Ray Lane

Beautiful spring flowers
Fun yard art

I walked Ray Lane in March 2020. This was during the “social distancing” directive by the State of Oregon, which was intended to slow spread of the novel coronavirus that was spreading throughout the world. Therefore, I met fewer of the neighbors than I normally do during my walks.

Sign post at the corner of Ray Lane and Ashland Street.

The photo above may help you remember where Ray Lane is located. The street is only two blocks long. The block to the south of Ashland Street ends at Lit Way. The one block to the north of Ashland Street ends at Hunter Park. Let’s start with some yard art I spotted in a front yard near Hunter Park.

Photos from Ray Lane north of Ashland Street

There are no birds in this bird cage. Is it Peter Rabbit and his mother rabbit?
I love this colorful bird with her basket of eggs.
More creativity in the same yard. Can you tell what the flower “pots” are made from?
Someone did some lovely painting on this front yard post.
“The weeds are laughing at me.” If you have a garden, can you relate? This is my last photo from this creative front yard.
I appreciate people who take the time to personalize their mailboxes.
This tree’s bright yellow-green needles are the new spring growth. It’s hard to see, but the older needles on the tree are dark green.
We have lots of support for bees around Ashland, including this garden on Ray Lane.
This is one of the quirkiest and most fun bird feeders I have seen.

Photos from Ray Lane south of Ashland Street

While I was most impressed by the yard art in the block north of Ashland Street, I was most impressed with the flowers in the block south of Ashland Street. Roi has a lovely garden.
Across the street I found a beautiful flowering cherry tree.
Here is a close-up photo of the flowering cherry blossoms, at their peak in late March.
Ashland has many old houses built in the Craftsman architectural style. Here is an attractive modern Craftsman style house.
Basketball and flowering cherry blossoms don’t normally go together, but they do on Ray Lane.
For our last Ray Lane photo, here is some unusual yard art. At least I have never seen any other lighthouse yard art like this in Ashland.

If you enjoy photos of flowers, you might enjoy reading my article about Holly Street that features a “daffodil paradise” as well as the story of Ashland’s famous faith healer Susie Jessel. The daffodil paradise at the corner of Holly Street and Liberty Street is in its glory right now (late March and early April), if you would like to drive or walk by and see it for yourself.

Kestrel Parkway: by Bear Creek

The ‘front yard’ is Bear Creek

Ashland, Kestrel Parkway
The view across Kestrel Parkway to the riparian zone open space along Bear Creek (photo by Peter Finkle)

On a chilly blue-sky day in February, my wife and I walked Kestrel Parkway in the North Mountain neighborhood with one of the “locals.” Sherri Morgan, who showed us around, lives near Kestrel. I met Sherri when she gave an informative talk about fertilizing plants to the Ashland Garden Club. If you enjoy gardening, think about joining the club. Learn more here.

Bear Creek
Here I am enjoying the flow of Bear Creek, just steps from Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Kathy Campbell)

The ‘front yard’ is Bear Creek

It’s quite a spot. The top photo shows the view from a front yard along Kestrel Parkway. To take the photo just above, my wife and I walked across the lawn shown on the top photo, and found a bench along Bear Creek. Had it been a summer day, I may have lingered there for an hour. With the temperature about 40 degrees, I only managed five minutes or so of lingering.

Looking north on Kestrel Parkway from the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue (photo by Peter Finkle)

Kestrel Parkway is only two blocks long right now. It is currently being extended. Towards the end of the article you will see a photo of the road under construction. This North Mountain neighborhood is on the opposite side of North Mountain Avenue from the Mountain Meadows retirement community. Quite new, it has been gradually built up through the past 20 years, with several areas still to be developed.

Kestrel Parkway
Lovely statue in a Kestrel Parkway yard (photo by Peter Finkle)

I enjoy finding creative, lovely or whimsical yard art during my walks around Ashland. This looks like it could be a Quan Yin (or Guanyin) statue, symbolizing the Buddhist goddess of compassion. In the photo below, it looks like angels are visiting the house.

Another artistic Ashland front entry, this one on Kestrel Parkway (photo by Peter Finkle)
Someone in the streets department added some artistry here at the intersection of Kestrel Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Street art

This circular brick work brightens the intersection of Kestrel Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue. It provides a feel-good moment as you walk or drive through this intersection.

Here is a close-up of the circular street artistry. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway
I enjoyed this very green house on Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I see many dark green houses as I explore Ashland, but rarely do I see a bright green house. This one really works for me, especially in this setting.

bird feeders, Kestrel Parkway
Here is a front yard “bird haven,” offering two kinds of bird food and a bird bath. (photo by Peter Finkle)

The wind gave a spin to this yard art as we were walking by on Kestrel Parkway. It’s a fun one. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway, door
I enjoyed the Southwest theme of this door and entry area as I was walking by. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway is being extended (as of February 2020).

Kestrel Parkway is only two blocks long right now, but it looks like it will be a block or two longer by the end of 2020. Fifteen small “cottages” with solar panels on the roofs are planned to be built in this area.

This view shows part of the North Mountain neighborhood, taken from the Bear Creek riparian area. In the photo, we are looking across Kestrel Parkway and up Fair Oaks Avenue. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Taken from the Bear Creek riparian area up Fair Oaks Avenue, this photo gives a sense of the current North Mountain neighborhood.

One more view of Bear Creek flowing near Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I will leave you with another look at Bear Creek very near the Kestrel Parkway homes, as the creek flows north towards Talent, Phoenix and Medford.

