“Elevation” – Art on Ashland’s Bandersnatch Trail

“Elevation” – First artwork of three as you walk Bandersnatch trail
Artist: Cheryl Garcia
Ashland Public Art series

Introducing the artist

Cheryl Garcia has loved art ever since she could pick up a crayon. I will describe her artistic journey after I introduce her Ashland public artwork entitled “Elevation.”

Creation of Elevation

The “Watershed Art Group” (originally Stef Seffinger, Pam Marsh, Sue Springer and a few others) wanted to place public art along the Bandersnatch trail above Lithia Park. Their goal was to bring attention to the importance of the Ashland Creek watershed, where we source our drinking water. Three sculptures have now been placed along the trail: Elevation, Pacific Fisher and Water is Life. They received funding primarily from the Haines & Friends art fund.

When you walk the Bandersnatch trail, the first of the three sculptures you will see (just before the trail starts) is Elevation by Cheryl Garcia. Cheryl is a metal artist, and Elevation is made of steel. Her initial concept for Elevation included a poem by Edward Abbey with three small birds flying above it. 

Ashland public art
Cheryl Garcia’s original concept drawing for Elevation. (photo by Cheryl Garcia)

Over time, the design became three large birds representing the “elevation” you experience as you walk up Bandersnatch trail, as well as a hope for elevation in our spirits through art and nature. 

Ashland public art
Elevation, with a view of trail continuing to the right of the sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

My question: What brought you to metal art?

I asked Cheryl how she came to love metal art. She replied: “It goes back to my love of junky old iron as a kid. My grandfather was a collector of artifacts. I loved going into his garage and digging around in all of his artifacts and playing around with tools. I loved going around collecting rusty old iron in the canyons of southwest Colorado where I grew up. I fell in love with the material first.”

As a child, Cheryl entered many local art contests, whether it was a coloring contest or who could draw a scene from Mesa Verde National Park the best. 

“I won quite a few art contest prizes as a kid, including a year’s supply of free fountain sodas from a local convenience store.” 

Cheryl Garcia

She laughed as she told me, “I was a popular kid,” and then “I think they didn’t do that [contest] any more after I won it, because I was down there every single day getting my free sodas with my friends.”

After a couple years off from school, when she worked drawing illustrations for archeological digs in the Four Corners area, she took every art class at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. During trips to Santa Fe, she was inspired by the large scale metal art sculptures there. Since welding was not offered at Fort Lewis College, she switched to a vocational school and became a certified welder in 1993. That opened the door to metal working and metal art.

Love at first sight

When she lived in Missoula, Montana for a year to enjoy the music scene there and work as a welder, she met her husband Criss. It was a case of “love at first sight” – not the sappy movie kind, but the lasting real-life, through the ups and downs to this day kind.

It was through Criss that they decided to move to Ashland in November 1996. “It was just what we were looking for.” Her first Southern Oregon job at Medford Fabrication enabled her to save enough money to purchase her own metal work and welding equipment. 

“Living my dream”

Cheryl Garcia
Cheryl Garcia in 1998. (photo by Criss Garcia)

Now that she owned her own equipment, Cheryl said goodbye to the 9-to-5 in order to “live my dream.” She began by making garden ornaments that she sold at the Growers and Crafters Markets in Ashland and Jacksonville.  

Cheryl Garcia
Garden ornaments Cheryl sold at Growers Markets in 1998. (photo by Criss Garcia)

People who bought her garden ornaments started asking her to make gates and handrails for them. She found out that making structural art required a contractor’s license. Dedicated to growing both her skills and her business, she went to Rogue Community College and got the license. Since then, she has made many bright-colored nature-inspired sculptures both large and small, gates, fences, vessels, sacred art and more. 

She is especially proud of a large spiral staircase she built for a private customer, a project that required her to draw upon all of her skills and creativity.

Cheryl Garcia
Spiral staircase by Cheryl Garcia in a private residence. (photo by Cheryl Garcia)

Public art

Though she accepts many private commissions, Cheryl especially enjoys creating public art: “I certainly enjoy the public commissions the most, because they’re reaching a bigger audience. I know the joy and wonder I am trying to put out in the world is affecting more lives than just a private commission.”

Cheryl Garcia

Cheryl is a visible artist in Southern Oregon. If you have been to Jacksonville in the past few years, you may have seen her huge poppy flowers in the vineyard just outside of town. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Ashland public art

If you drive by Walker School on Walker Street in Ashland, you may have seen her large flowers on the school grounds.

