A WalkAshland VIDEO! (Painted Utility Boxes video tour)

Peter leads a Railroad District art + history walk.
Video by Sailor Boy Media.
Here’s how it happened. Ashland Public Art video.

If you want to go straight to the video, click the image below. If you want to read my story about how the video came to be, keep reading.

In the video, you will meet artist Ann DiSalvo

Ann painted two of the utility boxes we will see on our video tour, including this one showing the swans that used to live in the Lower Duck Pond at Lithia Park.

Painted utility box, Ashland
Utility box on A Street near Fourth Street as it was being painted by Ann DiSalvo in 2009. (photo from Public Arts Commission presentation prepared by RavenWorkStudio, 2009)

In the video, you will learn Ashland history highlights

Here is one of the spots we visited during the video walking tour.

My photo essay led to this video

On February 3, 2021, I published an article about painted utility boxes in the Railroad District. I learned that in 2009 Ashland’s Public Arts Commission had initiated this project to brighten the town by commissioning artists to paint some of the drab, dark green utility boxes. It was a good story. I did research and found “before and after” photos of all seven utility boxes that were painted in July 2009. I walked the streets and took my own photos, then published the story as a photo essay. CLICK HERE to see that photo essay.

Keegan Van Hook said, “Are you interested…?”
I said, “Yes!”

Videographer Keegan Van Hook read my article and was intrigued by the possibility of turning my photo-essay walk into a video walk. After asking him a few questions and seeing some of his work, I replied with an enthusiastic “Yes.”

A graduate of the Southern Oregon University Digital Media program, Keegan founded Sailor Boy Media with his friend Tripp White. They have an active website and YouTube channel that specializes in video interviews with local people on issues of the day. CLICK HERE to visit their website.

Filming the video

I met Keegan and Tripp at 11:00 am on February 24 to film the video. Keegan asked me questions and Tripp did camera work. I had notes with me, but I spoke extemporaneously at each utility box and at our historical sites. We walked and talked for two hours, including having the bonus interview with artist Ann DiSalvo.

After the filming, I sent Keegan several historic photographs that enrich the video’s Ashland history sections. Tripp and Keegan edited the two hours into an enjoyable, educational and interesting 24 minute video. Here, again, is a link to the video on YouTube. Thanks for watching, and I hope you enjoy it.

References:

Sailor Boy Media website: https://www.sailorboymedia.com

Teen art brightens Orchid Street & Rose Lane

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

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

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

Why I got excited

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

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

Genesis of the sunflower fence mural

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

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

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

The sunflower mural process

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunflowers in front of sunflowers

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

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

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

Lifelong love of art

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

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

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

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

Neighborhood pocket park

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

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

Orchid Street sights that brought me smiles

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

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

Rose Lane murals

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

Truth is stranger than fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the neighbors say

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

Other Rose Lane sights

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

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

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

Columnar English Oak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also in the neighborhood

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

References:

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

“We Are Here” Honors Native Americans (Bronze Replica, Part 2 of 3)

(Part 2 of 3: Bronze replica on North Main Street, 
stories from 2011 to 2020)

Honoring Rogue Valley Native Americans.
Making of the bronze replica. 
34 photos.
Artist: Jack Langford.
Ashland Public Art Series.

“The ‘We Are Here’ sculpture has had a healing effect on the valley.” 

Russell Beebe

Summary of “We Are Here” – Part 1

“We Are Here” is a sculpture that honors the First Nations of the Rogue Valley. In addition to a sculpture, it has been called a wood carving, a Spirit Pole and a Prayer Pole. The bronze replica is located where North Main Street and Lithia Way meet, a very visible location just one block from the Plaza. 

"We Are Here" location map
The red arrow points to the location of “We Are Here” (#1) on North Main Street near where Lithia Way joins it. Other numbers on the map indicate additional additional public artworks. (map from Ashland Public Arts Commission page at City of Ashland website)

Local attorney and arts patron Matthew Haines felt called to have the wood carving made from an alder tree that was cut down. He hired Russell Beebe, of Anishinaabe Native heritage, to be the sculptor (wood carver). The late Takelma elder Grandma Aggie (Agnes Baker Pilgrim) was the model for Takelma woman on “We Are Here,” shown in the photo below.

"We Are Here" Ashland
“We Are Here” prayer pole, Takelma woman modeled on Grandma Aggie (photo by Peter Finkle, 2009)

Grandma Aggie performed ceremonies for the tree and then the Prayer Pole, including at the original September 30, 2006 dedication. Within a few years, Beebe and Haines realized that the soft alder wood of the sculpture would deteriorate irreparably if it continued to be exposed to the elements for many years. There was only one way to save “We Are Here” — to move it indoors. But that meant losing this visible, public location for an artwork that honors Native people of the Rogue Valley.

From wood to bronze, the story continues

After discussing alternatives, Haines and Beebe decided that a bronze casting of the sculpture would be ideal. However, they faced two daunting challenges: first, find the money for a bronze of this size, and second, find someone local with the skill to cast a bronze from this huge, complicated wood carving. As often happens in happy-ending stories, everything clicked into place. Here is the story as I heard it.

Haines, Pilgrim and Beebe, October 29, 2004
Lloyd Matthew Haines, Agnes Baker Pilgrim and Russell Beebe, October 29, 2004 (photo by James Royce Young)

This was not a simple bronze casting. The statue was not only 19’ to 20’ tall, it was also complex. The carved branches of the tree and the details of the carving called for years of experience with bronze work. It also meant a very large budget. 

As Haines was mulling these problems, a buyer unexpectedly appeared for one of Haines’ buildings that was not even for sale! The purchase took place and he had some extra money. 

Jack Langford

Jack Langford, a local bronze artist, has been a professional sculptor since 1980. He has operated bronze foundries in Israel, Maine and now in Southern Oregon.

At the same time Haines was trying to determine who would have the skill locally to cast a bronze of this size, Langford was hit with a one-two punch that rocked him. He had just completed the complex and expensive process of moving his entire sculpture studio from Talent to Ashland. After only one week in the new studio, the building owner told him to leave, and to clear out within a week! He came out of the meeting with the building owner reeling both mentally and emotionally. His friend Jesse Biesanz, a stone worker, happened to be there visiting. Jesse heard his plight and said, “I have an idea.” The next day, Biesanz brought Haines to meet with Langford.

Jack Langford
Jack Langford (left) and Kevin Christman at a bronze pour at Jack’s studio. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Langford’s extensive experience working with bronze met Haines’ need. Haines offered Langford the “We Are Here” commission. Soon after, Langford found space at Jackson Wellsprings where he could work on it. The bronze casting project was underway.