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

Ashland History ‘Firsts’ – Part 2

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

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

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

First Ashland School District

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

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

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

First Post Office

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

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

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

First School Building

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

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

First Ashland Presidential Election

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

First Residential Streets

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

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

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

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

First College

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

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

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

First Fraternal Organization

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

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

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

First Newspaper

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

First City Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to Part 1 of the series: 

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

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

References:

Anon. Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon: Containing Original Sketches of many well known Citizens of the Past and Present, Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1904.
Ashland Daily Tidings, February 26, 1927.
Atwood, Kay.  Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975.
Atwood, Kay. Mill Creek Journal: Ashland, Oregon 1850 – 1860, self-published 1987.
Enders, John. Lithia Park: The Heart & Soul of Ashland, 2016.
Green, Giles. A Heritage of Loyalty: The History of the Ashland, Oregon, Public Schools, School District No. 5, 1966.
LaLande, Jeff. from The Oregon Enyclopedia, https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/ashland/#.XdYMxi2ZM2I
Lewis, Raymond (possibly), “Abel D. Helman, Founder of Ashland,” Table Rock Sentinel, October 1981 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.

Westwood Street: Log House, Eco House and more

I learn about log cabins houses — and hear a story.
I learn about eco houses — and hear a story.

I started walking south from the Orchard Street end of Westwood Street.  Westwood Street is in northwest Ashland, at the top of the steep street called Strawberry Lane.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was some antique farm equipment “yard art” at 189 Westwood Street, the corner of Westwood and Nyla. It looks like it was used to prepare rows for planting. I hope one of my readers will verify this assumption – or correct me.

Was this used to prepare rows for planting?

Across Nyla Lane was 183 Westwood Street, where I enjoyed the architectural detail of the front entry. The overall house design had simple, clean lines.

183 Westwood Street

When I walk around town, I notice signs that people post in their yards and businesses. This “Love Wins” sign in the front yard of 177 Westwood Street is not unique, but the message is worth seeing again and again, and then living as best we can. 

Across from 155 Westwood Street is a sturdy bridge spanning a small gully that appears to have a seasonal creek. The bridge mystified me until I followed the path. It took me on a shortcut to Sunnyview Street.The city map shows that the path continues from Sunnyview Street to Hald Strawberry Park, which means people living on Westwood Street can take a short walk to the park. This is a good example of Ashland’s commitment to give people pedestrian shortcuts whenever possible.

Pathway bridge between Westwood Street and Sunnyview Street

I stopped for a long look at a modern log “cabin” at 135 Westwood Street. As I was snapping photos from the sidewalk, the homeowner Chuck came out of the house and we struck up a conversation. 

135 Westwood Street
135 Westwood Street

First I got an education about how the modern log house is different from the frontier log cabin. All I know about frontier log cabins is that the wind and the cold always used to find their way through chinks between the logs. Chuck had me look closely at the Lodgepole Pine logs used to build his house. No chinks! The house is made with “D-logs” that are engineered with tongue-in-groove connections (similar to a tongue-in-groove wood floor). With logs 8″ thick, there is no need for wall insulation. The logs provide all the wall insulation needed, plus they absorb heat from the sun during the day and then radiate the heat into the interior rooms at night. 

135 Westwood Street, Lodgepole Pine “D-logs”

Chuck invited me inside. The first thing I noticed were the dramatic portrait photos in the living room. Then I was shocked by Chuck’s story how he acquired them. 

Glass positive portrait

In the 1950s, he worked at the Los Angeles Times Mirror Press. This press printed the L.A. Times newspaper and many magazines. The specialty magazine called Arizona Highways used portrait photos of Native Americans. At the time (before digital printing), the magazine printing process for these portrait photos used them in the form of glass positive prints. One day, during a cleanup at the printing company, Chuck was in the right place at the right time to see these glass positive print portraits being taken to the dumpster. He grabbed as many as he could. Now they have the respect they deserve in his beautiful home.

Glass positive portraits

I thanked Chuck for his hospitality and continued walking uphill on Westwood Street. Nearby, I was struck by two different house design choices across the street from each other.

130 Westwood Street has very simple lines in the architectural design, complemented by a simple front yard garden.

130 Westwood Street

121 Westwood Street has a more complex architectural design in the variety of shapes and the window designs.

121 Westwood Street

At this time of year, I see Shasta daisies blooming all over town, including in my own yard. I like the lush exuberance of the plants and the simple beauty of the daisy flowers. At 98 Westwood Street, I got my first look at what looks like a Shasta daisy with ruffles. The daisy grew next to an attractive rock-post entry gate.

98 Westwood Street

My final stop on Westwood Street, before it turns the corner and the name changes to Strawberry Lane, was a pleasant surprise. First I met Lynn, who was also out for a morning walk. She lives on nearby Wrights Creek Drive, and I told her I would write about her street eventually.

As Lynn and I were talking, the homeowner of 62 Westwood Street came out, so I introduced myself. I am glad I did. Just as Chuck had given me an education about his log house, Laura gave me an education about her eco house. 

62 Westwood Street

Laura’s first home in Ashland was nearby on Strawberry Lane. When she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to design and build a house, she worked with contractor Peter Mattson, who is knowledgeable about ecological construction. I could see solar panels on the roof, so I asked her what else makes it an eco house, since it looks so “normal” from the outside.

She pointed to the wide eaves over south facing windows. I replied that the wide eaves would block the sun from entering the house during hot summer days, and allow the sun to warm the house during the winter when the sun rides lower in the sky. She said I was correct.

Two invisible eco features are responsible for the ability of her house to stay so cool on hot summer days. It was mid-July on the day of my Westwood Street walk, and the temperature within Laura’s house had not exceeded 76° F so far this summer. She had not yet needed to turn on her air conditioner.

One invisible feature is the 12″ thick ICF walls (made with Insulated Concrete Forms). An ICF wall might have an 8″ core of concrete, anchored with rebar and poured in place, sandwiched between two 2″ layers of expanded foam. No additional wall insulation is required. This ICF wall helps hold in the heat in winter and keep out the heat in summer.

The other invisible feature Laura proudly told me about is her ground source heat pump (GSHP, also called a geothermal heat pump). This way to heat and cool a house takes advantage of the constant temperature of the earth five to six feet below ground level. Unlike Ashland’s air temperature, which fluctuates widely throughout the year, the below-ground temperature normally stays at 50° to 55° F year round.

A National Geographic article I found online explained it like this: “Unlike ordinary heating and cooling systems, geothermal HVAC systems do not burn fossil fuel to generate heat; they simply transfer heat to and from the earth. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the unit’s fan, compressor, and pump.”

