicycling or walking around our community is an everyday experience for almost everyone.

Artist J. Mike Kuhn echoed what I have heard from many other Ashland artists, when he told me: “It’s so cool how we can connect and inspire others. I may never get to meet some of the people that I inspire, but I think it’s interesting that you can really do that.”

Not just one fence mural

I found the 25’ jellyfish; it’s a mural painted on a fence. It is hard to miss! Then I started walking around the neighborhood and pretty soon I had a photographic collection of not two, not three, but six colorful fence murals, along with creative yard art and other beautiful sights.

As I was walking back to my car, I stopped to look once again at the longest fence mural of all. This was at 573 Fordyce Street. At that moment, in a small example of the “WalkAshland serendipity” I experience again and again, the homeowner Peter Paul Montague and his daughter came out of their front door. As they were about to get in their car, I said “Hello” and introduced myself.  I asked him if he knew who painted the mural on his fence, and he replied, “I did.” He was on his way to pick up another child, so we agreed to meet another time for an interview. Before I tell you about the artists, here are some other highlights of Fordyce Street.

Let’s begin our Fordyce Street walk at the corner of East Main Street 

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
This street sign marks the south end of Fordyce Street, where it meets East Main Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

At its south end, Fordyce Street meets East Main Street. To the north, it ends after about six blocks at private property that overlooks and extends to Bear Creek. If you want to reach a trail to North Mountain Park from here, turn left on Munson Drive, right onto Village Square Drive, and keep an eye out for the trail that leads into the park.

Ashland as a mill town?

As I started my walk, I met Denise, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1980. She described Fordyce Street of that time as a gravel road with only six or seven houses along it. She remembers a sawmill wigwam burner still present in the neighborhood, a magnet for young boys to play in, though the sawmills had all closed. In the photo below, you can see a wigwam burner in the background that was at another sawmill just a couple blocks away.

Sawmill, Ashland Oregon
Lithia Lumber Mill at 1155 East Main Street, which is now the site of the Ashland Police Station. The mill operated from the 1940s to the 1960s under three different names. (photo from “An Introduction to History of the Rogue Valley: with a focus on the Ashland area,” December 2012 edition.)

Most people who have moved to Ashland during the past 40 years don’t know that Ashland was a mill town not so long ago. There were at least nine sawmills operating here during the mid-20th century.

Sawmill, Ashland Oregon
Taylor Brothers Mill on Hersey Street, now site of the Hersey Street Business Park, open 1947 to 1960, (photo from “An Introduction to History of the Rogue Valley: with a focus on the Ashland area,” December 2012 edition.)

The Oregon Sawmill site was along Fordyce Street from 1956 to 1967. Lithia Lumber Mill had been located two blocks away, where the Ashland Police Station is now, from the 1940s to the 1960s. A third sawmill called Workman Mill was across East Main Street from the early 1950s to early 1960s. Now you know why the college student housing located at its former site is called Old Mill Village. 

Creative art along Fordyce Street

In addition to beautiful murals, I found other creative and interesting art to share on our walk from the south end to the north end of Fordyce Street. 

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
This is a beautiful slate or stone fence on Fordyce Street at Calypso Court. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Detail of a beautiful slate or stone fence on Fordyce Street at Calypso Court. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
And now, a word from a local comedian. Morgue gallows humor? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Here is some Fordyce Street art in metal and wood, designed by Kerry KenCairn. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
This gate on Kirk Lane is metal art at the same house that has the large metal and wood artworks around the corner on Fordyce Street. This gate is also by Kerry KenCairn. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Right across the street from this metal and wood gate is a colorful gate painted by Peter Paul Montague, who also painted the fence on both sides of the gate.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Gate detail of the Sol LeWitt inspired mural on Kirk Lane by the corner of Fordyce Street, painted by Peter Paul Montague. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Another artistic gate on Fordyce Street. This one was designed by Mardi Stone. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

This house at 540 Fordyce Street has several creative artworks that I stopped to admire.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
540 Fordyce Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
This fascinating sculpture and stained glass is at 540 Fordyce Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Detail photo of a fascinating sculpture and stained glass at 540 Fordyce Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
I like the artistry of this fence at 540 Fordyce Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
More creativity at 540 Fordyce Street. This design of pavers is in the driveway. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
This yard art on Fordyce Street is exceptional. Somehow it combines simplicity, complexity, cuteness and cleverness in one humble jumble of driftwood and stones. I love it. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Fordyce Street, Ashland
520 Fordyce Street. This house replaced one that burned in a fire September 2018. A neighbor out walking her dog told me the first floor walls of the new house are made with straw bale construction. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
What’s cuter: the saying or the statue? What’s wiser: the saying or the tree? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Coming to the north end of Fordyce Street, with Bear Creek below and Grizzly Peak above. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
When I saw this old fence and the old tree stump beside it, I couldn’t figure out whether to call it art or nature. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Introducing the mural artists

Peter Paul Montague painted five geometric murals. J. Mike Kuhn painted the dramatic jellyfish mural. I interviewed both Peter Paul Montague and J. Mike Kuhn so I could do justice to their artwork and their artistic stories.

Peter Paul Montague’s artistic background

Before Montague entered his current profession of nursing, he supported himself for many years as a craft artisan, batiking on organic cotton clothing. 

He had played with paints as a child, but didn’t get serious about art until after graduating from college with a degree in Sociology. During a one month hiking trip in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, he learned about batik art from a friend who had trained in Kenya. Spending a summer travelling with his friend, Montague learned the basics of the East-African Batik tradition.   Montague would spend the next 14 years making and selling Batik clothing as Nakupenda Batik.  He focused on sustainable practices, using only organic cotton clothing, beeswax, and specializing in natural indigo dye.

Here is an example of a Peter Paul Montague batik shirt. (photo courtesy of Wendy Eppinger)

Made from the Indigo plant, this natural dye has been used for thousands of years. Note however that blue jeans and most other indigo dyed clothing are now made from synthetic indigo dye. Montague’s largest batik art was a 9′ by 9′ wall hanging, but what put food on his table for many years was his batik clothing.