Sunflower by Cheryl Garcia at Walker School. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Cheryl Garcia, Britt Festival

If you have been to Britt Music Festival in the past few years, you have walked by her huge flower sculpture at the Britt entrance.

Cheryl Garcia poses with her Brittilaria sculpture at the Britt Festival grounds. It is named for the fritillaria flower.

(photo by Rita Ashley)

Elevation: the artistic process

Cheryl Garcia at work in her studio. (photo by Jim Craven)

Now let’s look in detail at the piece called Elevation, which was installed near the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail. Elevation began with a Corten steel plate, a stainless steel plate, steel posts, more steel plates for the base, nuts, bolts, paints and more.  Corten steel is a quick-rusting steel often used for outdoor installations. The different pieces were each cut out and worked on individually before they could be put together.

This 4-minute video shows an overview of the entire process of creating Elevation.

To complement the video, here is my summary of the steps involved, illustrated with photographs taken from the video. First, the heart of Elevation is the Corten steel plate. Cheryl drew a complex design on the steel, then cut precise holes in the steel with a plasma cutting tool. 

Second are the rigid side-poles that support the Corten steel plate and anchor it to the base. 

Third is the steel base, which in this case required two large pieces of steel with bolts anchoring it both to the sculpture above and to the concrete foundation below. In most of her jobs, Cheryl makes the concrete foundation as well as the metal sculpture. “That’s why part of my contractor’s license is certification in concrete work as well,” she said. In this case, the Parks Department was responsible for the concrete foundation. 

Ashland public art
Steel base for Elevation, showing the mounting bolts. (photo from the Cheryl Garcia video)

Fourth, the three birds were cut out of stainless steel. The steel had to be ground, sanded and buffed until it was smooth to the touch, without sharp edges. 

Ashland public art
Stainless steel birds being painted. (photo from the Cheryl Garcia video)

After each individual part was done, she finally put it all together. The birds were welded to the Corten steel plate from the back side. After they were attached, everything was masked off in order to apply anodized, long lasting industrial paint for the blue color of the birds.

Ashland public art
Corten steel of Elevation before the rusting process. (photo from the Cheryl Garcia video)

Finally, the rusting process is a key part of the artwork that we see but don’t normally think about. Cheryl painted a chemical solution on the Corten steel, which is made to rust quickly. She said, “It [the Corten steel] takes a chemical solution I can put on. The rusting itself takes some finessing as well; I don’t want it to go too far, and I don’t want it to be too little. So I need to use the right amount of chemical solution to get the perfect rust and then neutralize it with a neutralizer, then rinse it all down before the installation.” 

There is so much that people don’t see, including “a lot of grinding” that goes into every piece of artwork. Cheryl summed up, “It is very labor intensive.”

Ashland public art
Detail of Elevation showing the Corten steel on site after the rusting process. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Installation and Dedication

Elevation was installed at the site in June of 2018. The dedication ceremony didn’t happen until September 2018. As it turned out, the dedication for both Elevation and Water is Life (also on Bandersnatch trail) were held on the same day.

Where to find Elevation

My wife and I first walked the Bandersnatch trail to see the three public art sculptures there in July 2020. Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins not far from the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive. After 2/10 of a mile, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails
Sign near the parking area on Glenview Drive pointing the way to Bandersnatch trail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Near the parking area is this sign that says, “Waterline Trail >” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

Ashland trails
Next clue that you are heading in the right direction to see Bandersnatch trail artworks. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail.

Ashland trails

Next to the Elevation sculpture, you will see this sign.

Continue up to the Bandersnatch trail if you want to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life. Continue to keep an eye out for mountain bikers until you reach Bandersnatch trail. Built in 2012, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back.

Ashland trails
Not far past Elevation is the official beginning of the Bandersnatch trail, where you will find the other two works of public art. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

What is a Bandersnatch?

You may be wondering, as I did, “What is a bandersnatch?” It is found in the unusual world of “Alice in Wonderland.” Here is how it is described.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll, from the poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Cantrall Buckley County Park

Because I am writing about Cheryl Garcia’s artwork, I want to briefly introduce you to the sculptures being installed at 88-acre Cantrall Buckley county park, located along the Applegate River near Ruch. The park and community have collaborated to raise funds for what has become an Art Walk at the park. 

The art in the park began with concrete and mosaic artwork Applegate Valley artist Jeremy Criswell created for the playground at the park. 

Cantrall Buckley park
Tortoise mosaic and concrete sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, located in the children’s playground at Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Jeremy is the sculptor of the Ashland public art piece on the Bandersnatch trail called “Pacific Fisher.”