Bronze casting of “We Are Here” 

Jack Langford worked on the bronze casting of “We Are Here” for almost a year. With his son as assistant, he began in June 2012 by erecting a scaffold around the wood statue and making a mold of it. Writing “making a mold” oversimplifies the complex process. With a statue this large, they could only create molds a small section at a time. “We Are Here” required 55 molds all together to create the bronze replica!

Starting at the bottom, they made each mold by painting a flexible polyurethane material over the wood of a small area.

This material captured every detail of the wood carving – cracks, knots and all – without harming it. They then applied a rigid epoxy-like material over the flexible layer. 

This photo shows flexible polyurethane molds in Jack Langford’s studio. Note: These molds are for a different sculpture, not “We Are Here,” but the process is the same. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
"We Are Here"
“We Are Here,” Jack Langford applying polyurethane flexible molds. (still photo from Glen Paris-Stamm video)

After the two layers were removed together, each flexible mold was transformed through many steps into a rigid mold made of fused silica powder.  Fused silica molds could withstand the heat of liquid bronze. Each individual bronze casting is a complex, multi-stage, labor-intensive process. It is an art and a science, and both have to be balanced every step of the way. 

Finally, Langford would have to reassemble the 55 small bronze castings back into one sculpture. We will get to that in a moment. 

The rigid ceramic molds are made, through a multi-step process, in this room of Jack Langford’s studio. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

2,000-degree melted bronze was poured – very carefully, wearing padding and face protection – into each of the 55 silica molds!

Jack Langford
Kevin Christman (left) and Jack Langford are carrying a ceramic crucible filled with liquid bronze, melted at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Note: This bronze is for a different sculpture, not “We Are Here,” but the process is the same. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Jack Langford
Photo of liquid bronze being poured into ceramic molds. Note: These molds are for a different sculpture, not “We Are Here,” but the process is the same. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Brief video of liquid bronze being poured into ceramic molds. Note: These molds are for a different sculpture, not “We Are Here,” but the process is the same. (video by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Hammering freed each bronze casting from its silica mold. I winced when the hammering began. Jack assured me, with a laugh, that he was not damaging the sculpture.  

Jack Langford
Jack Langford is breaking the rigid ceramic mold off of a cooling bronze casting. Note: This mold is for a different sculpture, not “We Are Here,” but the process is the same.(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The photo below shows what the bronze looked like just out of the mold, with lots of silica sand still stuck to it. Precision sandblasting removed every bit of the silica.

"We Are Here"
“We Are Here” bronze casting process. Shortly after this piece was removed from the silica mold, some of the white silica is still attached to the bronze.(still photo from Glen Paris-Stamm video)

Finally, the molds were combined back into one piece. It took a surprising amount of  pounding, clamping, tacking, welding, torching, grinding and polishing to get the bronze “We Are Here” that we see at North Main Street and Lithia Way today.  

Here is a peek at the welding.

Here is torching of the sculpture. Langford used a patina torch to apply a concentrated flame to the entire surface of the bronze replica. Then, while the bronze metal was still hot, he and Beebe ground the entire surface with small wire brushes to smooth out rough spots. The patina torch and wire brush sanding were both done twice.

"We Are Here"
“We Are Here,” Jack Langford applying patina torch to bronze. (still photo from Glen Paris-Stamm video)

The final step was polishing the entire surface of “We Are Here” with carnauba wax, followed by buffing with a soft cloth. This was also done twice.

Two changes from the wood sculpture to the bronze replica

Before Langford began his work, he and carver Russell Beebe met at the wood statue. Langford explained that in the transition from wood to bronze, he could make adjustments to the statue if Beebe wanted any. Beebe considered this and requested two changes.

The first change was thinner wings for the Canada goose at the top of the statue. As he was carving the tree, Beebe kept the wings thicker than he would have liked in order to be sure the wood didn’t crack or break. For the bronze replica, Langford made molds for only the outer side of the wings. Then Beebe came to Langford’s studio and sculpted thinner, more detailed wings in clay for the bronze casting.

"We Are Here"
“We Are Here” – Russell Beebe is carving the clay mold for Canada goose inner wings on bronze replica. (still photo from Glen Paris-Stamm video)

These two photos show the comparison. Wings on the bronze “We Are Here” are much thinner, with beautiful detail that is missing from the original wood statue. We as viewers benefit from the close cooperation between the wood carver artist and the bronze worker artist.

Second was another detail I had never noticed. Because of the shape of the tree in the original carving, Beebe had to carve the stag (deer) antler connecting with the Canada goose, as if it were goring the goose. When the bronze casting was created, Beebe and Langford made a slight adjustment in this area so the stag antler is free standing and no longer appears to be goring the goose.

You can compare the two for yourself by viewing the original wood “We Are Here” prayer pole at Southern Oregon University Hannon Library and the bronze replica on North Main Street one block from the Ashland Plaza. Currently (April 2021), the SOU library is closed to non-students. However, “We Are Here” is placed near a large window. You can’t walk all around it and see it up close, but you can see it through the window.

"We Are Here" Ashland
“We Are Here” at SOU Hannon Library. This is the original wood sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2015)

A memorable day

One of Langford’s most memorable days creating the bronze was October 29, 2012. On that day, Oregon Shakespeare Festival hosted an evening event featuring Grandma Aggie, Russell Beebe, Dan Wahpepah, Brent Florendo and others. Grandma Aggie gave a talk about the Oregon Trail of Tears in 1856.  

After dark, Langford poured bronze into a mold, as Grandma Aggie and 80 other people looked on. This was his final bronze casting for “We Are Here.” Fittingly, this casting was of Grandma Aggie’s face near the top of the sculpture. 

This photo shows Grandma Aggie and her daughter Nadine Martin looking on as Russell Beebe uses a hammer to remove the ceramic mold from the bronze casting of Grandma Aggie’s face. As mentioned above, this was the final bronze casting for the bronze replica of “We Are Here.” (photo by James Royce Young)

The bronze replica base

Jesse Biesanz made the base for the bronze replica, and also used his boom truck to lift the bronze sculpture into place on the base. This base has a theme of river rocks, as does Biesanz’s base for “We Are Here” in the SOU library. 

"We Are Here" Ashland
River rocks on base of “We Are Here” bronze replica, base created by Jesse Biesanz. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“This is about healing.”

