Mickey Mouse. Mosaic rock designs. “Science is Real” signs.
I found Mickey on Old Willow Lane
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.
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.
Big truck on small street
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I love this metal art and stone front yard at the end of the street.
Gate and tree
I found one unique and interesting gate on Old Willow Lane. I haven’t noticed a metal gate like this before.
One massive tree caught my eye and seemed worth sharing with you.
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.
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.
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 is one of many short, quiet streets off Fordyce Street. I will have an exciting article about Fordyce Street for you soon.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
George Anderson houses
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.
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.
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.
Writer of Western stories and novels lived here
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]
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
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
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
“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.
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
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.
Art for the neighborhood to enjoy
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
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.
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
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.
Ashland High School 2020 graduate
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.
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.”
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”
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
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.
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
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.
Unidentified quotes are from: National Register of Historic Places, Siskiyou-Hargadine Historic District, September 14, 2002.
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.
I began my Forest Street walk at the intersection with Liberty Street, one block uphill from Ashland Street.
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).
This “gate with a heart” at 796 Forest Street next caught my eye. It doesn’t take much to transform a simple gate into something special.
The Japanese maples and rhododendrons at 776 Forest Street provide contrasting shapes and colors.
Ashland Garden Club “Garden of the Month” for May 2020
The highlight of my walk along Forest Street was the May 2020 Garden of the Month. Each month, the Ashland Garden Club chooses one garden in Ashland to feature. This is how Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club introduced the garden:
“The wonderful garden at 720 Forest St. is a labor of love for homeowners Vicky Sturtevant and Alan Armstrong and is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for May. They have deftly combined edibles with ornamentals in this space they have gardened since 1983. It is a heavily shaded lot, particularly the upper, forested quarter-acre parcel that they purchased separately. In all, they have a half-acre that they manage beautifully. The hardscape was designed by Covey-Pardee Landscape Architects in 2009. Eric Cislo welded the gates and Ted Loftus constructed the stone walls.”
Viewing the garden from the street, you can only see a small part of what makes this labor of love special. So I will take you behind the scenes for highlights of the garden, some history of the garden, and share several of Vicky and Alan’s delightful family stories.
Garden in 1983 and 2020
The house was built in 1951. Alan and Vicky purchased it in 1983. When they bought the house, the yard consisted of lots of lawn, lots of concrete and not much else. In a story many of us can relate to, Vicky explained to me it was their choice. When they were looking for a home to buy, the couple had small children who were always outside riding tricycles, bicycles and other wheeled vehicles. “When we bought the house,” Vicky told me, “our real estate agent asked what we wanted, and I said ‘a lot of concrete.’” She got what she wanted…but…Vicky went on, “We spent the next 30 years getting rid of concrete!”
Here’s a visual for you. The first photo shows the house and front yard in 1983, when it had lots of lawn and lots of concrete.
The second photo shows the complete transformation. Taken in early May 2020, the front yard is now lush with blooming flowers and trees, a grape arbor, and a dozen varieties of vegetables not visible in this photo.
The white flowering tree on the right is a dogwood. The small plant to the left of the path with intense magenta blooms is a native penstemon. This beautiful slate pathway extends around to the back of the house.
My wife and I visited Vicky and Alan’s garden later in the month of May, so we saw different plants in bloom than Ruth and Larry saw during their early May visit for the Ashland Garden Club article.
More Larry Rosengren photos for the Ashland Garden Club
Larry took a photo of the Redbud tree at peak bloom in early May. By the time I toured the garden in late May, the tree was filled with green leaves rather than magenta blossoms.
In this back yard photo, Larry caught three species of rhododendron blooming at the same time, right next to each other. The rainbow of lavender, magenta and white flowers side by side is a treat.
Vicky and Alan love to discover and nurture plants native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. I took photos of seven native plants. The first one is special. I’ll tell you why.
You might be wondering, as I did, why this wildflower is called “Alice’s fleabane.” I have two explanations for you, so you can take your pick.