Ground source heat pump tubing similar to this is buried 5′ to 6′ underground at Laura’s house. 
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Laura explained to me that about a mile of coiled tubing is buried 5′ to 6′ deep, then connected to the heat pump in her house. I don’t understand all the science, but the constant ground temperature is able to warm the house in the winter and cool the house in the summer. Very little energy is needed to run the system, so over time it helps both the homeowner’s budget and the earth.

For those not interested in ecological houses with ICF walls and GSHP HVAC systems, let’s change the subject from home building to an old-fashioned slice of life story.

I noticed this unusual sign by Laura’s front door and asked her the meaning of “Bield.” With her story, she took me back to when she was age 13 and she lived in a small town called Bieldside in Northeast Scotland. Biel or Bield is a Scots word defined as a shelter or a sheltered place. The town Bieldside got its name for its location on the sheltered side of a river.

Therefore, the sign by the front door that says “Laura’s Bield” means “Laura’s Shelter,” and brings her sweet memories of her time living in Scotland.

While in Scotland, she was introduced to poet Robert Burns. He is most famous for preserving the traditional song Auld Lang Syne, which is sung round the world on New Year’s Eve.  Considered the “national poet of Scotland,” Burns was born in 1759 and wrote hundreds of songs and poems before his death at the young age of 37. The word “Bield” (shelter) on the sign by her doorway not only connects Laura with the town of Bieldside, but also with a Robert Burns poem called “Bessy and Her Spinnin’ Wheel.”  

After Laura told me of her fondness for this poem, I had to go home and look it up on the internet. Burns wrote Bessy and Her Spinnin’ Wheel in 1792, in the Scots dialect. Here are the first and last stanzas of the poem, first as written in the Scots dialect, and then my rough translation into American English. I highlighted the words “biel” and “shelter” in bold.

Robert Burns portrait, painted in 1787 by Alexander Nasmyth.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First stanza in Robert Burns’ words:

O Leeze me on my spinnin’ wheel,
and leeze me on my rock and reel;
Frae tap to tae that cleeds me bien,
And haps me biel and warm at e’en;
I’ll set me down and sing and spin,
While laigh descends the simmer sun,
Blest wi’ content, and milk and meal,
O leeze me on my spinnin’ wheel.

Last stanza in Robert Burns’ words:

Wi’ sma’ to sell, and less to buy,
Aboon distress, below envy,
O wha wad leave this humble state,
For a’ the pride of a’ the great?
Amid their flairing, idle toys,
Amid their cumbrous, dinsome joys,
Can they the peace and pleasure feel
Of Bessy at her spinnin’ wheel?

Rough translation of first stanza:

I’m delighted with my spinning wheel,
And delighted with my spindle and reel,
That clothes me comfortably from head to toe, 
And wraps me in shelter and warmth at evening;
I’ll sit me down and sing and spin,
While low descends the summer sun,
Blessed with content, and milk and meal,
I’m delighted with my spinning wheel.


Rough translation of last stanza:

With little to sell, and less to buy,
Above distress, below envy,
Oh who would leave this humble state,
For all the pride of all the great?
Amid their flaring, idle toys,
Amid their cumbrous, noisy joys,
Can they the peace and pleasure feel
Of Bessy at her spinning wheel?

Lavender at 62 Westwood Street

I will close with a description and photos of Laura’s simple and colorful front yard garden. Following the ecological theme, Laura’s garden contains a variety of native, deer resistant and low-water-usage plants. The garden was designed by Jane Hardgrove, landscape designer and watercolor artist. The flowers bloom one after another throughout the spring and summer. 

Manzanita

As we walked her small garden, Laura pointed out manzanita, orange sedge, lavender, rosemary, barberry, heather, kinnikinnick (or bearberry) and hot lips sage (with its bright red blooms). Wildflowers like yarrow and California poppies complete the garden.

Hot lips sage
Heather
Orange sedge
Yarrow

Finally, as we were saying goodbye, Laura looked across the street and told me she loved her location because of the “big front yard.” Her “big front yard” is Westwood Park, an unimproved park owned by the City of Ashland. 

Westwood Park, City of Ashland. The Siskiyou Mountains are in the background.

A Street: The History of OAK STREET TANK & STEEL

Painting of Oak Street Tank & Steel by Dorothy Nugent

In The Beginning…

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

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

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

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

Founding of the Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oak Street Tank Products

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

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

Yes…even bomb shelters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Family Stories

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

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

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

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

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holly Street Part 2: Ashland’s Faith Healer and Daffodil Paradise

Article Highlights:
(1) Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer
(2) Daffodil Paradise

541 Holly Street: Former home of Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer

Mrs. Susie Jessel (photo from Jessel, no date, title page)

541 Holly Street was the home of nationally renowned faith healer Susie Jessel.  She and her family moved to Ashland in 1932, and she lived here until her death in 1966.  Her daughter wrote that Susie Jessel treated as many as 300 people a day at times, people who came from all over the country, as well as Canada and Mexico.  She treated babies, the elderly, those with tumors, people who were crippled and many more.

Cars parked on Holly Street in the 1940’s, of people going for treatment from Susie Jessel (photo from Jessel, no date, page 62)

The photo above stimulated a memory for my friend Terry Skibby.  He told me: “My folks would tour Ashland by car and see the sights when company came.  One location was the Susie Jessel place with the large crowds of people.  They were in the trailer park and street at the corner of Holly and Idaho Streets.  This was in the 1950’s.”

How did she become a healer?  Here are Susie Jessel’s own words.

“On April 2, 1891, I arrived. I was born with what they then called a veil or caul over my face.  This was to indicate a special gift in a child.  I believe now it is just termed a membrane.  Mother noticed my gift immediately.  She had trouble with her breasts, and she noticed that when my hands would touch them, the pain would leave and before long all pain and fever was gone.