“Philadelphia, where I grew up, is full of public art.”

Peter Paul Montague

“I grew up with public art,” he told me. His hometown of Philadelphia is known as the City of Murals. According to their website, “Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. Mural Arts has created over 4,000 works of public art through innovative collaborations with community-based organizations, city agencies, nonprofit organizations, schools, the private sector, and philanthropies.”

He was inspired and influenced by…

When I walked Fordyce Street with Peter Paul Montague, he told me the names of two artists who influenced his mural painting style. Sol LeWitt inspired him to experiment with bold colors and geometric designs on large “canvases” (such as fences). Isaiah Zagar, mosaic artist in the Philadelphia South Street neighborhood, inspired him to be imaginative.

Here’s an example of one of LeWitt’s large pieces.

Sol LeWitt mural
A mural by Sol LeWitt at Columbus Circle Station, New York City. (photo from Wikimedia Commons, 2017)

Here’s a peek at Zagar’s mosaic work in Philadelphia. 

Isaiah Zagar Magic Gardens
A detail from Isaiah Zagar Magic Gardens, 1020 South Street, Philadelphia. (photo from Wikimedia Commons, 2012)

Peter Paul Montague’s murals and process

“My goal is for people to feel movement when they view the paintings, even though they are static.”

Peter Paul Montague
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Overview of the Sol LeWitt inspired mural on Kirk Lane by the corner of Fordyce Street, painted by Peter Paul Montague. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

The first fence he painted was his long fence along Kirk Lane, with a boldness and color palette inspired by Sol LeWitt’s work. The long fence provided 60′ to work with. He created outlines for the curves using string and a pivot point, and filled in the outlines with high quality wood stains to provide color.

His property has a LOT of fence, and his second painting was done on a continuation of the first long painted fence. In this one, he got more creative with his shapes and chose a theme of “circle and waves” for the mural. 

A neighbor volunteered his fence for Montague’s third fence painting. This attractive art has a new theme: “rivers and mountains.” You’ll notice a variety of blues and greens for the flowing river and browns and reds for the stylized mountains. 

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Overview of the “rivers and mountains” themed mural on Fordyce Street, painted by Peter Paul Montague. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Montague shared some of his in-process design and painting photos with me. It is fascinating to see glimpses of how it was created.

Another neighbor liked the designs so much that they asked if he would collaborate with them to create a design for their fence. The result has a theme of “interlocking circles.” Notice how each band of color changes as it moves from one circle to the next. That really impressed me.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Overview of the “interlocking circles” themed mural on Fordyce Street, painted by Peter Paul Montague. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Detail of the “interlocking circles” themed mural on Fordyce Street, painted by Peter Paul Montague. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Finally, there is a smaller design in Montague’s front yard. He called it a “color study,” since he experimented with color blending by using a second, dry brush to create subtle gradations of color.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Overview of the “color study” themed mural on Fordyce Street, painted by Peter Paul Montague. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Jellyfish mural by J. Mike Kuhn

It’s not often that one sees a 25’ long jellyfish in Ashland. Unless of course you live in the Fordyce Street neighborhood! This fence mural was painted by local artist and graphic designer J. Mike Kuhn in 2020. 

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Overview of the Jellyfish mural on Fordyce Street, painted by J. Mike Kuhn. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“I thought it would be cool to donate a more permanent mural to the town. A lot of my other work has been painting murals on vehicles, 13 or 14 since I moved to Ashland.”

J. Mike Kuhn

Why a jellyfish?

Kuhn grew up in New Jersey, where he would spend summers at the Jersey Shore. If you spend time on his website, you will see the themes of ocean and wave and flow. You will see many colorful artistic versions of the creatures who live under the waves. 

His brand name is FEEESH, a play on words. Playful yet serious. 

Mike told me that FEEESH stands for “Forever Energetically Entering Endeavors Spreading Happiness.” 

How many people are able to capture in six words not only their approach to art, but also their aspiration for a life well lived and their desire to uplift others in the community? I gained a tremendous respect for this young man when I took a few minutes to consider seriously his eccentric brand name.

Making the jellyfish mural

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Here is the Jellyfish mural in-process, prep work done on the fence but before painting. (photo courtesy of J. Mike Kuhn)

Kuhn described many layers of meaning in the design and execution of this jellyfish. With bamboo growing behind the fence, he wanted the light green base of the mural to emulate and blend with the ever-changing greens of bamboo leaves reflecting the sun. In addition, the flowing jellyfish blends with the flowing nature of bamboo moving in the wind.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Here is the Jellyfish mural in-process, early in the painting. (photo courtesy of J. Mike Kuhn)

A deeper conceptual thought embodied in the mural was inspired by Xavi, a mural artist Kuhn worked with and learned from in 2019 (see more about Xavi below). Kuhn sees the jellyfish coming out of tumultuous times, as expressed in the color selection and design on the left end of the mural, and going in to a calmer area.  

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Here is the Jellyfish mural in-process, as darker green paint is being applied. (photo courtesy of J. Mike Kuhn)

On the first day, he painted the entire background. The larger light green section received one coat to age faster and the multiple hue section was double coated to endure longer. On the second day, he painted the jellyfish using mostly darker tones of spray paint in order to last longer against sun fading and to offer stronger contrast.

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Closer view of the Jellyfish mural on Fordyce Street, painted by J. Mike Kuhn. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

From the beginning, he thought about the life of the mural. He pointed out how light moves across the mural throughout each day. It gets full sun in the morning, then partial sun, then full shade late afternoon. Because of the full sun, he expects the light green paint to fade more quickly than the spray paint. Over time, the wood’s natural grain will begin to show through the light green paint around the jellyfish, and the relationship of the jellyfish to the fence will gradually change. Seeing the wood’s natural grain in this mural will also reference the nearby murals by Peter Paul Montague, who used stain colors that allow the underlying wood grain to become part of the design.

Here is an artist’s detail I would not have noticed. The gray color in the jellyfish is actually chrome spray paint, not gray. Chrome is basically a gray color, but it reflects more sunshine to add a bit of shimmer on sunny mornings. As the day goes on, it becomes a normal flat gray color.  

