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)