Grandma Aggie

Installation and Dedication, May 2013

"We Are Here" bronze replica dedication
At the dedication for “We Are Here” bronze replica in May 2013. From left, Jack Langford, Dan Wahpepah, Matthew Haines, Grandma Aggie. (still photo from Mandy Valencia video, May 24, 2013)

The bronze replica of “We Are Here” was installed and dedicated in May of 2013. Continuing the theme of ceremony associated with “We Are Here,” there was a small blessing ceremony with Grandma Aggie, her daughter Nadine Martin, Matthew Haines and Jack Langford when the sturdy steel band to anchor the sculpture was bolted into place. More ceremony, with offerings and songs, took place at the bronze replica dedication.

"We Are Here"
“We Are Here” bronze replica is being installed at its site, May 2013.(still photo from Glen Paris-Stamm video)
James Royce Young took this wonderful photo of wood carver Russell Beebe shaking hands with bronze artist Jack Langford at the dedication of the “We Are Here” bronze replica. Russell Beebe carved the original wood “We Are Here” from the alder tree. It is now at SOU Hannon Library. Jack Langford made the bronze replica from the wood original. (photo by James Royce Young)

Langford did not work closely with Grandma Aggie on the bronze replica, as he did with sculptor Beebe. However, Langford told me he was deeply moved by Grandma Aggie’s words to him the day his bronze replica of “We Are Here” was installed. She told him that she felt the presence of Spirit just as strongly in the new bronze replica as she did in the original alder tree prayer pole.

When the bronze replica was installed at the site, Grandma Aggie said, “What a gift Jack has. I want to praise and thank him too. My name is Taowhywee, my Native name. My English name is Agnes Baker Pilgrim, and I’m the oldest living descendant of the Takelma Indians that once lived in this valley for 22,000 years that we know of. I’m very proud to stand here today and honor this statue that they’ve done, that the bronze man Jack has done. What a beautiful spiritual thing it is to my heart. It will touch the lives of people that come by. Now this will be here into perpetuity. It is a great honor to the ancient people of this land that lived here for over 22,000 years.”    

Detail photos of bronze replica

See some details of the bronze replica below. When I view it up close, I am amazed by how many details of the wood carving – including cracks and knots in the wood – are captured by the bronze replica.

Part 1 of this series of articles about “We Are Here” described the creation of the original wood carving prayer pole, and its dedication on September 30, 2006. Click on the image below to read Part 1.

Part 3 of this series of articles about “We Are Here” will describe the challenge of moving the original wood carving from North Main Street to Southern Oregon University Hannon Library. Here is a preview photo.

PREVIEW photo: “We Are Here” in the process of being moved to SOU Hannon Library, December 18, 2012. (photo by James Royce Young)

References for Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Aldous, Vickie. “Downtown sculpture to be cast in bronze,” Ashland Tidings, April 18, 2012. (accessed 5/21/2020)

Aldous, Vickie. “Native people sculpture will move to SOU,” Ashland Tidings, November 3, 2012. (accessed 5/21/2020)

Anon. “Native Americans of the Rogue Valley,” North Mountain Park Nature Center, Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, Version 4: May 2010.
http://www.ashland.or.us/Files/Native%20American%20Background%20Booklet.pdf

Anon. “We Are Here,” Book Marks, Hannon Library Newsletter, Volume 24, No. 1, Fall 2013.

Anon. “Takelma Tribe,” NPS.gov. (accessed 1/10/2021) https://www.nps.gov/orca/learn/historyculture/takelma-tribe.htm

Anon. “Takelma Legends,” native-languages.org website. (accessed January 17, 2021)
http://www.native-languages.org/takelma-legends.htm

Ayers, Jane. “’Grandma Aggie’ leaves a lasting impact,” Ashland Tidings, December 3, 2019. (accessed May 21, 2020)

Beebe, Russell. Interview and personal communication, June 2, 2020 and other dates. Thank you, Russell, for sharing your photos with me.

Beebe, Russell. Website, accessed May 14, 2020.
http://www.russellbeebe.com/index.html#

Bernhagen, Jaimie. “’We Are Here’ Event with Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” Red Earth Descendants website, October 14, 2012. (accessed May 21, 2020)

Biesanz, Jesse. Interview and personal communication, August 2020.

Cardwell, James, “Southern Oregon Pioneers,” Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, July 8, 1882, page 3, from http://truwe.sohs.org/files/cardwell.html

Darling, John. “’Grandma Aggie’ dies at 95,” Ashland Tidings, November 27, 2019. (accessed May 21, 2020)

Doty, Thomas. Website, accessed May 14, 2020.
https://www.dotycoyote.com/culture/sculpture_installation_1.html

Gray, Dennis J. “The Takelma and Their Athapascan Neighbors,” University of Oregon Anthropological Papers, No. 37, 1987.

Haines, Lloyd Matthew. Interview and personal communication, May 13, 2020 and other dates.

Hall, Aaron. “Exploring with Beavers, Nature’s Ecosystem Engineers,” Defenders of Wildlife website, September 28, 2016.
https://defenders.org/blog/2016/09/exploring-beavers-natures-ecosystem-engineers

Kuiryamf. “’We Are Here’ statue relocated to Hannon Library,” The Siskiyou, January 15, 2013. (accessed May 14, 2020)
https://siskiyou.sou.edu/2013/01/15/we-are-here-statue-relocated-to-hannon-library/

Langford, Jack. Interview and personal communication, May 20, 2020 and other dates.

Martin, Nadine. Many thanks for reviewing the article.

Norman, Julie. Video of the dedication day and dedication ceremony.

Norman, Julie. Interview and personal communication, August 2020 and other dates.

Paris-Stamm, Glen. 31-minute Video. “Artist on Your Doorstep presents: Jack Langford, Sculptor, ‘We Are Here'(prayer pole now in bronze),” City of Ashland website (accessed January 18, 2021)
http://www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=18059

Also available directly on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD73OiZBf6Q

Pilgrim, Agnes Baker (Taowhywee). Grandma Says: Wake Up World, Blackstone Publishing, 2015.

Pilgrim, Agnes Baker. Website, accessed May 14, 2020.
http://www.agnesbakerpilgrim.org/Page.asp?PID=108

Rose, Karen. May 25, 2002. “Takelma Indians: An Essay on Native Americans in the Rogue River Area,” Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society, Hugo, OR. For the entire article go to http://www.hugoneighborhood.org/takelma.htm 

Sapir, Edward. “Notes on the Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 9, No. 2, April-June, 1907.

