Teen art brightens Orchid Street & Rose Lane

See three flowery fence murals.
Meet two high school student-artists.
Photo essay with 24 photos.
Ashland Neighborhood Art series.

Orchid Street is lined with mature trees that provide summer shade. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Orchid Street and Rose Lane are two short streets in the Fordyce neighborhood. After I saw the beautiful murals on Fordyce Street, I decided to walk more of the neighborhood.

Why I got excited

I walked Orchid Street and Rose Lane twice – once in September 2020 by myself and again in April 2021 with my wife Kathy. Where Rose Lane ends at Orchid Street, I spotted bright, beautiful colors during my September walk – another mural on a fence! I was excited. I took photographs and made a mental note to try to meet the mural artist sometime. That time finally came in March 2021, when I learned this mural was a collaboration of two young artists.

Bright yellow daffodils in front of yellow sunflowers, spring 2021. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Genesis of the sunflower fence mural

When I met the artists Reed Pryor and Ainsley Gibbs, I learned that both are high school seniors this year (2021). Reed is at Ashland High and Ainsley at St. Mary’s High. Both love art. Reed’s parents asked them in July 2020 to add some color to the yard by painting this fence. Reed explained, “My parents lived in France for a couple of years. They were really into the sunflower fields. My dad is a big fan of the Tour de France, which shows great drone shots of riders going through these massive fields of sunflowers. It’s just so beautiful. I think that was the inspiration.” 

Reed asked his girl-friend Ainsley, a serious student of art, to help him with the project. 

Ainsley Gibbs (left) and Reed Pryor pose with their sunflower mural on Orchid Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

The sunflower mural process

Step 1: The wood on this fence was weathered, cracked, and soaked up paint. That made it challenging to end up with bright colors. They decided to begin with a thick coat of primer on the fence, which prepared the wood for the sunflower colors to follow. The primer made a big difference to the quality of the finished art.

Step 2: They sketched their sunflower design on the fence.

Step 3: They added blocks of green color for the leaves. For the flower petals, they began with blocks of white. By doing that, they hoped the next coat of bright yellow would stand out more. 

In-process photo of the sunflower mural. (photo by Reed Pryor, 2020)

Step 4: Ainsley described the detail work as the fun part. For the final stage, they blended colors and focused on the beauty of each flower. 

Orchid Street
This is how the sunflower mural looked soon after it was painted in July 2020. (photo by Reed Pryor, 2020)

Sunflowers in front of sunflowers

I asked how long ago they painted the fence. Reed replied, “We did it in July of 2020. Actually, in the summer we have sunflowers growing right here.” As he pointed close to where we were standing, he continued, “Last summer the sunflowers grew really tall and blocked the view of the mural from the sidewalk. It was funny, because when summer went and we took them out, then people started noticing the sunflowers behind on the fence.”

Sunflowers growing in the yard in front of painted sunflowers, summer 2020. (photo by Reed Pryor, 2020)

Having sunflowers growing in the front yard was an advantage during the final stage of painting. As they painted the detail of each flower petal, the two walked over to the real sunflowers a few feet away to study color patterns and gradients! 

Lifelong love of art

Ainsley explained that her love for art has been heavily influenced by her schooling. She said, “I went to Siskiyou School, which is a Waldorf school, from 1st grade through 8th grade. Classes are focused around art. We did a lot of drawing, painting and calligraphy. That’s when I started developing my skills because I practiced every day. For example, in Biology we would be learning about cellular respiration and we would make a very realistic drawing of the process. During these years, art became a part of my life. When I went to high school, I took some art classes and I continued to paint, mostly watercolor portraits. As I get ready to go to college, I think art in some form is in my future.”

I asked Ainsley to send me several samples of her recent artwork. The watercolor below particularly moved me, both for the emotions it captures and for the thoughtfulness of the concept.

Artist description of the painting: “This portrait is my sister Bria and her friend Samara. It’s from my AP Art portfolio, in which I have explored the theme of human interaction in a world with COVID-19. The subjects are in their own happy world amidst the glaring headlines and drama of the newspapers.” (photo of her watercolor painting, by Ainsley Gibbs, 2021)

Reed was humble about his skills, but he has also loved to make art for most of his life. As he went through the public schools, art received very little focus. His main artform is sketching with pencil. He would like to become an architect, a career that would combine his interests in art, science and engineering.