He introduced community members to Cheryl Garcia, which resulted in a plan for Cheryl to create eleven metal art pieces that embody local flora and fauna in the Applegate Valley. She has completed eight so far as of August 2020, with three more to go.

Cantrall Buckley park
Mock Orange by Cheryl Garcia, at Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The community group A Greater Applegate wrote: “Art enthusiasts are delighted to see the numerous sculptures in the Educational Sculpture Art Walk series installed near the river. Cheryl Garcia, our very talented Jacksonville artist, completed the first awe-inspiring metal rendition, “The Mock Orange,” in the Fall of 2018. This spectacular 12-foot sculpture depicts the large and beautiful white blossom of this tender but tough native species.”

Cheryl enthusiastically described the project to me, and said, “It will become Southern Oregon’s first sculpture park!” 

If you would like to learn more about Cheryl’s work, her website is GreatMetalWorks.com.

Cantrall Buckley park
Northern Flicker by Cheryl Garcia, at Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland Public Art map

A map at the link below shows City of Ashland public art, from the city website. Photos of the art are by Graham Lewis.
https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

Here is my other Ashland Public Art article published so far.

Coming soon: Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, also on the Bandersnatch trail.

Coming soon: Water is Life sculpture by Karen Rycheck, also on the Bandersnatch trail.

References:

Anon. “Ashland Public Art Collection: A map tour of Public Art installations in the City of Ashland, Oregon,” City of Ashland website.

https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

A Greater Applegate, http://agreaterapplegate.org/cantrall-buckley-park/

Jackson County Parks, https://jacksoncountyor.org/parks/Day-Use/Cantrall-Buckley

Anon. “Cantrall Buckley Sculpture Park Takes Shape, Jacksonville Review Online, June 5, 2018. https://jacksonvillereview.com/cantrall-buckley-sculpture-park-takes-shape/

Garcia, Cheryl. Interview and personal communications, August 2020.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and personal communications, August 2020.

Creative Mailboxes of Ashland Photo Essay: Part 1

Artistic, Amazing and Unusual Mailboxes

My Grand Prize #1 so far

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

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

Painted mailboxes

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

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

Unusual mailboxes

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

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

My Grand Prize #2 so far

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

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

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

Quirky Sights in Ashland: Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the center of the arch.
Detail number 2 of the arch.
Detail number 3 of the arch.
Now for something completely different. I spotted this critter riding on a car in a motel parking lot.
On the car next to the galactic dinosaur critter was a Southwest airlines critter.
This odd sight is part of the fun of walking Ashland’s alleys.
Here is a happier alley creature.
This fella must be related to the tree-fella in photo above.
I couldn’t resist this clever, loving sign on the admin table at the Growers & Crafters Market.
This is a different kind of sign. It is 101 year old graffiti left by firemen who staffed the 1908 fire station.
I bet many people will recognize the location of this quote from a 17th century Japanese poet.
The location of this one will be more challenging. The quote is much more ancient than the 17th century. If you look closely just above “Say Friend and Enter,” you may be able to read the Elvish that was written on the gates of Moria. This one is for all Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans.
Since we are now entering Springtime and more hours in the garden (if we have one), this scene should help us move on through our day with a lighter heart.

If you enjoy “quirky,” you might enjoy my article about “The Mystery of the Peerless Hotel Marbles.”

8th Street

Part of Ashland’s historic Railroad District

See the Garden of the Month for September 2019

Many 100+-year-old houses

8th Street has simple, historic homes built in the early 1900s, lovely gardens, and several dramatic trees. It’s on the eastern edge of the Railroad Addition Historic District.

Early Ashland was Very Small

Before 1883, the city of Ashland was very small. Heading northwest from the plaza, the town extended only a few blocks to either side of Main Street as far as Wimer Street. Heading southeast on Main Street from the plaza, it became farmland after only two blocks. 

Ashland map 1879

Adding the first Railroad Addition building plots in late 1883 was a major increase in the size of the town. Town leaders saw the need for this when construction of the railroad south from Portland was nearly finished. The second section of the Railroad Addition, up to 8th Street, was added in 1888, after the railroad tracks connecting Oregon and California were completed. 

Impact of the Railroad

Due to Ashland’s site at the base of the long Siskiyou Mountain range, Southern Pacific Railroad made Ashland both a train stop and a maintenance yard.  According to the Ashland Tidings of January 4, 1889: “Ashland is the eating station for all passenger trains and a thirty minute stop is made here by every train.” Dozens of new railroad workers chose to build, buy or rent homes in the Railroad District near the train station. Mostly due to the coming of the railroad, Ashland’s population more than doubled between 1880 and 1890, from 842 to 1,784.