Valencia, Mandy. “We Are Here,” Ashland Daily Tidings, December 21, 2012.

https://ashlandtidings.com/archive/-we-are-here–04-27-2018

Valencia, Mandy. 5-minute Video. “We Are Here Dedication Ceremony,” Ashland Tidings website, May 24, 2013. (accessed January 18, 2021)
https://kzclip.com/video/9d5d_FoTkq4/we-are-here-dedication-ceremony.html

Valencia, Mandy. 4-minute Video. Russell Beebe carving eyes in the bronze We Are Here statue, Ashland Tidings website, April 2, 2013. (accessed January 18, 2021)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TqrdKFuu-E

Valencia, Mandy. 3-minute Video. Color heating of the We Are Here bronze statue (Jack Langford and Russell Beebe), Ashland Tidings website, April 15, 2013. (accessed January 18, 2021)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB4eP7F88M8

Wahpepah, Dan. Interview, August 10, 2020.

Young, James Royce. James took many of the photos from the creation of “We Are Here” in both wood and bronze, as well as photos of the 2006 dedication and the 2012 move to SOU Hannon Library. I thank James for sharing so many of his photos with me.

“We Are Here” Honors Native Americans (Part 1 of 3)

(Part 1 of 3: Original wood carving on North Main Street, 
stories from 2004 to 2012)

Honoring Rogue Valley Native Americans.
Creation of the original wood carving.
Introducing Grandma Aggie.
The 1856 Oregon Trail of Tears
Sculptor: Russell Beebe.
Ashland Public Art Series.

Setting the scene

Grandma Aggie speaks to the Gateway Alder, October 29, 2004. (photo by James Royce Young)

“On October 29, 2004 Agnes Baker Pilgrim met with a small gathering of people at the base of the Gateway Alder [tree]. There she led us in a ceremony that was the beginning of a path. Grandma Agnes began the ceremony by offering tobacco and lighting fires, one fire for each of the Four Directions, in tins around the Gateway Alder. She then asked for blessing and guidance from the Sprits of the Four Directions as she communed with the tree. Here she is seen speaking directly to the Gateway Alder.” 

James Royce Young
"We Are Here" Ashland
“We Are Here” prayer pole detail, Takelma woman modeled on Grandma Aggie (photo by Peter Finkle, 2009)

What is “We Are Here?”

On his website, Russell Beebe wrote: “From the Blessing of Ashland’s Gateway Alder Tree has emerged a 20 foot monument to the First Nations of Southwest Oregon. The tribes honored in this work are the Shasta (male figure) & Takelma (represented by the inspired likeness of Agnes Baker Pilgrim) Nations. The sculpture is titled ‘We are Here.’ Designer and Sculptor is Russell Beebe – of Anishinaabe Native heritage. Special thanks to Lloyd Matthew Haines.”

“We Are Here” is a sculpture that honors the First Nations of the Rogue Valley, and is part of the City of Ashland public art collection. In addition to a sculpture or statue, it has been called a wood carving, a Spirit Pole and a Prayer Pole. 

When American settlers arrived in the early 1850s, they found the Shasta, Takelma and other tribes living in the Ashland area and throughout Southern Oregon. When Hargadine and Helman made the first donation land claims in January 1852 in what is now Ashland, there was a Shasta winter village called K’wakhakha at the site of the Ashland Plaza. 

The late Grandma Aggie said that her people, the Takelma, had performed a sacred Salmon ceremony on the Rogue River for 22,000 years. “We Are Here” remembers the Native Americans who lived on this land before the settlers came and “claimed” it.

Between 1852 and 1856, there were four years of conflicts and broken promises as local Native Americans tried to defend their ancestral land. Suffering from diseases and hunger, as well as deaths from the fighting, the remaining Shasta and Takelma were forcibly marched in 1856 to the Siletz Indian Reservation, 150 miles north along the Oregon coast. Through the years, Native Americans have moved back to Southern Oregon, some like the Shasta and Takelma because it is their ancestral homeland.

Where is “We Are Here?”

"We Are Here" location map
The red arrow points to the location of “We Are Here” (#1) in downtown Ashland, on North Main Street near where Lithia Way joins it. (map from Ashland Public Arts Commission page at City of Ashland website)

We Are Here is located where North Main Street and Lithia Way meet. It is a very visible location at the west gateway to downtown Ashland, one short block from the Plaza. 

The first challenge

Lloyd Matthew Haines owned the sort-of-triangular lot where North Main Street and Lithia Way come together, which you can see on the map above. He wanted to build there, but it was challenging. Two groups of people opposed his plan. One loosely organized group opposed just about any downtown development, and they were very vocal. The second group objected to cutting down the large 53-year-old alder tree on the property.

Alder tree cut for "We Are Here"
The Gateway Alder tree before being cut down, October 29, 2004. (photo by James Royce Young)

Haines instructed his architects to try to design the building around the tree, thus saving it. The architects concluded that the lot was too small for that to work. They said the tree had to go.

An inner calling

Haines felt an inner calling that the tree should be made into “a piece of art that represented the Native American people and their presence in the valley.” As he put it, he knew “that’s what I needed to do.” He contacted wood carver Russell Beebe, of Anishinaabe Native heritage, and Takelma elder Grandma Aggie (Agnes Baker Pilgrim) to ask for their help. 

How Matthew Haines first met Russell Beebe and Grandma Aggie 

Haines knew the two of them from a tree carving project at his house a few years before. An oak tree had died from old age. Rather than cut it up for firewood, Haines thought of honoring the tree and the land by carving something from it. He contacted the Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild to see if someone would be interested in the project. Russell Beebe responded, and within two days of seeing the tree he came to Haines with a plan for a sculpture that was eventually called “My Relatives.” 

Russell Beebe carving
Russell Beebe is shown carving the sculpture called “My Relatives” from a white oak tree, 2003. (photo montage by James Royce Young)

Russell Beebe wrote of his design for “My Relatives”: “At first glance the big tree gave me an indication of how my design would evolve, from the juncture of the first large branch down to the base. The very uniform trunk offered freedom to create while the divergence of the branch above would dictate form. This and Mr. Haines’ desire that the sculpture honor the Tree, our Wildlife and the Native Peoples who once lived in the area gave me the spectrum to create.”

Beebe introduced stone worker Jesse Biesanz to Haines at this time, and Biesanz later went on to build the stone base for each “We Are Here” sculpture.

When “My Relatives” was complete, Beebe invited his friend Grandma Aggie to see the carving. This was when she and Matthew Haines first met.

Opposition and resolution

Now back to the alder tree and the proposed building at North Main Street and Lithia Way. There was still the large group opposed to new downtown development, with enough power to have stopped several other downtown projects in previous years. The building project was appealed to the City Council by opponents. Appeals like this tend to be contentious. 