Neighborhood pocket park

There’s a small, practical, privately owned neighborhood pocket park at the intersection of Orchid Street and Rose Lane. It looks like a great spot for neighbors to gather for a picnic or to catch some summer rays.

This privately owned pocket park at the intersection of Orchid Street and Rose Lane is a place for neighbors to meet. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Orchid Street sights that brought me smiles

I don’t have other special stories to tell about Orchid Street. But as I walked the block in September and again in March, I saw small sights that brought a smile to my face. Here are some of them.

This small front yard owl struck my fancy. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Whimsical, colorful yard art brightens Orchid Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Quiz: Is this a snake, an artwork or a tree root? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
According to homeowner Karen, this turtle family came all the way from Florida to find a happy home in Ashland. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
They are slow, so they’ll probably be in just about the same place when you come by for your neighborhood walk. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Rose Lane murals

The most colorful sights on Rose Lane are also due to Ainsley and Reed. Nearby neighbor Curly liked their sunflower mural so much that she asked them to paint a gate mural in her yard. She trusted them to choose a beautiful design.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Ainsley laughed as she told my wife and me how she and Reed chose the design. Looking through Pinterest flower images, she found a colorful poppy picture that she scanned and saved. She asked Reed to bring one or two poppy images that he really liked. What happened? He brought her the same image she had chosen for the design! Come on…is this a sappy movie or is this real life? I guess the saying “truth is stranger than fiction” applies here.

Based on that internet image, they drew a colored pencil sketch. Here’s a look at their sketch for the first gate design.

Ainsley Gibbs and Reed Pryor based their first Rose Lane mural design on this sketch. (photo by Peter Finkle, from illustration by Ainsley and Reed, 2021)

When they showed the homeowner Curly their design for the gate, she heartily approved it. Then she told them, “I don’t have just one gate. I have two you can paint.” They decided to keep the same theme of poppy flowers for the second gate, but with a slightly different look.

This is how the first gate mural looked just weeks after it was painted. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Detail photo of the first Rose Lane poppies mural. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

The wood was much less weathered here than on their sunflower mural, so the whole process went more smoothly. They didn’t have to use nearly as much primer for the base coat. They outlined their poppy designs in chalk and painted a layer of white where the bright green, red and yellow paints would follow. This helped the bright colors to pop more on the rough wood.

The gate on the other side of Curly’s house provided a slightly larger area to paint. I love the extra artistic touch of a white picket fence and a white arbor entry, which emphasize the deep reds and greens of the flower mural.

Welcoming arbor entry to the second Rose Lane poppies mural. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

What the neighbors say

My wife and I were able to speak briefly with Curly when the artists showed us the murals at her house. She loves the way the paintings turned out. She’s not the only one. Neighbors have been telling Curly that they feel uplifted just seeing the colorful flowers as they walk by. Ainsley and Reed are leaving a positive legacy behind as they get ready to depart for college in the fall.

Other Rose Lane sights

Rose Lane is only one block, but my wife and I found some details to stop, appreciate, and photograph.

This yard will be full of colorful flowers through springtime. The iris, lavender and others accent a curving, rock-edged path to create sweet harmony.

Rose Lane, Ashland
Deep purple iris and flowering cherries brighten this scene on Rose Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Is this a miniature Christmas tree? The ornament is still on it. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
Rose Lane, Ashland
My “heart” spotted this clever pruning of a lush vine on Rose Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)
This may be the most lush blooming manzanita bush I have ever seen. It is spectacular. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Columnar English Oak

Found at the intersection of Rose Lane and Orchid Street, this is the largest Columnar English Oak in Ashland, according to arborist Casey Roland.

This is the largest Columnar English Oak in Ashland, according to arborist Casey Roland. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Columnar English Oak. You can see the shape of the tree in a different way when it’s not covered with leaves. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

I was fascinated with the “design” of the tree. In my photo below, I tried to capture a sense of the vibrancy of all those upright branches bursting out of the lower trunk.