Fordyce Street, Ashland Oregon
Artist at work. J. Mike Kuhn is shown painting the Jellyfish mural. (photo by Emily Dunckle, courtesy of J. Mike Kuhn)

The neighborhood mural artists meet

As Kuhn was working on his jellyfish mural, Montague (who lives a block away) stopped by to watch and talk. Kuhn appreciated this, and added, “I was lucky enough to give him a compliment in person, since I love his pieces. I think they’re beautifully sophisticated and so well executed. I thought I had to do a good job just to do justice to his work.” 

I asked Kuhn, “When did you become an artist?”

“That police officer is one of the reasons I am now a professional artist!”

J. Mike Kuhn

“I’ve been creating with paints or Legos since before I knew it was a thing,” he replied. “When I was in high school, I had a legal issue because some friends and I painted the entire inside of a large warehouse [illegally]. During a terrifying interrogation, a police officer’s advice to me was that I had talent and I was wasting my time breaking into places doing art for free. I should go to school for this. At the time, I was planning to go to college for chemistry, since I was fascinated with science. That police officer is one of the reasons I am now a professional artist!”

After high school, Kuhn went to a local community college for graphic design. He followed up by attending and graduating from an intensely competitive arts college in Manhattan, the School of Visual Arts. Exceptionally artistic students from all across the world go there to study advertising, design, fine arts and more.  

He has done hundreds of patterns as a graphic artist working for companies as well as working on his own. He creates patterns and designs art for hammocks, chairs, t-shirts, shoes and more.

He was inspired and influenced by…

“Have an intention behind each stroke.

Xavi Panneton

Internationally known, local mural artist Xavi Panneton took nine months to paint the entire exterior of the Kids Unlimited building in Medford during 2019. While assisting Panneton with the main entrance area, Kuhn was deeply influenced by Panneton’s art and his mentoring. 

Kids Unlimited, Medford Oregon
The entire Kids Unlimited building in Medford was painted as a mural by Xavi Panneton. J. Mike Kuhn assisted him with part of it. (photo from Kids Unlimited website)

“Working with him for a couple months was unbelievable. I remember asking him about my work at the time. He said, ‘Your studio work looks like you’re doing it illegally [rushed].’ Xavi was the one who taught me to slow down. He gave me the most amazing line: ‘Have an intention behind each stroke.’ Now with my paintings I try to think about the color interactions. He even influenced how I speak about my work.” 

Cannabis aficionado, food lover, BMX rider

Kuhn came originally to Southern Oregon to work a few months during the marijuana harvest season, which provided some income to help him focus on art the rest of the year. While here, he began to make friends with people who were creating art and supporting art. I was surprised when he told me why he decided to move here. “The reason I really stayed and moved here was the food. The food in this area is exceptional. You can’t go to a food store in New Jersey and get what you can at the Food Coop. Between the agricultural diversity and the natural beauty of this area, I couldn’t resist moving here.”

He added: “I’m also a BMX rider, so I really enjoy the skate parks in this area. It’s kind of a unique thing in the country that Oregon has such large skate parks. You couldn’t legally build a skate park like you have in Oregon in New Jersey, because of insurance laws. For me, it’s a treat to be able to ride these big cement sculptures, basically. That’s actually where I’ve met at least half of the owners of buses I have painted.”  

“I was 25 when I first saw the Milky Way. In New Jersey you can count the stars. Now seeing the Milky Way most nights blows my mind. To me, it’s such a treat.”

J. Mike Kuhn

When he gets homesick

Most of Kuhn’s family still lives in New Jersey. He gets homesick for them sometimes. I laughed when he told me what he does. “I go to Jersey Mike’s when I’m feeling homesick, because the photos in the Jersey Mike’s shop are of my mom’s neighborhood.”

Art in the Ashland economy

Large gatherings in Ashland have been shut down for nearly a year as this article is being written. With no clear end in sight, there has been much discussion about how to diversify Ashland’s economy to depend less on the economic power of Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). It’s not a matter of “instead of OSF,” since I believe we will always have OSF here. It is definitely a matter of “in addition to OSF.”  

Artist J. Mike Kuhn put it to me this way. “I think personally the town needs to invest more in visual arts. In times of fire and other awful situations [like COVID-19], you can’t always have performance art, but visual arts will always stand. A mural is still enjoyable in the smoke, or when people are limited to walking around their neighborhood.”

He expanded his vision of the impact of visual arts to include not only tourists, but also the children who grow up here. “I see this town as developing into even more of an arts community. If we did more street murals and things like that, I think it would be a great space for children to grow up. I try to inspire kids with the idea that you can do something cool. You can change your community.”   

Finally, why the name Fordyce Street?

Usually I have no idea why a street was given its particular name. In the case of Fordyce Street, we have a story from a man who wrote a booklet in 1951 about Ashland street names. According to the author Henry C. Galey, he named Fordyce St. in memory of Asa G. Fordyce, who came to Ashland with his family in 1853. Fordyce got a 320 acre donation land claim along Bear Creek, including what is now North Mountain Park and the Fordyce Street neighborhood. Fordyce sold his land to Frank Carter in the late 1880s and it became part of the Carter Land Company cattle operation. 

Fordyce Street, Ashland
Asa G. Fordyce photo. (from the Find a Grave website)

Asa Fordyce was well respected in the community. As evidence, here is a story about the first elected school board in Ashland. School classes were first taught in Ashland in 1854 at Eber Emery’s house, with Miss Lizzie Anderson the teacher. This informal arrangement continued until April 3, 1857, when the small community held a meeting to elect three school directors and a clerk for the just-formed Jackson County School District No. 5. John P. Walker (for whom Walker School and Walker Street are named) was chosen, along with Asa G. Fordyce and Bennett Million, while Robert B. Hargadine was the clerk.

If you would like to learn how a three-year-old was responsible for the creation of School District No. 5 in 1857, please read this article. 