At the Council meeting, Russell Beebe presented plans for the alder tree carving. Grandma Aggie followed him and spoke on behalf of the project. She said that Haines’ plan for the “We Are Here” sculpture was a small but important step toward honoring Native people. Haines and Beebe both told me they could feel the entire energy of the room shift as Grandma Aggie was talking.

“This is about healing.”

Grandma Aggie

She reminded council members and the audience that people whose ancestral lands these are were nearly wiped out. Since then, Native people have been consistently ignored and marginalized for more than 150 years. Despite the painful history, she said, Native people have returned to the Rogue Valley and Ashland.

Then she said something that cut through all the bickering. “You wouldn’t know that we exist. There’s nothing visible of Native people anywhere here except Dead Indian Road.” Beebe described that moment to me: “Everyone was stunned and that was the end of the protest.”

After her talk, the City Council approved the building and sculpture with little opposition.

Russell Beebe envisions “We Are Here” design

Russell Beebe wrote in 2006: “The original design for this sculpture evolved in just a few hours as I sat by the living alder tree. With Mr. Haines’ thought of ‘family’ in mind, the ‘story of old’ came through in my sketches and remained constant regardless of changes made. All I had to do was visualize and understand what the tree showed me, then let my hands do their work.” Beebe felt that his design represents “the story told by the old ones about our duty to walk in balance with nature.” 

When I interviewed Beebe in June of 2020, he added to the story. He told me he was sitting in a bar and restaurant by the alder tree that day. “So I got a hamburger and I sat at the table and just looked at the alder. By the time I finished the hamburger, I had my design figured out. It was that quick.”

Blessing the alder tree

Haines asked Grandma Aggie to perform a ceremony of blessing and thanks for the alder tree before it was cut down (see first photo above). A few people gathered with her on October 29, 2004 for ceremony and prayer. 

Haines, Pilgrim and Beebe, October 29, 2004
Lloyd Matthew Haines, Agnes Baker Pilgrim and Russell Beebe at the initial blessing ceremony, October 29, 2004 (photo by James Royce Young)

She wrote in her 2015 book that “we talked with that tree about what we were going to do with it, that it is going to be made into perpetuity. ‘We are going to carve on you, we’re going to make you beautiful. You’ll live forever, but we’re going to move you up here.’ We talked to it like a human being.”

This intentional beginning with ceremony started “We Are Here” on the path to be more than just a statue. When the wood carving was installed on North Main Street in 2006, there was ceremony in the context of a community celebration. When the wood carving was moved to Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University in 2012, there was ceremony. When the bronze replica was installed on North Main Street in 2013, there was ceremony. 

"We Are Here"
Grandma Aggie blessing the finished sculpture of “We Are Here” during installation September 19, 2006. (photo by Julie Norman)

Why is the Alder tree referred to as “mother?”

According to Beebe, the alder is not a long-lived tree, but it plays an important role in the natural process of regeneration, a role so valuable that it is called “mother.” Alder trees grow along streams all over the world. When flood or fire destroys the stream-side landscape, alders are among the first large plants to grow back. They grow quickly and spread their branches and leaves. Slower growing trees and plants then get established beneath the protection of the “mother.” With a smile, Beebe ended this story: “And after about 60 years, she says ‘okay children, you’re on your own.’ Then she’s done.”  

Moving the alder tree to Russell Beebe’s studio

When the alder tree was cut, it turned out that it was near the end of its short life. According to the arborist who took it down, it had about ten years to live. 

Beebe said, “When they cut the tree down, they were going to lower it down on to Main Street, so they stopped traffic for a bit. When they lowered it down on to the street, whoever was at the controls [of the crane] let go a little too quick, so they kind of thumped it on the street. When they did that, it broke a big branch off, one that was going to be part of my design. So, what to do? My original design was quite different.”

“Faced with this tree with a broken limb, my original design was gone,” Beebe continued. “I had to go with what was given me. So everything changed and evolved, and was way better because of that broken limb. Now everything kind of emerges from the tree, represents the soul of the tree.”  

Russell Beebe carves the alder tree

This is how the alder tree looked when it arrived at Russell Beebe’s studio.

Alder tree used for "We Are Here"
The Gateway Alder tree at Russell Beebe’s studio, before carving, November 30, 2004. (photo by James Royce Young)

I had the honor of being able to spend several hours with Beebe at his rural outdoor studio. When I visited, he was nearing completion of an Iroquois teaching pole carving for someone in upstate New York. Here is a photo of it in process. 

Russell Beebe sculpture
Iroquois Teaching Pole, carved by Russell Beebe. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Unlike the straight Iroquois teaching pole that was laid on its side for carving, the “We Are Here” sculpture with its large branches was carved with the tree upright. Beebe set up scaffolding around the tree and began carving from the top down.

"We Are Here" - Russell Beebe carving, 2005
Russell Beebe stood high on scaffolding as he began carving “We Are Here.” This photo shows him carving the stag, February 21, 2005. (photo by James Royce Young)

The Shasta Man and Takelma Woman are both toward the top of the sculpture. Before he started on the Takelma Woman modeled on Grandma Aggie, Beebe asked Aggie to bring him traditional Takelma garb, a cradle board and whatever else she wanted to bring. He said, “I wanted to get that right.” 

As he was carving the tree, neighbors would stop and look and ask questions about it. “One of my neighbors suggested putting more fish in there,” Beebe told me. At that point, the main salmon was partially carved. The neighbor asked, “Wouldn’t that look cool to have more fish? What do you think about that?” Beebe thought about it, and decided to add more fish. He liked that it became a community sculpture, not just “his” sculpture.

"We Are Here" Ashland
“We Are Here” at SOU, salmon detail showing “more fish.” (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Beebe wrote: “The more than 1,000 hours I spent carving this piece were delightful.” “Emotionally, this work brings forward those ancient ones of my own distant native roots and touches my heart. I feel the steady drumbeat of the seasons.” Through this wood carving, Beebe tried to capture not only the spiritual history (and current presence) of Rogue Valley First Nations people, but also the spiritual history of his own people. 

His grandfather was his first teacher in carving wood, and also introduced him to tribal traditions. Beebe is a descendant of the Anishinaabe tribe in the north central United States and south central Canada. As an adult, Beebe received his “spirit name” Wabashkigamash. He tries to express his Native traditions in his work and in how he lives his life.