Now Let’s Walk 8thStreet

Let’s walk 8th Street now. We will start at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, then head north towards A Street.

Rogue Valley Roasting Company, at the corner of East Main Street and 8th Street

The first house on the right is 92 8th Street. It was built as a rental house about 1909 for Mrs. Lou Reader, the wife of a prominent Ashland doctor. 

92 8th St Ashland, built about 1909 (photo by Peter Finkle)

In 1930, John and Callie Winters purchased this house. They owned the grocery store right next door at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, so they didn’t have far to go from home to work! This corner store was later Johnson’s East Main Market, owned by Swede Johnson. Many current Ashland residents remember stopping by Swede’s store as children on their way home from Lincoln School or the Junior High School. The former small grocery is now the site of the Rogue Valley Roasting Company business.

Garden of the Month

Across C Street on your right, you will come to Ashland Garden Club’s September 2019 Garden of the Month. 

110 8th Street, built about 1905, is the Ashland Garden Club’s September 2019 Garden of the Month (photo by Peter Finkle)
110 8th Street Ashland, brown-eyed susan, a type of coneflower (photo by Peter Finkle)

Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club wrote: “By September, most gardens are starting to fade, at least, and some are downright shabby.  But not Kelly and Jeff Straub’s gorgeous place at 110 8th Street.  Kelly’s diligent work shows to good advantage all year.  She keeps the planting areas well groomed, and always a delight to see with blooming plants.”

110 8th Street (photo by Larry Rosengren)

Ruth Sloan continued: “A special quality of this property is that the “parking strip” (the area between the sidewalk and the street) is especially wide, making the sidewalk appear to go right through the heart of the front and side yards.  This does two things:  It makes the parking strip more versatile as a desirable planting space and it also makes pedestrians feel a part of the garden.  Being a block from a popular coffee shop also increases foot traffic, and Kelly enjoys interacting with passersby as she works in the garden.  Understandably, she gets a lot of positive feedback.”

When you take a break from admiring the garden, look at the historic house. Built in 1905, it is known as the Engwicht-McMillan house. 

110 8th Street in about 1910; the McMillan family is on their porch. The garden has come a long way since 1910! (This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.)

George Engwicht, a conductor for the Southern Pacific Railroad, built the house in 1905. He sold the house in 1908 to another railroad employee, A.A. Conger. Conger lived there only one year.

In 1909, Alexander and Eva McMillan moved from Montana to Ashland and bought this house. Mr. McMillan was born in Scotland in 1850 and came to the United States as a small child. In the early 1900s, he owned a sheep ranch in Montana. The sale of the sheep ranch gave the McMillans enough money to buy 110 8th Street and retire in Ashland. Alexander McMillan lived in the house until 1932, when he died at the age of 81. Eva McMillan continued to live here until her death in 1950. 

117 8th Street

117 8th Street Ashland, built about 1901 (photo by Peter Finkle)

Across the street, behind a hedge and lush foliage, is a hidden historic house with a large garden. Known as the Osmer and Lila Long house, it was built around 1901. Osmer Long was a brakeman for the railroad. So far in just the first three houses on 8th Street, we already know of a railroad conductor, a brakeman and another railroad employee who have lived in these houses. Yes, this is the “Railroad District.”

117 8th Street Ashland, artistic plant along the street (photo by Peter Finkle)

130 and 132 8th Street

Built about 1904, the first owners of 130 8th Street were not railroad employees. One was a painter, the second a plumber. The architecture of this house is considered to be vernacular bungalow style.

You can see similar architecture in the house next door, built – or possibly moved to this location – in 1948.

130 8th Street Ashland, built about 1904 (photo by Peter Finkle)
132 8th Street Ashland, built in 1948, but in a style similar to the historic home next door (photo by Peter Finkle)

143 8th Street

143 8th Street Ashland, American sycamore tree (photo by Peter Finkle)

Across the street is a dramatic old American sycamore tree (or plane tree), in front of the oldest house on 8th Street. 143 8th Street was built about 1890, and its best-known owner was Caleb Porter, a conductor for Southern Pacific. The Porter family owned the house for about 50 years, until 1955. 

143 8th Street Ashland, built about 1890 (photo by Peter Finkle)

The house has been beautifully restored at some point in recent years. I enjoy the vine being trained around the front windows into what my eyes see as a heart shape.