“During the war Daddy’s eye had been injured and had a whitish scum over it.  Before I was two years old I started noticing that eye and I would reach up and touch it.  Soon the scum started disappearing and the sight returned to that eye.  From that time on Daddy called me his ‘little bundle of magic.’

“I can’t remember when I wasn’t carried at all hours of the night to the ailing.  Mother would place my hands on the person, and before long they would get relief from pain.  And so my healing career started before I was out of the cradle.”   (Jessel, no date, page 8)

“After all my research, I’m convinced she was the real thing, a true spiritual healer….”  That quote is from author, lawyer and retired SOU business professor Dennis Powers, who researched Jessel and was quoted in John Darling’s 2014 Mail Tribune article.   Powers said that she healed by laying on of hands and prayer.  She did not ask for payment, but some people would leave money in her apron pocket. She insisted that she did not “do” the healing, that it was entirely God working through her.

People waiting to receive treatment from Susie Jessel (photo from Jessel 1950, page 7)

Time Magazine 1953

Time Magazine even featured Susie Jessel in a 1953 article. It said: “‘Susie,’ as her patients called her, moved to Ashland 23 years ago, and she has brought a boom to the town.  Thousands of hopeful patients keep the cash registers ringing in motels, hotels, restaurants, drug stores and movie houses.”

Unlike Dennis Powers, the author of the Time article was very cynical when it came Susie’s healing powers, as shown by this line from the article.  “Says Clarence Litwiller, a local undertaker who claims that last year he buried 18 of Susie’s patients: ‘She’s the biggest business in town for everybody.”

Here is another way to look at Litwiller’s statement.  If Susie Jessel treated thousands of people in a year, many of whom their doctors said were near death, and only 18 of them died in Ashland, that could be seen as quite amazing.

Mrs. Jessel did not say that she could heal everyone who came to her.  She made no promises.  However, she stated that there was “a big improvement in at least 80% of them.” (Jessel, no date, page 49)

Was the healing only psychological?

Skeptics said that healings, if anything happened at all, were only psychological.  Mrs. Jessel addressed this attitude:

“Some may feel that the healing is merely in the minds of the patients; however, when one thinks of the skeptical and the tiny babies and animals who with no knowledge of psychology receive so much and in some cases more help faster than adults, I don’t believe this theory applies.” (Jessel, no date, page 66)

Susie Jessel had a fascinating life story, but I can’t tell all of it here.  If you want to read more, you can find many of my references for this article in the Ashland Library.

Ashland, Susie Jessel
Susie Jessel treating someone by laying on hands (Jessel, no date, page 55)

The Gardener

I will end this part of my Holly Street article with the emotional closing lines from H.K. Ellis’ 1943 magazine article about Susie Jessel.

I was packing things away in the car, getting ready to leave Ashland, when I was told that a patient wished to speak to me.  He was pointed out, a short, stocky figure laboring in the nearby truck garden.

I went over, walking across soft red loam.  The young fellow wore grimy dungarees, a faded blue shirt and a ragged straw hat pulled low over his eyes.  I did not offer to shake hands with him for he seemed desirous of overlooking any sympathy.

‘How’s the de luxe gardener?’ I asked.

‘Just swell!’ he exclaimed. ‘Look!’

He raised his face to mine. His eyes were two circles of blotchy white.  ‘Look!’ he repeated.  ‘These cataracts are thinning.  For five years I’ve seen nothing farther than a yard away.  But now, for instance, look at that robin over on the cowshed fence. It’s about 50 feet, I’d say.’

‘You’re right,’ I agreed, following his gaze.  ‘But somehow, it’s hard to believe.’

‘Not when you’re behind the eight ball,’ he said grinning.  ‘Things Mrs. Jessel once told me are beginning to come true.  I know.  Why, only last night I caught a glimpse of the moon!’

541 Holly Street is still called the Jessel House, though it is now a vacation rental.

541 Holly St, former home of faith healer Susie Jessel

Do any of the readers of this article know someone who was treated by Susie Jessel?

Now let’s walk the rest of Holly Street until it ends at Liberty Street.

500 Holly Street: Artistic Fieldstone

Ashland, stone wall
500 Holly Street has a natural fieldstone wall anchored by two huge boulders.

I always appreciate creative stone wall building, especially natural fieldstone walls like this one.  I look at a stone wall like this and I think of words like patience, right-brain, strong visual sense, trust and nature.

558 Holly Street: Lush Wisteria vine

558 Holly, trunk of the huge Wisteria vine

This is not the longest stretching Wisteria vine I have ever seen, but it is close.  I think this is the largest Wisteria trunk I have ever seen.  As shown in the photo above, from the trunk at the corner of the front porch the vine has been trained to grow towards the street.

There it takes off along the front fence line, all the way to the property line in both directions (as shown in the photo below).  I look forward to coming back in the spring to enjoy this Wisteria’s magnificent blooms.

Mrs. Susie Jessel lived here at 558 Holly Street for about two years before settling at 541 Holly Street.

558 Holly, huge wisteria

645 Holly Street: Artistic Facade

Ashland, architecture
645 Holly Street has a beautiful stone facade

My artistic eye likes this stone-facade garage with upstairs studio.  The beautiful wood garage door adds to the charm and a little design help from afternoon sun and tree shadows completes the artistic package.

750 Holly Street: Magical Japanese Maple

Ashland, tree

750 Holly Street: This was my attempt to capture the magical afternoon light through Autumn-color Japanese Maple leaves.This house has a lovely front yard, but the afternoon sunlight shining through these Japanese Maple leaves really got my attention.  This little tree was absolutely stunning.  I captured a bit of the magic, but no matter how many photos I took, I couldn’t capture all of it.

826 Holly Street: Daffodil Paradise

Ashland, flowers
826 Holly Street, daffodil paradise, planted by Carol

Here at the Liberty Street end of Holly Street is one of the most spectacular Spring gardens in Ashland.  If you love daffodils, you must walk or drive to 826 Holly Street in March or April.  Here are photos of the garden in March of 2018 and March of 2020, to give you a taste of the daffodils (and lavender) in all their glory.