Number 1: When Vicky and Alan’s five year old granddaughter was introduced to this wildflower during a walk around the garden, she said, “This is my plant.” Now eight years old, every time she comes to visit her grandparents, she looks for Alice’s fleabane and loves to claim it: “This is my plant.” Why would she say this? I expect you already figured it out — her name is Alice.
Number 2: Born in 1859, Alice Eastwood was a pioneering botanist, a passion that began when she was very young. Here are the two books she received as high school graduation gifts: Porter and Coulter’s Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado (1874) and Gray’s Manual of the botany of the northern United States (1878).
After graduation, she lived in Colorado for 14 years, where she taught high school for income and spent every spare hour collecting plant specimens in the mountains. Her scholarly articles brought her attention, and she was asked to become the Curator of Botany for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. She held this position from 1893 until 1949, a total of 57 years! “By the end of her tenure, she had added a total of 340,000 specimens to its collection and had built up a fine botanical library with her own funds.” [Mathrani]
A number of plants were named after Eastwood, including Alice’s fleabane (botanical name Erigeron aliceae), which is a wildflower native to the meadows and woodlands of the Pacific Northwest. If you walk the slopes of Mt. Ashland, you might see this wildflower.
Shrub tan oak
Shrub tan oak is native to the Oregon coast. It has abundant small acorns that are food for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer and other animals. The tan oak in this garden is a dwarf variety.
Now we go from small acorns to small berries. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, “Birds and a variety of animals (e.g., squirrels, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunk, deer) love the fruit. Bears also eat the fruit as suggested by the common name of oso berry (oso from Spanish means bear).”
The large white fragrant flowers make the Western azalea (botanical name Rhododendron occidentale) a pleasure to have in the garden. This azalea is native to Oregon and the Pacific coast.
High bush cranberry
I visited the garden when white flowers were blooming on the High bush cranberry. Don’t confuse this plant with juice and cranberry sauce cranberries grown in bogs in the Northeastern U.S. and along the Oregon coast. High bush cranberries tend to be so bitter that even birds don’t readily eat them until winter, when they freeze and thaw several times and become a little sweeter.
Native to the Oregon coast, Salal is widely used to add greenery in floral arrangements. You can see how bright and shiny the leaves are.
Here is another wildflower that grows on the slopes of Mt. Ashland.
Wintergreen (not native)
Wintergreen is not an Oregon native, but is native to woodlands of Eastern North America. I love wintergreen scent and flavor, so when Vicky told me to crush a leaf and smell it, I went right for it. Ah, it was wonderful.
The lovely pond
The creation of the pond is another family story, starring their 11 year old twins. “Our kids dug the pond in 1993,” began Alan. “It started as a little hole to fill with water to put their frogs and salamanders in.”
My first observation – the “little hole” turned into a big project! My second observation – the parents must have done a lot of the digging.
Creating the back yard pond was a family project. After 20 years, the pond was leaking too much water, so they had the pond liner, pump system and waterfall professionally replaced in 2013. Bright yellow iris were blooming at the edge of the pond the day my wife and I visited.
The pond became a family project in another way. During the 1990s, as they made trips to the coast, the family would stop along the Smith River to collect round river rocks. You can see these around the bench, a relaxing place from which to enjoy the pond, koi and yard.
I asked Alan if they had problems with bears visiting the pond. He surprised me by replying that local bears were much more interested in their large compost pile up the hill than in the pond.
The forested “up the hill” yard
In 1986, Vicky and Alan were able to purchase the forested lot next door, up the hill from their house and yard. As you can see in the 1986 photo, the lot was thick with trees and brush. Vicky told me, “The back yard (cement and lawn) was dark and dank until we thinned the trees,” which they did gradually through the years. She explained, “Most of the manzanita, mountain mahogany, oaks and mountain laurel are gone – partly because of the shade but also the understory serves as ladder fuels.” As you can see from my 2020 photos, the forested slope is quite open now.