I hope you have enjoyed my article about Fordyce Street and its beautiful murals. If you would like to read other articles about artwork in Ashland, here are a couple of suggestions. 

References:

Anon. “An Introduction to History of the Rogue Valley: with a focus on the Ashland area.” North Mountain Park Nature Center Brochure. Version 4, Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, December 2012. 
https://www.ashland.or.us/Files/HistoryBackgroundBookWeb1-3-13.pdf

Darling, John. “Fire strikes twice,” Medford Mail Tribune, September 26, 2018.

Galey, Henry C. with Geo. W. Dunn and Rose D. Galey. “Information on Ashland Streets, April 5, 1951,” at SOU Hannon Library. 

Kids Unlimited website, accessed February 27, 2021.
https://kuoregon.org/mural/

Kuhn, J. Mike. Interview and personal communications, October 2020 and other dates.

Montague, Peter Paul. Interview and personal communications, October 2020 and other dates.

Mural Arts Philadelphia website. (accessed February 11, 2021)
https://www.muralarts.org/about/

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens website (accessed February 11, 2021).
https://www.phillymagicgardens.org/about-us/

Creative Mailboxes of Ashland Photo Essay: Part 1

Artistic, Amazing and Unusual Mailboxes

My Grand Prize #1 so far

A combination of creativity and attention to detail sets this mailbox on Voris Avenue apart from the rest. Greg, creator of this mailbox, was working in his garage as I stopped to admire the little cabin that became a mailbox. I told him how much I enjoyed the woodwork, the chimney, even the realistic garden plants on both sides of the cabin. He told me I would also enjoy the inside. Scroll down to see what I saw inside the cabin/mailbox.

Mailbox
Amazing detail on this home-made Voris Avenue mailbox. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2019)
Mailbox
Greg, creator of this mailbox, is showing the inside. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2019)
Mailbox
Can you see the small inhabitant inside, just waiting to take a look at the daily mail? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2019)

Painted mailboxes

So far in my walks around Ashland, I have seen a variety of lovely and creative painted mailboxes. Here are a few. I am sure there are many more for me to discover.

mailbox
This Holstein mailbox is at 886 A Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Mailbox
These golden spirals on Morton Street caught my fancy. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Mailbox
Bright colors cover this Beach Street mailbox. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Mailbox
This unusual combination of colors and styles is on A Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Mailbox
From a cat to a blue jay, this one on Scenic Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Mailbox
From a blue jay to a lavender color flower on Ray Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Mailbox
Here’s a whole different style of mailbox and flower. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Unusual mailboxes

These eclectic mailboxes grabbed my attention and brought a smile to my face.

mailbox
The unusual railroad engine mailbox on 5th Street, combined with the creative house numbers, is a striking combination. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Mailbox
I find creativity in the placement of this mailbox on Alida Street. The colorful yard sale clothing adds to the scene. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Mailbox
I used this photo of mailboxes on upper Beach Street as the lead photo in my very first WalkAshland article, published April 2018. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

My Grand Prize #2 so far

This is the most sculptural mailbox I have seen in town so far. From bottom to top, there is so much to see. I focused on the critter standing atop the mailbox in my photos. Is “cute” the right word for it? What do you think?

Mailbox
You can enjoy the creativity of this mailbox at 354 Helman Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Mailbox
Going in a little closer. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Mailbox
My wife says this is a cat. Do you agree? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

If you enjoyed this photo essay, you will enjoy my “Quirky Sights in Ashland” photo essay. Here is a link.

Alida Street: Flowers, Ghosts and Art


Dramatic trumpet vine at 66 Alida
Writer of Westerns at 81 Alida
The scissors that moved by themselves at 92 Alida
Beautiful mural at 107 Alida
“Lord of the Rings” connection at 180 Alida
Plus 40 photos
Ashland Neighborhood Art series

Surprising stories

I thought to myself, “It’s only two blocks long. This will be a quick, easy article to write.” Boy was I wrong. I was surprised by the stories I discovered and which I can now share with you.

Alida Street is situated between Siskiyou Boulevard and East Main Street in one of the older parts of Ashland, within the boundaries of the Siskiyou-Hargadine historic district. Residents of Alida Street have a neighborhood coffee shop, with the Rogue Valley Roasting Company around the corner on East Main Street.

Let’s begin our two-block stroll

Alida Street
46 Alida Street, built in 1933 (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Let’s begin our two-block stroll with a small 1933 cottage style house at 46 Alida Street, near East Main Street. According to the National Register of Historic Places, this house is “an example of the small rental volumes that typify much of the infill development in the district prior to World War II.” It looks beautifully renovated at some point in recent years.

Alida Street
Woodland Park Estates apartments on Alida Street (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Across the street is the Woodland Park Estates apartments. This large apartment complex provides much needed housing for single people and couples.

Southern Pacific Railroad engineer

Alida Street
60 Alida Street (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

60 Alida Street was built about 1902 for Judd V. Miller, an engineer with the Southern Pacific Railroad. The original architecture was an L-shaped farmhouse style, but large additions through the years have changed the historic character of this house as well. I do like the attractive new front entry, though it’s not quite large enough to be a comfortable front porch with two or three chairs.

Hipped-roof cottage

Alida Street
63 Alida Street, built in 1908 (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The 1908 Henry Boyd House at 63 Alida Street retains its simple, historic hipped-roof cottage architectural style. Henry Boyd was a local photographer. He and his wife Nettie lived here until 1923.

Trumpet vine

Alida Street
66 Alida Street, home of an old trumpet vine (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

A dramatic trumpet vine caught my eye at 66 Alida Street. The house was built in 1941 in the Cape Cod, Colonial Revival style. As I walked and took photos in July 2020, the trumpet vine was in glorious full bloom, covered with large bright red flowers.

Trumpet vine, Alida Street
Trumpet vine flowers at 66 Alida Street (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Trumpet vines (also called trumpet creeper) have high points and drawbacks. Among the high points, the large bright flowers continue to bloom all summer and they are a magnet for hummingbirds.