Ashland, flowers
The colors and shapes of daffodil and lavender complement each other during the month of March 2018 at 826 Holly Street.

I met Carol, the owner of 826 Holly Street, as I was walking in the springtime.  She explained to me that she started planting daffodil bulbs 24 years ago.  She liked them so much that she has continued to plant more every year since then, as well as separating the clumps of bulbs.

Carol told me her secret was to dead-head the flowers as soon as they stop blooming.  She told me: “I want all the goodness to go back into the bulb.”  I think you’ll agree that she has plenty of “goodness” to show for her 24 years of hard work and loving care.

I love the sign Carol placed on her front yard tree: “Think flowers and be happy. Get out and plant.”

This is a final photo of Carol’s lush daffodil garden in March 2020.

Two Dramatic Trees on Holly Street

I will close the Holly Street walk and article with a look at two trees that stand out.

Trail Marker Tree?

Ashland, tree
Is this Ponderosa pine at 558 Holly Street a “trail marker tree?”

When I spoke with Gary Pool, who lives on Holly Street, he pointed out this dramatic Ponderosa pine on Holly Street as a possible Native American trail marker tree.  I had never heard of the term “trail marker tree” and I did some research.  I found this interesting insight and explanation online.

“Trees have been used as signs for centuries. Between 2002 and 2005 I had the privilege of being involved with the Smithsonian  Museum of the American Indian.  During that time period, I worked with several native Americans, including a Native American ethnobotanist who taught me many interesting things about Native American Culture including the practice of using Marker Trees to show the way.  Native Americans used to use trees to tell in which direction they should travel. These were called Marker Trees.

“Favorite tree selection for these trees were oaks, maples and elms. These species were selected for their flexibility in youth, but hardwood in maturity. Marker trees were bent in the direction of a frequently visited destination such as a water source, campsite, or a safe river crossing.” (Ronda Roemmelt 2015)

The photo below shows a tree identified by experts as a Native American trail marker tree.

Ashland, tree
Trail Marker Tree in North Central Illinois, with Dennis Downes, researcher

(Photo on Great Lakes Trail Tree Society website)

After my research, I have concluded that the Ponderosa Pine on Holly Street is not a trail marker tree, though it would be romantic to call it one.  Here is my reasoning.  Nearly every trail marker tree photo I saw online shows the bent branch that “points the way” only 3′ to 6′ above the ground (like the photo above).  The lowest bent branch on the Holly Street pine is more than 10′ above the ground.  I think it is a case of unusual artwork by Mother Nature.

Massive Oak Tree

Ashland, oak tree
541 Holly Street is home to an historic oak tree, in addition to having been the home to an historic faith healer.

This oak tree is not quite as dramatic as the Ponderosa pine, but it has a massive and beautiful presence on Holly Street.

If you have thoughts about this article, or if you have a Holly Street story to add, feel free to leave a comment below.

References I consulted while writing about Holly Street:

Anon. “Medicine: Straw for the Drowning,” Time Magazine, September 7, 1953.

Darling, John. “A History of Healing,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 1, 2014. (link here)

Ellis, H.K.  “The Story of Mrs. Susie Jessel,” TRUE magazine,  Country Press Inc., 1943

Jessel, Mary Jane.  The Story of Mrs. Susie Jessel, 1950.

O’Harra, Marjorie.  Ashland: the first 130 years, 1986

Roemmelt, Ronda. “The History of Marker Trees,”  Deeproot.com, October 5, 2015

Sanderson, Mary Jessel.  Healing Hands: The Story of Susie Jessel, as told to her daughter Mary Jessel Sanderson, no date.

Holly Street Part 1: 101-Year-Old Mrs. Fader and the Pool’s Pool

Article highlights:
101-year-old Mrs. Fader tells me stories, plus…
The Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole

Holly Street starts at Terrace Street just a few blocks from downtown, and goes downhill about nine blocks to end at Liberty Street.  When I start walking a street, taking photos and talking with people, I never know what I will find.  I found so many fascinating stories (including history) as I walked Holly Street, that I decided to divide my article into two parts.  This is Part 1.

101-year-old, 75-year Holly Street resident Mrs. Fader tells me stories

I met 101-year-old Mrs. Clara Fader at 338 Holly Street.  She told me that she and her husband Joseph bought the house (photo below) in 1943 or 1944.  Though her husband passed away in 1980, she and her daughters Louise and Mary still live there.

Ashland, history

Mrs. Fader impressed on me that she and Joseph were in education for 84 years between the two of them! She taught school for 40 years and he was a teacher and principal for 44 years.

She attended Southern Oregon Normal School (now SOU), where one of her teachers was Angus Bowmer, who founded the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1935.  I couldn’t coax any Angus Bowmer stories out of her, just the statement: “He was really a character.”

Angus Bower, founder of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in 1948. (photo from Julie Cortez of OSF)

Lincoln Elementary School was purposely built next to Southern Oregon Normal School to make it easy for student teachers to walk back and forth.  Mrs. Fader taught for a while at Lincoln School, and then for many years she was a First Grade teacher at Walker Elementary School.  This led to a good story.

The boy with the “big worm”

She described one of her students as a “bashful young boy” who came to her toward the end of lunch recess one day.  He told her: “I hope it’s okay that I went in the classroom and found an empty jar, because I caught a big worm and need something to put it in.”

Mrs. Fader had her teacher-intuition working, so she asked the boy to bring her the jar with the “big worm.”  When he did, she looked in the jar and saw a baby rattlesnake!

Baby Pacific rattlesnake (photo by Kristen Lalumiere)

Mrs. Fader told the boy: “Recess is almost over so go out and play for a few minutes, and I will keep the big worm.”  She found another teacher in the hallway, who offered to take the rattlesnake to the College science department a few blocks away.  After the science department did some investigation of the rattler, they reported back to Mrs. Fader that it had enough venom in its glands to potentially kill a child.

Another under-the-radar super-hero teacher at work!

Mrs. Fader remembers that day as one of three times that the children found rattlesnakes on the Walker School playground during her time teaching there.