Berries, berries and berries
We had one more stop on our garden tour – the berry patch. They are not ready to eat in May, but here’s the order in which Vicky and Alan will be harvesting them.
Strawberries, planted along the driveway, come first. Rhubarb is growing behind the strawberries.
Blueberries are next, followed by marionberries. Note that these two varieties are under a netting to protect them from the birds.
The raspberries ripen later in the summer. Alan prunes them vigorously during the winter to slow their maturation, so they don’t have quite so many berries ripening and needing to be processed simultaneously.
My final photo in Vicky and Alan’s beautiful garden was a quirky one. I spotted a dramatic, deep purple bearded iris near the berry patch. Then I saw the purple garden hose on the ground behind it. I couldn’t resist the color combination. So this photo is offered for people who love purple.
The rest of Forest Street
Moving on along the street, I spotted an unusual garden gate at 682 Forest Street.
Then Forest Street ends at a fence in front of a large open field. Or does it? A sign by a narrow pedestrian opening in the fence says it’s private property, but walking through is okay.
From the opening, the path takes off in two directions. I can see that one way leads to Ashland Street. I follow the other path, and come to a street with three houses. But there is no street sign. I follow the street around a bend, up a steep hill, to the intersection with another street. Still no street sign. Frustrated with my inability to find the street name the old-fashioned, “shoe-leather” way, I go high tech.
Using my camera/phone/calendar/map, I zero in to my exact location on earth and learn that I am at the other end of Forest Street! I can imagine confused delivery drivers and guests trying to find these three Forest Street houses separated from the rest of the street by a large field.
Here is a view down the “west” section of Forest Street, taken at the intersection with Weller Lane.
Here, Forest Street looks more like “forest” Street than on the “east” section of the street.
Of the three newer houses in this section, this Japanese maple tree and the nearby front door stopped me with their beauty. Japanese maple trees are often lovely, but the leaves are usually either all green or all red. I tried to capture the variety of colors in this Japanese maple, but my camera was not able to do it justice.
The three house numbers on this isolated block of Forest Street are 615, 611 and 607 Forest Street. Right next door, I came to a house with big numbers 610 on the gate.
This must be 610 Forest Street, right? No, wrong. This is 610 Ashland Street, built on a flag lot three houses away from Ashland Street. I almost feel like I stepped into Ashland’s version of the Oregon Vortex.
Here is the path back to the east section of Forest Street and regular life.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy my article about the Garden of the Month on Ohio Street.
Or my article about the Garden of the Month on 8th Street.
Armstrong, Alan and Sturtevant, Vicky. Personal communication, photos and garden tour, May 2020.
Anon. Oemleria cerasiformis (common name Oso berry or Indian plum), Missouri Botanical Garden website. (accessed 5/27/2020)
Mathrani, Varsha. “Alice Eastwood: Pioneering botanist, explorer & naturalist, lifelong lover of flowers & plants, California Academy of Sciences Curator of Botany,” Living and Working with Nature website. (accessed 5/27/2020)
Tulips so bright, I could hardly believe my eyes! Walkable neighborhood, with trees, flowers and paths “New urbanism” is the model
Takelma Way winds its way between Tolman Creek Road and Clay Street. It is a quiet neighborhood, with the houses built in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I walked Takelma Way once in February, when deciduous trees were bare and front yards were low key. I walked the street again in April and found the neighborhood ablaze with bright colors, both the street trees and the yards. I captured a bit of that colorfulness for you in my photo essay of Takelma Way.
There are 61 houses in the Clay Creek Gardens HOA (homeowners association), which encompasses Takelma Way, Clay Creek Way and Mickelson Way. The neighborhood was built following the principles of “new urbanism.” The HOA website describes new urbanism as “a concept that encourages walkable communities, compact design with a focus on smaller lots, extensive shared community spaces and homes that encourage neighbors to interact with each other.” Practically speaking, the houses have covered front porches that face the sidewalk to encourage communication with neighbors who are out for a walk. There are narrow streets with wide sidewalks, so it doesn’t feel like cars dominate the space. The architecture of the houses is not “cookie-cutter,” but encompasses a variety of styles. There is even a neighborhood community garden where people can have a plot for growing vegetables.