Russell Beebe carving "We Are Here"
Russell Beebe carving “We Are Here,” showing the scaffolding that surrounds it, 2006. (photo by James Royce Young)
"We Are Here" - Russell Beebe signature
Russell Beebe’s signature on “We Are Here” wood carving prayer pole. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

What is represented on the alder tree carving

Beebe said, “Where we live now, once were the Takelma, the Shasta and many other tribes. I couldn’t put them all on here, but I included those two.” The Shasta Man and Takelma woman each have a child, who represent the future.  

Representing the Takelma is Grandma Aggie as she looked in her 30s, wearing her regalia. Beebe told me with a laugh, “I got the blessing from her daughter Nadine. She came out one day and looked at my depiction of the 30-year-old [Aggie]. She said, ‘That’s mom.’ So I got it right.”

Then he included many animals without whom the Native people would not have survived: the deer (stag), the eagle, the salmon, bear, beaver, coyote, snake and cougar. The spirit figure of Raven is included. “The dragonfly was put there just for Aggie,” he added. The dragonfly is one of her spirit animals.

Grandma Aggie wrote, “The First Nations include not only the Takelma, Shasta, Tututni and other tribes, but also the Salmon Nation, the Bear Nation, the Tree Nations, and all the species of life in this region.” She had a true “big picture” perspective embracing all of life, as I learned when I attended her deeply emotional memorial service in 2019.

"We Are Here"
The dragonfly is one of Grandma Aggie’s spirit animals. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The Native people had ceremonies for all of these animal nations. Beebe asked if I was familiar with the Salmon Ceremony, which Grandma Aggie reestablished in the Rogue Valley in 1994 for the first time since the 1856 Trail of Tears. I told him I had seen a video about the Salmon Ceremony during Grandma Aggie’s 2019 memorial service. He said, “That’s all part of Indian life, everybody having a few bites of the first salmon caught, and then returning the skin and bones back to the river. There’s a thank you in that, a reverence, which is what this [sculpture] is all about.” 

“We Are Here” is a Spirit Pole and Prayer Pole  

“Attaching an Eagle feather to this really turned it into a Spirit Pole, as Aggie terms it. For us, seeing the Eagle feather on there also turned it into a Prayer Pole. Individuals would pray there. Sometimes we would have ceremony.”            

Russell Beebe

Russell Beebe was honored by being asked to place a sacred Eagle feather high on the sculpture. Traditionally, the presence of an Eagle feather is what transforms this wood carving into a spirit pole or prayer pole.

"We Are Here" eagle feather
“We Are Here” eagle feather, hanging on Takelma Woman’s hand on the wood carving at its original site. (photo from Russell Beebe collection, circa 2006)

Grandma Aggie wrote: “Our Native students that are going to come to Southern Oregon University, they need something here to show them that there’s been Native people here on this land.” “Also, to remember the ancient ones of the land would be this tree, to stand in perpetuity in honor of the First Nation people.” “So there is now a spirit pole in Ashland that came through an attorney, Matthew Haines.”

“We Are Here” was called “a memorial to the First Nations” by Matthew Haines, who funded it. Through the presence of the Eagle feather and ceremony, it has become much more than a memorial.

Beebe described the meaning of spirit pole to me. It honors the spirits of the Native people and wildlife who lived in this area long ago. But it is not just about remembering the past. He added, “In our minds, they are still here.” The spirits of those who are gone, both people and Creation, are still with us in the present day.

When the Eagle feather is attached, “We Are Here” is also a living place of prayer, as much as any church or temple. Through the years, many community prayers and ceremonies have taken place at this prayer pole. Native people also come individually or in small groups to offer prayers here.

Installation day photos

"We Are Here" installation
“We Are Here” lowered onto its base, September 19, 2006. (photo by James Royce Young)

“We Are Here” was moved from Russell Beebe’s studio to its location on North Main Street on September 19, 2006. The move included ceremony by Grandma Aggie and Dan Wahpepah.

Short excerpt of Grandma Aggie and Dan Wahpepah singing at “We Are Here” installation on September 19, 2006. (from video by Julie Norman)

Dedication day: September 30, 2006

“Everywhere I go around the world, I pray.
I don’t care what religion you belong to.
My church is the sky and earth, and I pray for all in between the sky and earth.
We’re all part of the fabric.”

Agnes Baker Pilgrim
"We Are Here" dedication day flyer
Flyer for the dedication of “We Are Here” on September 30, 2006. (flyer artwork and photos by James Royce Young)

“We Are Here” was dedicated September 30, 2006, a day the Ashland City Council had recognized as First Nations Day.

The 1856 Oregon Trail of Tears

Beyond the meaning of the sculpture itself, the dedication had special meaning because it was the 150thanniversary of the local native people’s Trail of Tears. Between 1852 and 1856, there were many battles in Southern Oregon between settlers and the Native Americans who were defending their ancestral land. Suffering from diseases, hunger and deaths from the fighting, in 1856 the remaining Shasta and Takelma (as well as other tribes) were forcibly marched to the Siletz Indian Reservation, 150 miles north along the Oregon coast.

In her 2015 book, Grandma Aggie gave emotional resonance to the dry facts listed above. She wrote, “I remember how hard it was when I was a child growing up because in those times, in Lincoln County, there was signs on restaurants and different places where Indians and dogs weren’t allowed. And you know, I grew up from that era, but I am not bitter about it. What was is what was. I know I am limited. I can only change right now. I can’t change anything a minute ago, an hour ago, a week ago, or a year ago, so I know I am limited. So, what I did is I forgave all that in my background, of what happened to our people. The Trail of Tears that started here in Southern Oregon in 1856. They were all gathered up here, then run north. They lived here for over 22,000 years, and they actually felt that the Creator had given them this land, it was theirs eternally, forever and forever, as long as the grass grew and the water flowed. It was a hard time for my people in those times, you know, going up in rough terrain in inclement weather. They were force-marched in stormy weather with just moccasins on their feet. They could take one thing, and most of them just carried food wrapped in what they could carry. So then their moccasins wore out, and the elders fell along the wayside. The young were taught to take care of the elders, so they would run back and pick them up, and they were beaten. The guards told them that if they did that again they’d just leave the elders by the wayside for the animals to eat.

“It was a terrible time for them, over two hundred miles of this land going north and to trails where there was no trails. I can fathom how hard it was. And then, after all that journey, when they did get up to Siletz, the agent had used up a lot of the money, so there wasn’t enough blankets to go around. There wasn’t enough food, and many of them perished. It was awful. It’s a wonder I sit here.” 