The Fader house

The house was built in the 1880’s, according to Mrs. Fader.  She and her family have made very few changes to the house, so it retains its historic character.

She recalls that after she and her husband bought the house, they started paying the City for utilities: water, electrical, sewer and more.  Well, it took about seven years before they realized that the house had its own septic system and they weren’t even connected with the city sewer system.  At that time, their house was still a bit “in the country” and the City had to install sewer pipes ¼ mile or more to connect with the City lines.  This was quite expensive.

It seemed logical to Mr. and Mrs. Fader (and to me as I was listening to her story) that they would get credit from the city for seven or so years of sewer payments for service they didn’t even use…makes sense, right?  Then that credit would be applied to the cost of linking their house with the city system.  Who knows the bureaucratic reasons, but according to Mrs. Fader the credit was not given, and it’s a sore spot with her to this day.

Mrs. Fader’s barn at 338 Holly Street (with a visitor in the photo that is not a family pet)

The Fader family pets

When the children were young, the Fader’s had a number of pets, including rabbits, goats and dogs. Here are two pet stories Mrs. Fader told me.

Goats: The baby goats grew up with her children and would follow them around the acres of orchards and gardens around the house. During the school year, the goats knew what time the kids were due to walk home up Holly Street.  They would wait in the street keeping an eye out for the Fader children walking home from Lincoln School.  When they spotted the children several blocks away, they flew down the street to meet them.  Then they would accompany the children for the rest of their uphill walk home.  Mrs. Fader told me her neighbor down the street loved to go out in her front yard after school let out just to see this sight.

The Black Lab: Among the dogs they had as pets, the college-educated black lab whom she adopted later in his life was the most memorable to Mrs. Fader.  Yes, I do mean college-educated.

The black lab, named Christopher, made a home for himself at Southern Oregon College (now SOU).  Students would take care of the dog, and so he thrived from year to year.  Christopher had a habit of trying to visit classrooms during the day.  Most of the teachers closed their classroom doors or kicked him out, but one professor had an “open door policy” when it came to Christopher.

This was Professor Arthur Taylor, one of the most distinguished professors on campus.  He taught Social Science at Southern Oregon College from 1926 until 1963, and was Chair of the Department for many years.  He was so respected that the social science building Taylor Hall is named after him.

Taylor Hall at Southern Oregon University

Now…back to the dog named Christopher.  According to Mrs. Fader, Professor Taylor left his classroom door open so that Christopher could sit with the students, as he often did.  When Christopher was forced to leave his “home” at the college, and Mrs. Fader adopted him, Professor Taylor had words of high praise for the dog.  He told Mrs. Fader (with tongue firmly in cheek): You won’t find a better educated dog than this.  Christopher has attended college for six to eight years, sitting in class with my students.

Mrs. Fader confirmed to me that he was the smartest dog she ever had!

* * * * *

Let’s mosey on down Holly Street for more photos and stories.

Ashland, garden

357 Holly Street 

I call this photo: “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky.”  Do you recognize the song these lyrics are from?  Hint: It was an Oregon Shakespeare Festival musical in the 2018 season.  Yes, the song is from one of my favorite musicals of all time…Oklahoma.

Ashland, yard art

384 Holly Street 

I enjoy finding beautiful and unusual yard art, and this house number sign qualifies as both beautiful and unusual.

Ashland, door, art
Royalty or Prince? 397 Holly Street welcomes with a purple door and colorful art.

Purple door and colorful art makes a welcoming entrance, in my book.

* * * * *

Ashland, architecture

The Pool’s bought a pool with help from  Poole

Got it?  No?  Let me translate.

Life brought Gary and Debbie Pool a surprise, as Debbie explained to me: “When Gary and I got engaged, we thought we would sell my house and live in his, but we saw a flyer for the pool house [at 414 Holly Street] with a huge photo of the pool area with all the light and we had to see it!”

Realtor Eric Poole was Debbie’s neighbor, so they asked him to arrange a tour of the house for them.  They went, toured the house, made an offer the same day…and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

So in summary, the Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole. Crazy, fun and true.

Ashland414 Holly Street, Gary and Debbie Pool’s entry recently rebuilt by Gary

Gary is just putting the finishing touches on an attractive new front entrance (above) and a front yard deck (where I took the photo below of Gary and Debbie).

Ashland
Debbie and Gary Pool on their almost-finished new front entry deck Gary is building at 414 Holly Street

Gary received his Bachelor’s degree at Utah State University in Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning.  That skill set took his career in a variety of directions, including doing city planning in the 1980’s.

Today he has a small landscape design and architecture business (GWPool & Assoc).  He told me that he finds his work creative and fulfilling when he is able to design and build “personal parks.” These are designs that turn a client’s yard into a delightful, relaxing oasis.

I have known Gary and Debbie for many years, and they graciously allowed me to share some photos (and a video) showing the inside of their dramatic home.

The afternoon brings garden reflections to the water and water reflections to the interior walls of the two-story house.

414 Holly St, water reflections on the walls at Gary and Debbie Pool’s home

Enjoy the 13 second video of water reflecting on the walls at the Pool’s pool house

This is only Part 1 of the Holly Street story.

In Part 2, I will introduce you to Ashland’s famous faith healer, who in her day brought as many people to Ashland as did the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Then we will meet Carol, who has created what I call “daffodil heaven,” one of the most spectacular springtime gardens in Ashland.  Finally, we will learn about two dramatic Holly Street trees.

Three Huge Health Benefits of Walking

Three Huge Health Benefits of Walking

Why am I writing an article about the health benefits of walking in a blog about Ashland?  Well, my website is called WalkAshland, isn’t it?  I am walking for the fun of it, and for my own health.  I hope these articles about the streets and neighborhoods of Ashland will inspire others to walk more.  So here is a short introduction to three of the myriad health benefits of walking.

The next time you have a medical check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk.” Harvard Medical School report

That is some powerful “medicine!”  Let’s see what Dr. Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control from 2009 – 2017, said about walking.