Detail photo of Columnar English Oak shows the unusual way its lower branches head skyward from the trunk. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I hope you have enjoyed exploring more of the Fordyce neighborhood with me. As we continue to walk, I can’t guarantee you more murals on the local fences, but I’m sure we will find more creativity and beauty.

If you enjoy art, please read my photo essay about the large, colorful murals on Fordyce Street

If you haven’t yet read my article about the six large, colorful murals on Fordyce Street, here is a link to see it. 
https://walkashland.com/2021/02/28/fordyce-street-from-sawmills-to-art/

Also in the neighborhood

In the autumn of 2020, I walked nearby Old Willow Lane, a short street filled with interesting yard art. You can read the Old Willow Lane photo essay at this link. https://walkashland.com/2020/10/17/old-willow-lane-photo-essay/

References:

Gibbs, Ainsley and Pryor, Reed. Interviews during March and April, 2021.

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/

Old Willow Lane photo essay

Mickey Mouse.
Mosaic rock designs.
“Science is Real” signs.

I found Mickey on Old Willow Lane

Old Willow Lane, Ashland, Mickey yard art
Here’s Mickey, next to the sidewalk on Old Willow Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This lawn art was a fun surprise on my short walk. I almost walked right by it, because I wasn’t looking down at the grass. I have learned: When I am “walking Ashland,” look everywhere! You never know what you will find.

What I did not find was an “old willow.” If I missed it, someone please tell me where it is.

First impressions

Old Willow Lane, Ashland

To find Old Willow Lane, take East Main Street to Fordyce Street. Heading north on Fordyce, Old Willow Lane will be the fifth street on your left. Here’s what it looks like from Fordyce Street. I was happy to find it filled with interesting sights in its one block length. At the end of the street is a large open field. I expect Old Willow Lane will be much longer someday when that field is developed for housing.

field at the end of Old Willow Lane
Old Willow Lane ends in this large field. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Big truck on small street

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
Here is the roof truss delivery truck that caught my eye. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

As I walked the street in October 2020, the first thing that caught my eye was a truck filled with prefab roof trusses. The truck was delivering to a house under construction near the end of the street. 

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
On the right is the house being constructed, waiting for a roof. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

As you can see from the photos, Old Willow Lane is lined with street trees. The truck driver faced a challenge – how to lift the trusses to the house construction site without damaging any street trees. Before I finished walking the street, he had figured it out. His first roof truss lift is shown in the photo below.

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
An impressive lift, on a smoky day. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Old Willow Lane
A week later, the roof trusses are on the house – and the sky is blue. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Signs of the times

I keep my eye out for yard signs as I walk Ashland’s neighborhoods. Many are copies of the same popular signs. Sometimes I find a sign that is home made and unique. This house has a combination of both kinds of “Science is Real” signs.

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
“Science is Real.” (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Old Willow Lane, Ashland
Purchased sign and home made sign make the same point. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Yard art variety

Ashland is full of creative people. Some show and share their creativity in front yard art. This is a good reason to have a camera at the ready on your walks. Old Willow Lane is especially rich in yard art for being only one block long.

Old Willow Lane, Ashland, rock mosaic
Overview of the rock art mosaics. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

You won’t miss this one if you are walking on the sidewalk. It is mosaic art, all done with colored pebbles. Each of the three designs is subtle, balanced and beautiful.  Below are close-up photos of the three designs.

rock mosaic, Old Willow Lane, Ashland
Old Willow Lane, Ashland, rock mosaic
rock mosaic, Old Willow Lane, Ashland

I did a double-take as I approached 1269 Old Willow Lane. I have seen many Canada geese flying over town and I was momentarily fooled. 

Old Willow Lane
Are Canada geese visiting this neighborhood? (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I love this metal art and stone front yard at the end of the street. 

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
Yard art on Old Willow Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Gate and tree

I found one unique and interesting gate on Old Willow Lane. I haven’t noticed a metal gate like this before.

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
Unique gate on Old Willow Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

One massive tree caught my eye and seemed worth sharing with you. 