Grandma Aggie's book
Grandma Aggie’s book from Ashland Library (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Dedication Day gathering and ceremony

Dedication day included a three-hour gathering at Briscoe School, which opened with a song by Whistling Elk Drum circle, led by Dan Wahpepah. 

Whistling Elk Drum group, Ashland
Whistling Elk Drum circle plays at the “We Are Here” dedication September 30, 2006. Dan Wahpepah is wearing the black shirt. (photo by James Royce Young)

Speakers included Robert Owens Greygrass (Master of Ceremonies), Agnes Baker Pilgrim (Takelma elder), Lloyd Matthew Haines (father and funder of the Project), Russell Beebe (sculptor), Kate Jackson (City of Ashland representative), Dennis Martinez (topic: Indigenous Stewardship), Robert Kentta (topic: Trail of Tears and cultural restoration), Thomas Doty (story teller), John Michael Greer (topic: Takilma language), Shelly Vendiola (topic: youth and poverty) and SOU Professor David West (topic: history and the present day). 

Several hundred people then walked from Briscoe School along North Main Street to the “We Are Here” site at the corner of North Main and Lithia Way. A dedication, with prayers and blessing ceremony, followed at the site. Grandma Aggie blessed the sculpture and the assembled people. The ceremony included a Native American tobacco offering.

Grandma Aggie in front of “We Are Here” on dedication day, September 30, 2006. Notice that the Takelma woman on “We Are Here” is modeled on Aggie when she was in her 30s. (photo by James Royce Young)

After he described how meaningful the dedication was, Beebe laughed and told me, “I have a funny story for you. I talked to you about offering tobacco. My son brought a pouch of tobacco [to the dedication] and we started making tobacco offerings at the base of the sculpture. Many of the people gathered had no idea what we were doing, but they wanted to do it also. Soon all the stones at the base of the sculpture were covered with tobacco. I was hanging around after everybody had left. Along comes this homeless guy. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He wasn’t looking at the sculpture at all. He looked at that tobacco, and he was just scooping it up, like ‘Thank you God.’ That was the giving back part; that was just wonderful.”

"We Are Here" Ashland
Tobacco offering at the “We Are Here” dedication on September 30, 2006. (photo by James Royce Young)

Two problems surfaced after a few years

The story of “We Are Here” does not end with the 2006 dedication. After installation, the sculpture was donated to the City of Ashland as public art. Because of its uniqueness, Beebe performed maintenance on the sculpture annually. Within a couple years, he began to see problems.

"We Are Here" maintenance
Russell Beebe performing annual maintenance of “We Are Here” wood carving. (from Russell Beebe collection)

The first problem was unanticipated. Do you remember that a large branch broke off when the tree was “thumped on the street” during its removal process? The site of the broken branch is now the head of a stag in the carving. Beebe didn’t realize until after the carving was completed that due to the “thump,” a crack extended into the center of the tree. He told me “every spring we would see mold developing.”

"We Are Here"
“We Are Here” from above, showing site of crack behind the stag’s head. (photo from Russell Beebe collection)

The second problem is that alder is a soft wood. The crack complicated the problem of maintaining a soft wood out in the elements. It required extensive maintenance, and Haines was the one who funded Beebe to do that. Beebe told me, “Often I had to recarve where it was starting to rot in spots.” 

At some point, Beebe and Haines realized that “We Are Here” would deteriorate irreparably if it were exposed to the elements for many years. It would have to be moved indoors in order to survive long-term. 

"We Are Here"
“We Are Here” showing wear from the elements, and mold growth due to moisture entering the soft alder wood. (photo from Russell Beebe collection)

Haines told the Ashland Tidings in 2012 that “it was important to him to keep some version of the sculpture downtown. He said the sculpture is a symbol of reconciliation and healing.” In this, he was in sync with the vision expressed by both Beebe and Grandma Aggie.

“The ‘We Are Here’ sculpture has had a healing effect on the valley.” 

Russell Beebe

Part 2 of this series of articles about “We Are Here” will describe the bronze replica that was crafted and now stands on North Main Street.

"We Are Here" Ashland
Here is a sneak peak of the “We Are Here” bronze replica, showing a detail of the salmon. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Part 3 of this series of articles about “We Are Here” will describe the challenge of moving the original wood carving from North Main Street to Southern Oregon University Hannon Library. 

References for Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Aldous, Vickie. “Downtown sculpture to be cast in bronze,” Ashland Tidings, April 18, 2012. (accessed 5/21/2020)

Aldous, Vickie. “Native people sculpture will move to SOU,” Ashland Tidings, November 3, 2012. (accessed 5/21/2020)

Anon. “Native Americans of the Rogue Valley,” North Mountain Park Nature Center, Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, Version 4: May 2010.
http://www.ashland.or.us/Files/Native%20American%20Background%20Booklet.pdf

Anon. “We Are Here,” Book Marks, Hannon Library Newsletter, Volume 24, No. 1, Fall 2013.

Anon. “Takelma Tribe,” NPS.gov. (accessed 1/10/2021) https://www.nps.gov/orca/learn/historyculture/takelma-tribe.htm

Anon. “Takelma Legends,” native-languages.org website. (accessed January 17, 2021)
http://www.native-languages.org/takelma-legends.htm

Anon. Ashland City Council Land Acknowledgment, February 2, 2021.

Ayers, Jane. “’Grandma Aggie’ leaves a lasting impact,” Ashland Tidings, December 3, 2019. (accessed May 21, 2020)

Beebe, Russell. Interview and personal communication, June 2, 2020 and other dates. Thank you, Russell, for sharing your photos with me.

Beebe, Russell. Website, accessed May 14, 2020.
http://www.russellbeebe.com/index.html#

Bernhagen, Jaimie. “’We Are Here’ Event with Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” Red Earth Descendants website, October 14, 2012. (accessed May 21, 2020)

Biesanz, Jesse. Interview and personal communication, August 2020.

Cardwell, James, “Southern Oregon Pioneers,” Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, July 8, 1882, page 3, from http://truwe.sohs.org/files/cardwell.html

Darling, John. “’Grandma Aggie’ dies at 95,” Ashland Tidings, November 27, 2019. (accessed May 21, 2020)

Doty, Thomas. Website, accessed May 14, 2020.
https://www.dotycoyote.com/culture/sculpture_installation_1.html

Gray, Dennis J. “The Takelma and Their Athapascan Neighbors,” University of Oregon Anthropological Papers, No. 37, 1987.

Haines, Lloyd Matthew. Interview and personal communication, May 13, 2020 and other dates.