Trumpet vine trunks have their own harsh beauty. The trumpet vine at 66 Alida shows how beautiful the gnarled trunk of the vine gets as it ages. This one even provides a level spot for displaying Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity of beginnings, also known as the remover of obstacles.

Ganesha statue, Alida Street
Resting place for Ganesha on the trumpet vine trunk (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

As one website put it, trumpet vine is “A high-climbing, aggressively colonizing woody vine to 35 ft., climbing or scrambling over everything in its path by aerial rootlets.” Depending on its location, this can be a big drawback. Some varieties send out below-ground runners and self-seed nearby, so they can take a lot of care to keep in check. The beautiful, gnarled trunk can also be a drawback as the plant gets older and larger. Moral of the story: be careful where you plant a trumpet vine and keep it under control, so that you can enjoy it. This old trumpet vine is an example of one that has been pruned regularly and kept under control.

Trumpet vine trunk, Alida Street
This is what an old, gnarled trumpet vine trunk looks like (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

George Anderson houses

Warner Mercantile Company ad 1916
Ad for Warner Mercantile Company, where George Anderson worked. This ad was in the Ashland Tidings of November 23, 1916.

George Anderson was a clerk with the Warner Mercantile Company. I found a Warner Mercantile ad in the 1916 Ashland Tidings, but it doesn’t give much insight into what the company sold or where it was located. Anderson had two houses built on Alida Street, both in 1910.

Alida Street
76 Alida Street, built in 1910. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Anderson lived at 76 Alida in a simple hipped-roof cottage. The large rear addition and plate glass windows in front have changed the house considerably, but one can still see the basic character of the 1910 house in the small front section.

Alida Street
75 Alida Street, also built in 1910. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Anderson bought property across the street and had 75 Alida built as a rental house. The National Register document calls it “a fine single-story gabled bungalow with a projecting gable porch.” I keep an eye out for Little Free Libraries around town. You’ll find an attractive one in the planting strip at 75 Alida Street.

Little Free Library, Alida Street
Little Free Library at 75 Alida Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Writer of Western stories and novels lived here

Alida Street
81 Alida Street was the home of William Verne Athanas and his family. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

William Verne Athanas, who lived at 81 Alida Street, was known as a writer of cowboy fiction, but he came from a rich Greek heritage.  He was the son of Panagiotis “Peter” Konstantinos Athanassopoulos, who had been born in Greece in 1890. The family moved to Ashland when Verne was a child. In 1936, he graduated from Ashland High School and married his childhood sweetheart Alice Spencer – a big year!

Marrying Alice Spencer made him the uncle of Julia Woosnam, who grew up across the street at 92 Alida Street and told me his story. Between high school and becoming a full-time writer ten years later, “he slopped hogs, dug postholes, drove trucks, was a railroad brakeman, a gandy dancer, a service station attendant, a stationery salesman and more.” [Archives West]

Verne Athanas had an article in the November 1951 issue of New Western Magazine under his pen-name Bill Colson. (photo from “The Western & Frontier Fiction Magazine Index”)

Once he began writing, he specialized in cowboy fiction, and he was prolific. Athanas has 28 short stories listed in the “Western and Frontier Fiction Magazine Index.” He also wrote for mainstream magazines like the Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. He published three novels, including The Proud Ones that was made into a movie released in 1956. He also wrote scripts for TV westerns in the 1950s and 1960s. Because he wrote under four pseudonyms in addition to his own name, I haven’t been able to track down exactly what and how much he wrote.

The oldest house on Alida Street

Alida Street
84 Alida Street, built in 1890 or 1891. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Built in 1890 or 1891, 84 Alida is the oldest house on the street. It is described as “a fine multiple gable volume set upon a high concrete foundation. The porch at the NW corner is notable for its early-appearing chinoiserie balustrade.”

Early Ashlanders, ghost tales and more

alida Street
92 Alida Street, built in 1920. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The 1920 single story bungalow at 92 Alida Street still has much of its original detailing. Julia Woosnam, who grew up in this house in the 1950s and 1960s, told me stories and shared photos with me. She comes from an old Ashland family. Her grandfather Don Spencer was Ashland’s first postal mail carrier, starting in about 1910. Before that, everyone had to pick up their mail at the post office on the Plaza.

92 Alida Street
Altadena (Dena) and Lawrence Powell pose for a wedding picture in 1929.
(photo courtesy of Julia Woosnam)

Julia’s father Lawrence Powell and mother Altadena Spencer married in 1929. The couple raised a family and lived at 92 Alida Street for more than 40 years.

“Julia’s tree”

Alida Street

Two months before Julia was born in 1954, her father planted a maple tree for her in front of their house at 92 Alida Street. Here is the tiny stick that was to become a tree. (photo courtesy of Julia Woosnam)

Alida Street

Her father took this photo of Julia with “her tree” when she was almost two years old. The maple tree “stick” is a little taller. (photo courtesy of Julia Woosnam)

Alida Street

Here is “Julia’s tree” in front of 92 Alida Street in 2020. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ghostly personal experiences

“Growing up there, you would just have a sense of somebody else hanging out” in the house, Julia told me. The front bedroom, with a window overlooking the porch as seen in the photo below, was hers growing up.

Alida Street
Julia’s bedroom window looked out to the porch. Julia’s father Lawrence Powell made the wood house number sign that still hangs in the porch area. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“The front bedroom was my room, and things would slide around in that room. I had a couple of friends in high school, laughing and giggling in there with me when we were best buddies, and a pair of scissors slid across the bureau. One of those friends said, ‘I am not staying in your room again.'”

Intrigued because scissors seem rather large to move on their own, I asked Julia about them. She replied, “I have them upstairs. They were my mother’s really nice dress-making shears.” Of course I said, “May I take a photo of them?” So Julia went and got what she laughingly called “the now famous flying scissors,” and here they are. I held them, and I can tell you they are heavy.

scissors
These heavy dress-making scissors scared three teenage girls who were talking in Julia Woosnam’s bedroom at 92 Alida Street. Read the text to find out why.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Then there was the moving toilet paper. “The toilet paper roll would just spontaneously, slowly start to unroll, then it would go faster, faster, faster, faster, faster, faster until it pretty much emptied the roll. That was seen by several friends.”