Old Willow Lane, Ashland
This is a beautifully proportioned tree. (photo by Peter Finkle)

End of street

There is a large field at the end of Old Willow Lane. All I see there is an unusual small barn (pictured). It will be interesting to see what kind of housing develops here in the future.

barn
This is the barn visible at the end of Old Willow Lane. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I noticed a short path at the end of the street, so of course I followed it to see where it leads. It is a pedestrian shortcut to Village Park Drive and another neighborhood.

path
Path between Old Willow Lane and Village Park Drive. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Photographic highlight

Walking the short path, one sight caught my eye. Rough, wavy, golden wood grain, black knothole, delicate pink flower on a slender stem, all adds up to a photographer’s dream. Here it is for you.

Old Willow Lane, Ashland, flower
My artistic photo for the day. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Old Willow Lane is one of many short, quiet streets off Fordyce Street. I will have an exciting article about Fordyce Street for you soon.

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.

Signs of Ashland Photo Essay: Part 1

Artistic, Political, Social, Unusual, and Fun Signs Around Ashland

2020 is a difficult year for Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Ashland. Due to coronavirus, the Festival Welcome Center is closed and the three theaters are dark. “Black Lives Matter” is the OSF message to the community in June 2020. I miss OSF people. I miss their creations. So I am opening and closing this Signs of Ashland article with Oregon Shakespeare Festival photos.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Black Lives Matter
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Welcome Center – Black Lives Matter. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
"Love Wins" flag
Whether on a sign or a flag, whether in 2o18 or 2020 or 2022, these are important reminders. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Going up or going down?

"Evacuation Route" sign for flash flood hazard
If you are at Ashland Creek and you need to go UP, here is the sign to look for. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2017)
"Alice Peil Walkway" sign
If you are on Granite Street and you want to go DOWN to Ashland Creek, here is the sign to look for. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“Love Wins” and “Truth Wins”

"Love Wins" sign
“Love Wins” and more, per this sign on Greenmeadows Way. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
"Truth Wins" sign
“Truth Wins” and more, per another sign on Greenmeadows Way. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

We want bees to win too

"Pollinator Garden" sign
Ashland gardeners have embraced the Pollinator Garden project. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
"Support Bee Havens" sign
Here is a home-made bee-lovers sign. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
"Butterfly Garden" sign
Butterflies are pollinators too! (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
"Cat Crossing" sign
Now we have an “animal theme” going. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland is not just a town, it’s a community

City Council pledge sign
This pledge by the elected leaders of Ashland dated December 2016 is posted at the City of Ashland Community Development Department office. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Growers Market sign
Ashland people come together at the Growers & Crafters Market, where I found this sign. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
"Ashland Food Project" sign
Ashland is not only a town, but is also a community of caring people. People all over town contribute food or money to the Ashland Food Project. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

We miss you OSF !!! (in 2020)

Oregon Shakespeare Festival map
We miss you in 2020, Oregon Shakespeare Festival people and plays! (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Oregon Shakespeare Festival humorous sign
Here is a little Coronavirus humor in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival window on East Main Street, from May 2020. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

As I take more photos of signs as I walk the streets of Ashland, there will be a “Part 2” at some point in time.

If you enjoyed this photo essay, you might enjoy my photo essay about “Quirky Sights in Ashland: Part 1.” The link is below.

Scenic Drive: History Comes Alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modern Architecture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historic houses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashland Garden of the Month for April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

531 Scenic Drive, the oldest house on the street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abigail Scott Duniway 

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

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

Women’s right to vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abigail Scott Duniway

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forest Street and May 2020 Garden of the Month

For people who love gardens and gardening. Many photos of flowers and native plants.

For people who love gardens and gardening.
Photos of trees, flowers and gates.

Garden of the Month
720 Forest Street. (photo by Larry Rosengren, 2020)

I began my Forest Street walk at the intersection with Liberty Street, one block uphill from Ashland Street. 

One end of Forest Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Deodar Cedar tree

A Deodar cedar tree on the uphill side provided my first uplifting moment and photo opportunity (photos on the left and top right, below). This is a young Deodar cedar. If you want to see an elder, go to the Safeway supermarket on Siskiyou Boulevard. There you will find Ashland’s 2002 Tree of the Year, a pair of majestic Deodar cedar trees (photo on bottom right, below).