A variety of house styles
Takelma Way paths
Let’s look at unique yard art
Tulip time (and other bright colors)
“Enchantment Grows Here”
This small, beautiful, carefully planned space was created by Kim Knoll. I love the way she has combined a variety of shapes and sizes of plants with rocks, yard art, colorful pots, and that stone bench to anchor it all. Though her house address is on Michelson Way, this section of her side yard is on Takelma Way, so I am including it in this article.
8th Street has simple, historic homes built in the early 1900s, lovely gardens, and several dramatic trees. It’s on the eastern edge of the Railroad Addition Historic District.
Early Ashland was Very Small
Before 1883, the city of Ashland was very small. Heading northwest from the plaza, the town extended only a few blocks to either side of Main Street as far as Wimer Street. Heading southeast on Main Street from the plaza, it became farmland after only two blocks.
Adding the first Railroad Addition building plots in late 1883 was a major increase in the size of the town. Town leaders saw the need for this when construction of the railroad south from Portland was nearly finished. The second section of the Railroad Addition, up to 8th Street, was added in 1888, after the railroad tracks connecting Oregon and California were completed.
Impact of the Railroad
Due to Ashland’s site at the base of the long Siskiyou Mountain range, Southern Pacific Railroad made Ashland both a train stop and a maintenance yard. According to the Ashland Tidings of January 4, 1889: “Ashland is the eating station for all passenger trains and a thirty minute stop is made here by every train.” Dozens of new railroad workers chose to build, buy or rent homes in the Railroad District near the train station. Mostly due to the coming of the railroad, Ashland’s population more than doubled between 1880 and 1890, from 842 to 1,784.
Now Let’s Walk 8thStreet
Let’s walk 8th Street now. We will start at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, then head north towards A Street.
The first house on the right is 92 8th Street. It was built as a rental house about 1909 for Mrs. Lou Reader, the wife of a prominent Ashland doctor.
In 1930, John and Callie Winters purchased this house. They owned the grocery store right next door at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, so they didn’t have far to go from home to work! This corner store was later Johnson’s East Main Market, owned by Swede Johnson. Many current Ashland residents remember stopping by Swede’s store as children on their way home from Lincoln School or the Junior High School. The former small grocery is now the site of the Rogue Valley Roasting Company business.
Garden of the Month
Across C Street on your right, you will come to Ashland Garden Club’s September 2019 Garden of the Month.
Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club wrote: “By September, most gardens are starting to fade, at least, and some are downright shabby. But not Kelly and Jeff Straub’s gorgeous place at 110 8th Street. Kelly’s diligent work shows to good advantage all year. She keeps the planting areas well groomed, and always a delight to see with blooming plants.”
Ruth Sloan continued: “A special quality of this property is that the “parking strip” (the area between the sidewalk and the street) is especially wide, making the sidewalk appear to go right through the heart of the front and side yards. This does two things: It makes the parking strip more versatile as a desirable planting space and it also makes pedestrians feel a part of the garden. Being a block from a popular coffee shop also increases foot traffic, and Kelly enjoys interacting with passersby as she works in the garden. Understandably, she gets a lot of positive feedback.”
When you take a break from admiring the garden, look at the historic house. Built in 1905, it is known as the Engwicht-McMillan house.
George Engwicht, a conductor for the Southern Pacific Railroad, built the house in 1905. He sold the house in 1908 to another railroad employee, A.A. Conger. Conger lived there only one year.
In 1909, Alexander and Eva McMillan moved from Montana to Ashland and bought this house. Mr. McMillan was born in Scotland in 1850 and came to the United States as a small child. In the early 1900s, he owned a sheep ranch in Montana. The sale of the sheep ranch gave the McMillans enough money to buy 110 8th Street and retire in Ashland. Alexander McMillan lived in the house until 1932, when he died at the age of 81. Eva McMillan continued to live here until her death in 1950.