“It got to be really mean,” Julia added, laughing. “Someone would go in the bathroom and we would all wait, just to see if it would happen. I had my best friend, who lived in the oldest house [on Alida Street] across the driveway from us, and she went into the bathroom — and I remember my mom and I tippy-toeing down the hallway, waiting — and pretty soon she screams, and she comes running out of the bathroom, just sobbing — and it was the toilet paper had started to unroll before she could even get near it to use it. These things just happened — for whatever reasons, they do happen.”

Another occurrence experienced by many people through the years was a loud thump, with no discernible cause, as if a large ball was being thrown against the wall. “My good friend Ann called it ‘the boulder.’ So we always referred to that sound as being ‘the boulder.’ It was definitely like someone had taken a soccer ball and thrown it hard against the outside of the house.”

100 Alida Street

Alida Street
100 Alida Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The house next door at 100 Alida Street was built in 1939 with an English Cottage style architecture unusual in Ashland. “A one and one-half story period revival structure, the Ruger House is a gable volume with a projecting gable entry element.”

The creative gate combines wood, metal and vines for an attractive entry to the yard.

gate, Alida Street
Creative gate at 100 Alida Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Art for the neighborhood to enjoy

Alida Street
107 Alida Street…can you see the mural? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The house at 107 Alida was built in 1925 for local banker Gerald Wenner and his wife Grace. The couple lived here for nearly 50 years, until they died in the early 1970s. A simple bungalow style, it still has many of the original 1925 features. 

Before and After at 107 Alida Street

Wall at 107 Alida Street before mural was painted. (photo courtesy of Katherine Holden)
mural, Alida Street
Beautiful mural at 107 Alida Street, painted in June of 2020. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The bright mural on the side of this house is quite new. Katherine emailed me that the mural at her house was painted by two friends, Amy and Glenn, who visited her from the San Francisco Bay Area in June. Her friend Amy added, “Visiting in a pandemic, we wanted a safe way to socialize and create something beautiful for our friend Katherine. We hope that more public art soothes the soul during these transformative times.” Seeing this mural certainly lifted my spirits, and I recommend that you see it when you are in the neighborhood.

The mural creation at 107 Alida Street

I wondered how this unusual group of flowers was designed. It turned out to be a simple but surprising reason. See the photo and caption below.

Alida Street mural
The design of the mural was inspired by this piece of fabric Amy and Glenn found in Katherine’s sewing box. (photo courtesy of Katherine Holden)
Alida Street mural
This photo shows Glenn painting the mural in June 2020. (photo courtesy of Katherine Holden)

I will add that Amy Pete is a somatic bodyworker and Glenn Case is a muralist and sign maker, both living in the Bay Area. 

Another SP worker, and unusual yard art

Alida Street
140 Alida Street, built about 1924. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Southern Pacific Railroad worker Henry Mayberry and his wife Myrtle had 140 Alida Street built for them about 1924. The house retains much of its historic look. The artistic garden fence and yard art are both very modern. For example, having a Buddha-like statue and a gnome sharing the yard is very 21st century.  

Alida Street
This is one of my favorite yard art combinations in town. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Alida Street
I wonder if the deer appreciate the hearts when they see that they can’t enter this lush vegetable garden. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland High School 2020 graduate

Alida Street
145 Alida Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland High School’s class of 2020 was not able to have an in-person graduation ceremony due to the coronavirus. On May 26, I noticed a forest of signs placed along Siskiyou Boulevard in front of the high school. I was moved as I saw this creative way of recognizing each 2020 graduate individually. 

Ashland High School class of 2020
Ashland High School, posters for the class of 2020. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Since then, I have seen “2020 GRAD” signs in front of several houses around Ashland. 145 Alida Street is one of them. This post-World War II era cottage, built in 1945, is “a fine example of its type.” The National Register describes it as “a series of connected hip roof volumes with wide board siding and numerous windows. A large brick chimney dominates the streetscape and a matching hipped-roof garage is located at the rear of the lot.”

Alida Street
Alida Street
Apartments at 160-162 Alida Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Another, smaller apartment complex is at 160-162 Alida Street. Built in 1966, I think it is called the Collins Court apartments.

A “fine Queen Anne ell”

Alida Street
172 Alida Street, built about 1900. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

172 Alida Street was built as a rental house by Jacob Thompson around 1900. Architecturally, it is a “fine Queen Anne ell with canted corner on each of two projecting gables, framed below a pent roof line and a shingle-decorated gable end.”

Thompson owned much of the land in this part of Miner’s addition. An interesting aside is that in 1910, he transferred this property to a company co-owned by Thompson and his partner Gwin Butler. You may recognize the name Butler from the Butler-Perozzi Fountain or the Butler bandshell in Lithia Park. Gwin Butler’s contributions to Ashland deserve a full article.

Creative hobbit lovers

mailbox, Alida Street
Creative mailbox at 180 Alida Street, with yard sale going on that day. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

180 Alida Street is a 1926 single story bungalow style house. This house could get an award for creative use of a tree stump. What got me excited, however, was spotting the sign on their gate that says, “Say Friend and Enter” in both English and Elvish. If you have read Lord of the Rings or seen the movies several times, you might recognize that saying as the inscription that puzzled Gandalf at the gate of Moria.

Alida Street
Saying on the entrance to Moria, and on the entrance to 180 Alida Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I have been a fan of Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien since I was a teenager – which was many years ago! Early this year, I just finished reading the 1,086 page book (1,190 with appendices) for about the tenth time, and I loved it just as much as I did the first time.

The 1901 Frank Nelson house

Alida Street
188 Alida Street, built in 1901. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

188 Alida Street was built for Frank Nelson in 1901, and he lived there until 1919. The style is a simple one and one-half story hipped-roof cottage. Nelson was a partner in the longtime Ashland grocery business Loomis and Nelson, which served the Railroad District at the corner of 4th Street and B Street. 

We have now reached Siskiyou Boulevard, so this wraps up our walk along Alida Street.