Ashland is a Great Walking Community

Ashland is a great community to walk in.  Our citizens and city government leaders have made a conscious decision through the decades to keep Ashland as compact as possible, which encourages walking.

Lithia Park is a jewel of a park for taking short or long walks in any season of the year.  Beyond Lithia Park, community leaders committed years ago to create parks near every neighborhood in town, so everyone can relax in “a bit of nature.”

Speaking of nature, from the end of many Ashland streets we can access nature trails that lead into the Siskiyou Mountains and beyond, literally all the way to Canada or Mexico.

A mountain trail starts at the end of Liberty Street

Stress in Your Life?  Walking is an Anti-Stress “Wonder Drug”

Why would your doctor give you a prescription to walk?    The Harvard report goes on to say:

“Walking can even help your mood. A number of studies have found that it’s as effective as drugs for decreasing depression. It can help relieve everyday stresses, too. Tension starts to ease as the road stretches out in front of you. Mood-elevating endorphin levels increase.” (Harvard 2017)

When it comes to stress in life, it doesn’t get much tougher than having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress). A recent study with women Veterans looked at the impact of walking on their PTSD stress.  The women took a brisk walk four times a week for 12 weeks.

The researchers reported that at the end of 12 weeks: “Both post-traumatic and depressive symptoms improved significantly by the end of study.”  In addition, the women who were interviewed said that walking helped both their emotions and their physical health. (Shivakumar 2017)

If a basic brisk walk four times a week can help reduce post-traumatic stress in women Veterans, think what it can do for your everyday stresses.  This gives an idea of the power we are talking about.

Need a Mood Lift?  Go for a Walk (preferably in nature)

Ashland, Lithia Park
Lithia Park, a favorite place to walk in Ashland

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  John Muir

I think we all know intuitively that time in nature can be relaxing and healing.  If you live in a city, you may find yourself drawn to the park on a sunny day, or heading for a campground in the woods on a 3-day weekend.  Surrounded by trees or flowers or desert or sky, you can feel “the weight” of many worries melt away, at least for a time.

What about the science?  Numerous studies describe the benefits of walking in nature, but this one by researchers primarily at Stanford University really intrigued me.  They compared people who took 90 minute walks in either a natural setting or an urban setting.  Here is what they found.

“Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.” (Bratman 2015/Jordan 2015)

In other words, people had fewer negative thoughts and less activity in this “mental-stress-promoting” area of the brain after walking in natural surroundings rather than along a busy street.  The study authors theorize that allowing people in cities access to natural areas could be important for maintaining positive mood and mental health as the world continues to urbanize.

So once again, hooray for Ashland parks and trails, and hooray for the commitment to planting many trees along busy streets.

Want a Brain Health Boost?  Yes, Go for a Walk!

Walking, brain
Walking stimulates new brain cells (graphic by GDJ on pixabay)

“Greater amounts of walking are associated with greater gray matter volume [in the brain], which is in turn associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.”  (Erickson 2010)

One of the ways walking is able to boost mood is by improving brain health.  The ageing of the “baby boom” population and the increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have led to a boom in brain health research.  We have learned in recent decades that the brain has significant “plasticity,” the ability to grow new cells, heal and change even in later life.  (Windle 2010)

One way walking supports brain health is by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that helps keep brain neurons healthy and even stimulates the creation of new neurons. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with better memory and overall cognitive health.  (Vaynman 2005)

Walking even increases the size of the brain, another indication of brain health.  Brain gray matter volume tends to shrink in old age, and this shrinkage is often associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

A study with 299 adults in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 65 years and older compared the amount of walking they did with their brain gray matter size 9 years later and their cognitive health 13 years later.  The people who walked the most had greater gray matter volume in all areas of the brain tested.  They also had less risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in the final set of tests.  (Erickson 2010)

So the next time you go out for a walk, enjoy knowing that you are receiving mood-lifting and brain health benefits along with the physical exercise!

Another trail that leaves from an Ashland neighborhood. This trail to the Oredson-Todd Woods and beyond starts at the end of Lupine Drive, which is off Greenmeadows Way.

REFERENCES

Bratman GN et al. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.  PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), June 29, 2015, described in “Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature” by Rob Jordan June 30, 2015: https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/

Erickson KI et al. Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood: the Cardiovascular Health Study.  Neurology. 2010 Oct 19;75(16):1415-22.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20944075

Harvard Medical School Health Report  (accessed 11/10/2017)
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-for-health

Shivakumar G et al. Exercise for PTSD in Women Veterans: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Mil Med. 2017 Nov;182(11):e1809-e1814.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=shivakumar+g+2017

Vaynman S & Gomez-Pinilla F. License to run: exercise impacts functional plasticity in the intact and injured central nervous system by using neurotrophins.  Neurorehabil Neural Repair.2005 Dec;19(4):283-95.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16263961

Windle G, Hughes D, Linck P, Russell I, Woods B. Is exercise effective in promoting mental well-being in older age? A systematic review. Aging Ment Health. 2010;14(6):652-669.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20686977

Morton Street – Steep, with Stories

Morton Street runs from East Main Street uphill to Ashland Loop Road.  I walked it during the late afternoon of May 30, 2018.

 

When I think of Morton Street, I think of “steep,” though much of it is not steep at all.  I picture cars losing control and sliding down Morton Street’s steep section on icy winter days and finally coming to a stop in someone’s yard a block or two down.  I was surprised to hear from 5-year resident Randy that cars sliding down on icy days rarely happens.  He added that kids with sleds love Morton Street’s steepness on snowy days.

Ashland Cemetery

Let’s begin at East Main Street, the downhill start to Morton Street, where you will find the Ashland Cemetery.  This is an old community cemetery, with the earliest recorded burial dating to 1860, according to the City website.

 

I am impressed with the lush flower-filled front yard at 327 Morton Street.  I guess I hit the yard at just the right time of year.

Gate Art

Past the flowers, the 300 block of Morton Street wowed me with gate art and yard art.

 

 

I love the pathway gate and auto gate at 340 Morton Street, which were created by one or more very talented metal artists.