117 8th Street
Across the street, behind a hedge and lush foliage, is a hidden historic house with a large garden. Known as the Osmer and Lila Long house, it was built around 1901. Osmer Long was a brakeman for the railroad. So far in just the first three houses on 8th Street, we already know of a railroad conductor, a brakeman and another railroad employee who have lived in these houses. Yes, this is the “Railroad District.”
130 and 132 8th Street
Built about 1904, the first owners of 130 8th Street were not railroad employees. One was a painter, the second a plumber. The architecture of this house is considered to be vernacular bungalow style.
You can see similar architecture in the house next door, built – or possibly moved to this location – in 1948.
143 8th Street
Across the street is a dramatic old American sycamore tree (or plane tree), in front of the oldest house on 8th Street. 143 8th Street was built about 1890, and its best-known owner was Caleb Porter, a conductor for Southern Pacific. The Porter family owned the house for about 50 years, until 1955.
The house has been beautifully restored at some point in recent years. I enjoy the vine being trained around the front windows into what my eyes see as a heart shape.
155 and 156 8th Street
The house at 155 8th Street was built about 1903. The builders added a few Queen Anne elements to the basic vernacular style of the time.
Elmer Harrington worked on trains at the Southern Pacific roundhouse in Ashland. He built the house at 156 8th Street in 1907, but for some reason he sold the house the very next year.
248 8th Street
I like the way this tree, garden and house complement each other. It is a large, 1990s Craftsman style house that is designed to fit into the historic neighborhood. To me, the tree feels like part of the house. Take a look and see if you see this too.
8th and B Streets Yard Art
Though this house has a B Street address, the yard art along 8th Street is too good to pass by without a smile and admiration for the creative spirit.
286 8th Street
I am impressed by the healthy wisteria vine that was planted at the base of this large tree. Wisteria vines are normally trained to grow along a roofline or a fence. I have never seen one climbing a tree like this one does.
8th Street ends at A Street and Railroad Park, where you can find a lot more history. To read about the history of the railroad in Ashland, go to this article.
Many of the homes on 8th Street are at least 100 years old and have seen the march of time bring many periods of boom and bust to the Railroad District. Architects describe most of the older homes in the Railroad District as the “vernacular” style. Vernacular might be called a non-style style. Here is a more technical definition. “Its meaning is flexible according to the situation; but in essence, ‘vernacular’ means an unaffected, unselfconscious, unaccented way of building….it is the use of architectural style without being conscious of style.. .(Gowans, 1986:41)” [from the National Register of Historic Places, Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District, 5/6/1999, Section 7, page 2]
As the homes were being built on 8th Street, a business district was also built near the intersection of A Street and 4th Street, just four blocks away. By 1890, residents of 8th Street could find nearby a grocery, a stable, restaurants, lodging houses, even saloons. I will have several articles about 4th Street coming up soon at WalkAshland.com.
If you love gardens, I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can learn about the Garden Club and find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.
I walked two-blocks-long Ohio Street in order to visit Ashland’s beautiful Garden of the Month for June 2019 (chosen by the Ashland Garden Club).
The Garden of the Month address is 265 Ohio Street. If you visit the garden, please respect the privacy of the homeowner. Please view the garden through the artistic fence from either Ohio Street or the alley along the side of the house.
For this walk, my wife and I started at the Helman Street end of Ohio Street, and finished the walk at Gene’s lovely Garden of the Month.
The yellow house at the corner of Helman and Ohio was built about 1905. The Oregon Historic Sites Database lists it as Frank Jordan house. On the Ashland City Band website, I found the photo below of Ashland’s “Woodmen of the World” band taken April 30, 1905. It lists Frank Jordan (back row, third from left) as a clarinet player. Could that be the same Frank Jordan?
Gates of Ohio Street
I found many quirky and artistic gates on Ohio Street. Here are photos of the gates, in order from lower house numbers to higher house numbers.