Note that two people who built houses on Alida Street worked for Southern Pacific Railroad. See below for a link to my article about the impact of the railroad on Ashland.

References:

Unidentified quotes are from:
National Register of Historic Places, Siskiyou-Hargadine Historic District, September 14, 2002.

Anon. “W. Verne Athanas papers, 1946-1962,” Archives West.
http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv62493

Anon. “The Western & Frontier Fiction Magazine Index,” Verne Athanas and Bill Colson story listings.
http://www.philsp.com/homeville/WFI/s127.htm#A1584

Katherine Holden, personal communication, July 2020.

Pete, Amy. Personal communication, July 2020.

Woosnam, Julia. Personal communication, August 2020.

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.

Gates of Ashland: Part 1

Beautiful, Unusual, Artistic, Floral, Fun!
Metal, wood, old, new…a variety of Ashland gates.

I will add Parts 2, 3 and more as I walk more Ashland streets.
I stopped to smell the fragrant honeysuckle as I walked past this gate last summer. (Harrison Street)

Creativity makes our lives more interesting and enjoyable. Creativity can be expressed in many ways. Here I recognize people who have expressed their creativity through the normally little noticed entry gate.

Wood and metal complement each other in this gate. (Auburn Street)
This alley gate looks like it has been here for many years. (alley between A Street and B Street)
Let’s hear it for the metal artists in our community. (Morton Street)

“When I open the gate in my protective personal wall,

my little world becomes more spacious.”

Peter Finkle
Did a bicycle rider build this gate? (Beach Street)
A creative metal artist either lives here or is appreciated here. (Morton Street)
This gate is on Forest Street near the corner with Morton Street.

The gate above has a good story. I noticed this unusual gate and stopped to take a photo. A woman (Anna Beauchamp) was in the garden and I asked her about the gate. She told me her husband Stephen Bacon made the gate. He carved the two side posts from cedar logs and the top post from a Russian olive tree. The center spirals are made from their garden grape vine trimmings. Stephen has decades of experience working with wood, but not normally these types of wood. He has built and repaired violins and other string instruments since he was 17 years old. His shop in Ashland, Bellwood Violin, serves professional musicians, schools and more. And I learned all of that by stopping to look at a gate!

With a formal entrance like this, it should be a formal garden. (Liberty Street house address)
The gate has attractive lines, but the colorful flowers we see through the gate make the scene. (Harrison Street)
I don’t think this gate is used very often. (Almond Street)
Alley gate near the library. (between Siskiyou Boulevard and Allison Street)
Copper spiral and fragrant star jasmine flowers in our yard. Eric Cislo made the gate and Cheryl Garcia created the copper spiral. (Beach Street)
Can you tell which day of the year this photo was taken? Hint: starts with an “H.” (Oak Street)
Here is another nice combination of metal and wood. (Rock Street, I think)
The house you can see through this gate was built about 1904. Could the gate be that old? (8th Street)
This one is simple but memorable. (4th Street)
Is this “art” or is this “gate?” Let’s just call it “art on gate.” (Ohio Street)
This is the most dramatic gate I have seen so far in my walks around Ashland. Do you have a nomination for a more dramatic gate?

Greenmeadows Way

My wife Kathy and I walked Greenmeadows Way on a cool January afternoon. The sun occasionally peaked out through the clouds and smiled on us, as did some of the neighbors we met during our walk. 

Greenmeadows Way is the heart of a late 1970s to early 1980s housing development in South Ashland known as the Mountain Ranch subdivision. There are 74 houses in the neighborhood association.

Nice rock work on Greenmeadows Way.

Walking Greenmeadows, we chanced upon Margaret (Peggy) Evans and her sister Barbara, who were out walking Peggy’s dog “Jack.” If you enjoy organ music, keep an eye out for the name Peggy Evans. She has performed organ recitals throughout the United States, and still occasionally performs organ recitals locally. 

If you have attended or worked at Southern Oregon University, you may recognize the name Margaret (Peggy) Evans. She is an SOU Professor of Music Emerita and still teaches organ. She has taught for decades at the SOU Music Department. She now also teaches music in the OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program. Peggy was the Music Department chair years ago when my wife was office manager for the Music Department, so they had lots of catching up to do as we strolled the street.

Peggy and Barbara explained to us that every house in the neighborhood is connected, along its back yard or side yard, with a comprehensive network of paths.

Part of the network of paths that runs throughout the neighborhood.

In addition, there actually is a neighborhood “green meadow.” Like the paths, it is private property of the Mountain Ranch neighborhood association. However, they are flexible with others walking the paths as long as people are quiet and respectful.

Yes, there is a “green meadow” for residents of the neighborhood.

What are these?

You will find out what these are, and who made them, toward the end of this article.

Let’s start our walk

Greenmeadows Way can be accessed from either Tolman Creek Road or Bellview Avenue. Let’s start our walk at Tolman Creek Road. The pretty house at the corner, 2398 Tolman Creek Road, first looked to me like one of Ashland’s historic houses. It turns out it was built in 1972. The Italianate architectural details lend it a historic look. It brings to my mind several well-preserved Ashland homes from the late 1800s that contain Italianate elements. These include the McCall House on Oak Street and the Coolidge House on North Main Street. 

2398 Greenmeadows Way, with Italianate architectural elements.
1298 Greenmeadows Way.
The McCall House at 153 Oak Street, built in 1883, is a fine local example of Italianate style architecture.
The Coolidge House at 137 North Main Street, built in 1875, also incorporates the Italianate style.

Toward this end of Greenmeadows Way, I saw for the first time a yard sign I have noticed in other yards around town since then. Unlike the most common yard sign in Ashland, which emphasizes “Love Wins,” this one counters with “Truth Wins.” A house across the street hosted a “Love Wins” sign, so here are photos of both.

Heather for January garden color

Because we walked here in January, I could not capture the yards and trees in their flowering glory. However, the heather was glorious. Here it is.

Here is white and pink heather side by side at 1630 Greenmeadows Way.

Yard Art

Greenmeadows Way contains examples of sculptural, artistic and whimsical yard art, all of it enjoyable.