I enjoyed the yard art at 360 Morton Street.  This bicycle is only one of multiple large and small interesting metal creations in the front yard.

I also love trees, and I hope to be able to find one or more trees to feature on nearly every street in Ashland.  This large pink dogwood in bloom caught my eye at 501 Morton Street.

The Uphill Climb

Okay, are you ready to tackle the steep climb up Morton Street with me?

This photo looking down the steep climb gives a better perspective than any of the photos I took looking up the street.

Bob: Walking up the steep part of Morton Street, I met Bob going the same direction -up.  I was very impressed when he told me that he walks to the top of Morton Street twice a week from his home on Holly Street!  He then circles back to Holly Street by way of Ashland Loop Road and Terrace Avenue. My photo of Bob is at the end of the article.

Jeff: On my way back down this steep section of Morton Street, I met Jeff, who yelled out to me: “Do you have a minute to help a neighbor?”  Feeling neighborly, I said yes.  I helped him cut down a Douglas Fir tree on his property.  The Ashland Fire Marshal had told him that Douglas Fir are more flammable than other trees and are best not to have growing near a house, so he is taking action.  (I am going to slip another Ashland street here into the Morton Street article – Cascade Street where Jeff lives – because it is less than a block long and because it intersects Morton Street.)

Upper Morton Street contains a variety of house styles.  I like the traditional look of the house at 743 Morton Street.  Can you see the reflections of nature in the windows?

Is this Wisteria vine going to “eat” the No Parking sign?  It sure looks healthy and hungry.  This is a rare freestanding Wisteria vine, not trained on a fence, trellis or along the roofline of a house.  Being true to its nature, it looked for the nearest thing to climb and found the signpost. You can find it near 800 Morton Street.

Talking Aristotle with Ron

Ron: I met Ron when I took a detour off Morton Street to explore the dirt pathway of Waterline Road.  Actually, before I met Ron his two small dogs saw me and started barking wildly. After he calmed them down, we started talking about Morton Street, living in Ashland and even philosophy.  Ron is excited that he and his wife will soon be moving to Morton Street so they can go for walks on beautiful Waterline Road.

As we were talking about Ashland and community, Ron quoted Aristotle to me.  That’s not a conversation I have every day!

He started with: “Man is a political animal,” which is a famous quote from Aristotle’s writing.  Ron pointed out that this widely shared quote is a mistranslation of what Aristotle said in the original Greek.

“Man is a political animal.” or
“Man is an animal that flourishes in a Polis.”  Aristotle

Ron likes this translation: “Man is an animal that flourishes in a Polis.”  Ron told me that the word Polis as Aristotle used it is a community of like-minded people, normally a community of a few thousand that is small enough to be walkable.  He said Polis has little to do with “politics” as we know it. So there is a connection between Aristotle and Ashland.  My understanding of the primary goal of both our city government and many residents of Ashland is to create a community that will allow our citizens to flourish…”man,” woman and child.

Back to the houses of Morton Street.  I had very different reactions to the architecture of two modern style homes on upper Morton Street.  I was intrigued by the difference in color choices, as well as design elements such as the roofline, decks and window shapes. The earth-tone house at 1010 Morton Street is more my style than the gray and white house at 861 Morton Street. Here are the two photos.  See what you think.

Now for something completely different.

I like the artistry of the ceramic tile street sign next to an attractive lamppost and a gorgeous tiny tile birdhouse.  I can’t tell if the birdhouse is solely an art piece or if birds really do make a home there.


Another beautiful garden, especially in May and June when the flowers are in bloom, is at 950 Morton Street.  It looks like a “forest” of rhododendron plants on the uphill side of the street.  Even though it is not close to the street, the photo gives a sense of its lush carpet of color.  The homeowners must have an amazing view of this carpet of color from their deck.

We have finally reached the uphill end of Morton Street, where it meets Ashland Loop Road.  I saved my photo of Bob for the end of the article, because he wanted to show me a huge scary rock way at the top.  It’s just a few yards to the left on Ashland Loop Road from the end of Morton Street.

As we had been walking up Morton Street, Bob had been describing this rock to me.  He described it as “big enough to flatten houses” if it started rolling downhill, for example if a major earthquake were strong enough to jar it loose.  He told me the city was worried enough to do something to minimize that risk, as you can see in the photo below.

When we got to the rock, we had a little fun with the photo shoot.  It looks like some of the hillside that was holding the rock was cut away when Ashland Loop Road was put through.  So the city poured a huge hunk of concrete to stand in the place of the missing hillside and keep the rock stable.  It looks to me like a smart move.

Henry Street – Busy with SOU students

SOU Students, Yard Art and Huge Trees

I walked Henry Street, only two blocks long, on a cloudy, damp afternoon in April 2018.  One end is at Mountain Avenue, running into the SOU Education & Psychology building.  The other end is at Liberty Street.  I enjoyed the yard art on Henry Street.

In the two blocks of Henry Street, there are a few homes and an apartment building.  One large open space (pleasant and grassy) is the Lincoln School grounds.  The other large open space (useful and asphalty) is SOU Parking Lot 36.

Due to its proximity to SOU, Henry Street is very busy on days the university is in session, as it was the day of my walk.  Students are driving through or looking for parking spaces.  They park on both sides of Henry Street and are out walking back and forth between campus and their cars.

Henry Street has a mix of older and newer houses.  I liked the “watercolor sky” above this recently built house with solar panels on the roof.

I didn’t meet people to converse with on this afternoon walk.  I didn’t even meet any of the Ashland deer.  During my traverse of this short street, I was most impressed by the yard art and several massive trees.

If birds chose their houses based on aesthetics, this one would be in high demand.  However, I wonder if it is protected enough from cats to be a practical home for birds.  Cats can climb 10 feet up a tree trunk if they have a reason to, and chirping baby birds might be a strong reason.

I admired the simple stacked-rocks yard art in this front yard near the SOU parking lot.  The rocks and plantings give this small yard a Zen feeling in the midst of a bustling block full of students coming and going.