Mrs. Anna McCarthy in 1914
Now let’s turn from gate photos to the rest of our walk along Ohio Street, starting with a quick historical detour. Built in 1905, 147 Ohio Street is another historic house, called the Anna G. McCarthy house. This is a vernacular style hipped cottage with a wrapped hipped porch.
I found a photo of Anna G. McCarthy in the Ashland Tidings of December 31, 1914. As President of the Chautauqua Park Club, she was one of the female “movers and shakers” of early Ashland. In 1893, the City of Ashland had purchased eight acres for the Chautauqua dome (where meetings were held) and nearby park land for people to gather. By 1916, Chautauqua Park had grown into the much larger and more elaborate Lithia Park. Now in 2019, the original eight acres is the site of the Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Theater and the current entrance to Lithia Park.
Thanks to the Ashland Tidings of December 28, 1914, I can provide you with a list of Mrs. McCarthy’s 1914 Christmas guests: “…Miss Carrie Foster of Klamath Falls, Mr. and Mrs. Frank M. Moore of Eugene, Mrs. Agnes Jury of Seattle and Mrs. McCarthy’s son H.G. McCarthy. As dinner guests on Christmas day Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Evans and son and daughter were present.”
Back to Ohio Street in 2019
This tree at 167 Ohio Street seems unusually large and lush for a flowering plum tree. I would love to see it when it’s covered with blossoms! The house was built about 1914 and still retains its original bungalow style.
A friend I play tennis with was out in front at 211 Ohio Street when I walked by, so now I know where he lives. He built this lovely raised walkway that accommodates the roots of his huge maple tree.His house dates back to 1930 and was moved to this location.
Garden of the Month for June 2019
Ruth Sloan of the Ashland Garden Club wrote: “This garden, designed and maintained by Gene Leyden, is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Monthfor June 2019. This is a naturally wet parcel (note the giant pond next door) where dampness- and shade-loving plants thrive and carefully placed sun-loving plants also flourish. Gene planted the willow tree, now enormous (14 feet in circumference!), when she moved in with her family in 1987, transporting it to the site from the nursery in the back of the Volkswagon bus. Garden observers can walk or drive down the alley to the right of the house to get more views.”
I was fortunate that my wife Kathy was with me as I walked Ohio Street and visited the Garden of the Month, because she had known Gene about 25 years ago. When Gene saw us outside the gate, she recognized Kathy and invited us in. What a treat!
Gene showed us the Curly Willow tree she “stuck in the ground as a stick” back in 1987. It now rises high, with both curly leaves and branches.
“In addition to the prospering plant life, there are remarkably beautiful constructions by Gene’s friend, the artist and carpenter Nathan Sharples. Look carefully at the gorgeous fence, installed only three years ago. Note the unusual wooden screen door. Also salted throughout the garden are sculptures by Gene’s friend Cheryl Garcia, as well as other items of interest.”
“Gene says she has a special fondness for fragrance in the garden and chooses many plants on that basis, including roses, jasmine and nicotiana. Among the many highlights in the garden are a selection of huge hostas loving their location under the willow, Lady Banks and Cecile Brunner roses climbing through the vegetation, and a smoke tree and smoke bush lending their rich dark foliage as contrast to the riot of greens plus colorful blossoms. There’s a little bit of everything here. This is clearly the work of people of great imagination, especially the primary gardener.”
The garden is the star of the show, but the house has an interesting history. Built around 1890, perhaps as a parsonage for the historic Methodist Church, its original location was on South Laurel Street. The house was moved here to Ohio Street in 1987.
If you love gardens #1: Since this article features a beautiful garden, I will end it with a photo of wise words from a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney.
If you love gardens #2: I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.
Notes: All descriptions of the Garden of the Month in quotation marks are from the Ashland Garden Club article by Ruth Sloan. Photos are by Peter Finkle, except when marked otherwise.
(1) Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer
(2) Daffodil Paradise
541 Holly Street: Former home of Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
645 Holly Street: Artistic 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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.