Greenmeadows Way has sculptural yard art.
Greenmeadows Way has practical yard art. I love the deep red color of the chair next to the bright green colors of the raised bed plants.
Greenmeadows Way has regal eagle yard art.
Greenmeadows Way has statue-esque yard art.
Greenmeadows Way has whimsical yard art.
Look at that face! It is definitely worth a close-up photo.
I don’t want to bore you with yard art photos, but here is another one filled with details that deserves to be appreciated. If you walk Greenmeadows Way some day, you can see more.

Artistic rock work, a surprise, and your answer to the “What is this?” question

I was admiring the rock work at 1090 Greenmeadows Way, when I spotted the owner out front talking with one of his friends. I got brave, introduced myself, and discovered that he is a man of many talents. 

Weeping blue atlas cedar, said to be about 40 years old, with a rock “garden” in front of it.

Jeff Yockers and his wife created this beautiful yard. On one side of the corner house is a 40-year-old Weeping blue atlas cedar. The trunk, which is hidden by the cascading branches and leaves, is nearly a foot in diameter. I like the rockwork in front of the Weeping cedar, and I like even more the rock “waterfall” on the other side of the cedar. 

From a rock “garden” on one side of the blue atlas cedar to a rock “waterfall” on the other side.

Jeff also does some lovely wood carving. It began due to nearby forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk. When a Lomakatsi crew was thinning the nearby forest, Jeff asked for and received several twisting madrone branches from them. 

Jeff Yockers’ carving of a chili-colored chili pepper.

He carved the two chili peppers in the yard from these branches. The two in the yard are painted – chili pepper colors, of course. When I told Jeff they are lovely – but – I wish I could see the grain of the wood, he replied “Just a minute.”  He popped into his house and emerged with an even more beautifully carved madrone wood chili pepper that has just a light stain to bring out the grain of the wood. This piece has a place of honor in his living room, and rightfully so.

Jeff Yockers with the clear-stained chili pepper he carved from a madrone tree branch.

I will end the article with a little history, and a useful tip for Ashland trail walkers.

Greenmeadows Way and the three cross streets were built by Mountain Ranch Development Company, a partnership between developers Vincent Oredson and John D. Todd. As mentioned in the beginning, housing construction here began around 1976 and continued through the mid-1980s. 

In 1983, Oredson and Todd donated 10 acres of land adjacent to their subdivision to the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. The Land Conservancy website says: “The Oredson-Todd Woods was designated to be a natural area for public use. Several years later, SOLC donated the Woods to the City of Ashland, where it was joined with other city-owned land [Siskiyou Mountain Park] to make up these two forested parks, comprised of 300 acres and used by hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts today.”

From the small parking area at the end of Lupine Drive, you can go this way for a Multi-Use Trail.

The Northwest Nature Shop “Best Trails in Ashland” page describes how you can access Oredson-Todd Woods and the trail system from the Greenmeadows Way neighborhood. “There are several places to access these trails.  The most straightforward is off Greenmeadows Way.  Go south on Siskiyou, turn right on Tolman, then right on Greenmeadows Way.  Turn left on Lupine and there is parking area on the right.  Park and follow the signs.  It is thickly forested with a canyon and small creek running through the canyon.” 

Or you can go this way to reach a Hiking-only Trail.
You can start at “YOU ARE HERE” on this map and access miles of Ashland park system and Siskiyou Mountains trails.

If you walk this trail, you might like to refer to an online brochure from Southern Oregon Land Conservancy that shows photos of winter birds you could see along the way. Here is the link.

Thank you for joining me on the Greenmeadows Way walk. In this stressful time, you might enjoy reading my article about the anti-stress (and other) health benefits of walking.

Three Huge Health Benefits of Walking

References:

Southern Oregon Land Conservancy:
https://www.landconserve.org/oredsontodd-woods-siskiyou-mt-park

This brochure from Southern Oregon Land Conservancy shows photos of winter birds in Oredson-Todd Woods & Siskiyou Mountain Park. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/565cf1d6e4b0df45d8c1bb69/t/5879737820099e5ef220ad50/1484354429348/Bird+Brochure+Winter2014.pdf

Comprehensive list of birds that can be found in Oredson-Todd Woods & Siskiyou Mountain Park in each season of the year. No photos, just names. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/565cf1d6e4b0df45d8c1bb69/t/57928dd3b8a79bdfd1450f29/1469222355337/OTW_SMP_birds_Web_NewLogo.pdf

The Northwest Nature Shop “Best Trails in Ashland” page: https://www.northwestnatureshop.com/things-to-do/hiking-biking-and-running-trails/the-best-trails-in-ashland-for-hiking-biking-and-running

Note: All photos are by Peter Finkle.

Quirky Sights in Ashland: Part 1

I hope this photo essay will lift your spirits. See how many you can recognize!
Photo Essay of Funny, Strange, Artistic and Historic Sights & Sites in Ashland.

Now that’s a cool house number
Yes, there really are unicorns in Ashland (on the 4th of July, anyway)

As I walk the streets of Ashland, I am stopped in my tracks again and again by a surprising sight I have never noticed before. This post trades the written word for the visual image. My hope is that these photos will lift your spirits.

Halloween 2009 Ashland – a REAL wiener dog
While we are looking at Halloween quirkiness, we can’t forget the monster spiders.
Here’s an artistic and unusual entry arch, designed by Wendy Eppinger and sculpted by Eric Cislo in 2006. For close-ups of the arch, see below.

Wendy Eppinger’s entry arch at 190 Walker Avenue has an interesting story. She came up with the idea for the dramatic entry to her property, and then started collecting the unusual inset pieces. She found the center skull on Craigslist. The two cat skeletons came via eBay. Eppinger brought the two roosters back home from a trip to Mexico. Finally, the blue circles are from blue Sake bottles, thanks to Kobe Japanese restaurant.

Here is the center of the arch.
Detail number 2 of the arch.
Detail number 3 of the arch.
Now for something completely different. I spotted this critter riding on a car in a motel parking lot.