Hall, Aaron. “Exploring with Beavers, Nature’s Ecosystem Engineers,” Defenders of Wildlife website, September 28, 2016.
https://defenders.org/blog/2016/09/exploring-beavers-natures-ecosystem-engineers

Kuiryamf. “’We Are Here’ statue relocated to Hannon Library,” The Siskiyou, January 15, 2013. (accessed May 14, 2020)
https://siskiyou.sou.edu/2013/01/15/we-are-here-statue-relocated-to-hannon-library/

Langford, Jack. Interview and personal communication, May 20, 2020 and other dates.

Martin, Nadine. Many thanks for reviewing the article.

Norman, Julie. Video of the dedication day and dedication ceremony.

Norman, Julie. Interview and personal communication, August 2020 and other dates.

Paris-Stamm, Glen. 31-minute Video. “Artist on Your Doorstep presents: Jack Langford, Sculptor, ‘We Are Here'(prayer pole now in bronze),” City of Ashland website (accessed January 18, 2021)
http://www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=18059

Also available directly on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD73OiZBf6Q

Pilgrim, Agnes Baker (Taowhywee). Grandma Says: Wake Up World, Blackstone Publishing, 2015.

Pilgrim, Agnes Baker. Website, accessed May 14, 2020.
http://www.agnesbakerpilgrim.org/Page.asp?PID=108

Rose, Karen. May 25, 2002. “Takelma Indians: An Essay on Native Americans in the Rogue River Area,” Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society, Hugo, OR. For the entire article go to http://www.hugoneighborhood.org/takelma.htm 

Sapir, Edward. “Notes on the Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 9, No. 2, April-June, 1907.

Valencia, Mandy. “We Are Here,” Ashland Daily Tidings, December 21, 2012.
https://ashlandtidings.com/archive/-we-are-here–04-27-2018

Valencia, Mandy. 5-minute Video. “We Are Here Dedication Ceremony,” Ashland Tidings website, May 24, 2013. (accessed January 18, 2021)
https://kzclip.com/video/9d5d_FoTkq4/we-are-here-dedication-ceremony.html

Valencia, Mandy. 4-minute Video. Russell Beebe carving eyes in the bronze We Are Here statue, Ashland Tidings website, April 2, 2013. (accessed January 18, 2021)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TqrdKFuu-E

Valencia, Mandy. 3-minute Video. Color heating of the We Are Here bronze statue (Jack Langford and Russell Beebe), Ashland Tidings website, April 15, 2013. (accessed January 18, 2021)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB4eP7F88M8

Wahpepah, Dan. Interview, August 10, 2020.

Young, James Royce. James took many of the photos from the creation of “We Are Here” in both wood and bronze, as well as photos of the 2006 dedication and the 2012 move to SOU Hannon Library. I thank James for sharing so many of his photos with me.

Old Willow Lane photo essay

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

I found Mickey on Old Willow Lane

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

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

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

First impressions

Old Willow Lane, Ashland

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

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

Big truck on small street

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

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

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

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

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

Signs of the times

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

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

Yard art variety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gate and tree

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

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

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

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

End of street

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

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

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

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

Photographic highlight

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

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

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

Alida Street: Flowers, Ghosts and Art


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

Surprising stories

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

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

Let’s begin our two-block stroll

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

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

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

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

Southern Pacific Railroad engineer

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

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

Hipped-roof cottage

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

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

Trumpet vine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Anderson houses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer of Western stories and novels lived here

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

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

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

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

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

The oldest house on Alida Street

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

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

Early Ashlanders, ghost tales and more

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

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

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

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

“Julia’s tree”

Alida Street

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

Alida Street

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

Alida Street

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

Ghostly personal experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Alida Street

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

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

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

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

Art for the neighborhood to enjoy

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

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

Before and After at 107 Alida Street

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

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

The mural creation at 107 Alida Street

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

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

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

Another SP worker, and unusual yard art

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

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

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

Ashland High School 2020 graduate

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

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

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

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

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

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

A “fine Queen Anne ell”

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

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

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

Creative hobbit lovers

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

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

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

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

The 1901 Frank Nelson house

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

Katherine Holden, personal communication, July 2020.

Pete, Amy. Personal communication, July 2020.

Woosnam, Julia. Personal communication, August 2020.

Forest Street and May 2020 Garden of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

Deodar Cedar tree

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

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.

Gate
A gate with a heart. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The Japanese maples and rhododendrons at 776 Forest Street provide contrasting shapes and colors. 

Japanese maple trees and rhododendrons
Japanese maple trees and rhododendron. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland Garden Club “Garden of the Month” for May 2020

Yellow azalea
These dazzling yellow flowers in the side yard are Rhododendron luteum, commonly known as Yellow azalea or Pontic azalea. (photo by Larry Rosengren, 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.

house in 1983
720 Forest Street, front yard in 1983. (photo by Alan Armstrong or Vicky Sturtevant, 1983)

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. 

front yard in 2020
720 Forest Street, front yard in 2020. (photo by Larry Rosengren, 2020)

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.

Redbud tree
720 Forest Street, Redbud tree in side yard. (photo by Larry Rosengren, 2020)

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.

rhododendron
720 Forest Street, Rhododendron flowering in back yard. (photo by Larry Rosengren, 2020)

Native plants

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.

Alice’s Fleabane

Alice's fleabane wildflower
Alice’s fleabane wildflower. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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]

Alice Eastwood c1910 (photo from wikimedia commons)

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
Shrub tan oak. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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.

Oso berry

Oso berry
Oso berry. If you look closely, you may see one small berry on the plant. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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).”

Western azalea

Western azalea
Western azalea. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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 

High bush cranberry
High bush cranberry. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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.

Salal

Salal
Salal. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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.

Azure penstemon

Azure penstemon wildflower
Azure penstemon wildflower. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Here is another wildflower that grows on the slopes of Mt. Ashland. 

Wintergreen (not native)

Wintergreen
Wintergreen. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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

Pond
Alan and Vicky’s pond. (photo by Larry Rosengren, 2020)

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.

Yellow iris
Yellow iris on right edge of pond. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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. 

Bench
River rocks behind the bench. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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

forested lot 1986
Forested lot in 1986. (photo by Alan Armstrong or Vicky Sturtevant, 1986)

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.

forested lot 2020
Forested lot in 2020. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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.

Strawberries
Strawberries and rhubarb. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Blueberries are next, followed by marionberries. Note that these two varieties are under a netting to protect them from the birds. 

Blueberries and marionberries
Blueberries in front, marionberries trellised behind. Both are under netting. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

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.