143 8th Street Ashland, vine in the shape of heart (photo by Peter Finkle)
143 8th Street Ashland; the combination of the massive, knobby tree trunk and the mailbox looks artistic to me (photo by Peter Finkle)

155 and 156 8th Street

155 8th Street Ashland, built about 1903 (photo by Peter Finkle)

The house at 155 8th Street was built about 1903. The builders added a few Queen Anne elements to the basic vernacular style of the time.

156 8th Street Ashland, built about 1907 (photo by Peter Finkle)

Elmer Harrington worked on trains at the Southern Pacific roundhouse in Ashland. He built the house at 156 8th Street in 1907, but for some reason he sold the house the very next year.

Giant Sequoia

Giant Sequoia tree on 8th Street near corner of B Street (photo by Peter Finkle)
Giant Sequoia tree on 8th Street near corner of B Street (photo by Peter Finkle)

248 8th Street

248 8th Street Ashland, originally built in 1948, with major renovation in 1996 (photo by Peter Finkle)
248 8th Street Ashland; it is hard to capture in a photo, but it feels to me as though the tree and the house belong together. I admire the architects for incorporating the tree the way they did. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I like the way this tree, garden and house complement each other. It is a large, 1990s Craftsman style house that is designed to fit into the historic neighborhood. To me, the tree feels like part of the house. Take a look and see if you see this too.

8th and B Streets Yard Art

885 B Street, yard art on 8th Street by the alley (photo by Peter Finkle)
885 B Street, yard art on 8th Street that brought me a smile and a sigh (photo by Peter Finkle)

Though this house has a B Street address, the yard art along 8th Street is too good to pass by without a smile and admiration for the creative spirit.

286 8th Street

286 8th Street, wisteria vine growing up a tree (photo by Peter Finkle)

I am impressed by the healthy wisteria vine that was planted at the base of this large tree. Wisteria vines are normally trained to grow along a roofline or a fence. I have never seen one climbing a tree like this one does. 

8th Street ends at A Street and Railroad Park, where you can find a lot more history. To read about the history of the railroad in Ashland, go to this article. 

Many of the homes on 8th Street are at least 100 years old and have seen the march of time bring many periods of boom and bust to the Railroad District. Architects describe most of the older homes in the Railroad District as the “vernacular” style. Vernacular might be called a non-style style. Here is a more technical definition. “Its meaning is flexible according to the situation; but in essence, ‘vernacular’ means an unaffected, unselfconscious, unaccented way of building….it is the use of architectural style without being conscious of style.. .(Gowans, 1986:41)”   [from the National Register of Historic Places, Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District, 5/6/1999, Section 7, page 2]

As the homes were being built on 8th Street, a business district was also built near the intersection of A Street and 4th Street, just four blocks away. By 1890, residents of 8th Street could find nearby a grocery, a stable, restaurants, lodging houses, even saloons. I will have several articles about 4th Street coming up soon at WalkAshland.com.

If you love gardens, I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can learn about the Garden Club and find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.  

Westwood Street: Log House, Eco House and more

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

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

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

Was this used to prepare rows for planting?

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

183 Westwood Street

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

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

Pathway bridge between Westwood Street and Sunnyview Street

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

135 Westwood Street
135 Westwood Street

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

135 Westwood Street, Lodgepole Pine “D-logs”

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

Glass positive portrait

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

Glass positive portraits

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

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

130 Westwood Street

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

121 Westwood Street

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

98 Westwood Street

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

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

62 Westwood Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First stanza in Robert Burns’ words:

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

Last stanza in Robert Burns’ words:

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

Rough translation of first stanza:

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


Rough translation of last stanza:

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

Lavender at 62 Westwood Street

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

Manzanita

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

Hot lips sage
Heather
Orange sedge
Yarrow

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

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

Poem: Gil’s Restaurant

Walking in Friday evening 6pm,
The patio seating is packed,
The inside seating is packed,
Beer and conversations are flowing.

It’s a tap beer kind of place.
I’m not a tap beer kind of guy — but I don’t give up.
It’s a pulled pork kind of place.
I’m not a pulled pork kind of guy — but I don’t give up.
They have nachos — small and large,
and I am a nachos kind of guy.

I am sitting here eating
the messiest, tastiest, most-fun-to-eat nachos
I have ever had.

Even the small basket
is overflowing with a messy, tasty,
Yes — even nutritious — combination
of chips smothered with
cheese and beans and tomatoes and guacamole
and cabbage and jalapeños and secret sauce;

And the line of people all (well, almost all)
half my age
ordering their Friday evening beer on tap
never ceases
as I eat and read and write this poem.

(written May 16, 2016 while eating at Gil’s)