History of Ashland
from the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan
 
 
Ashland's History and Historical Resources
 
There were settlements in the Willamette Valley, and gold was being mined in northern California, when, during the winter of 1851-1852 two pack train operators who were passing through this southernmost part of the Oregon Territory discovered gold at Rich Gulch, a tributary of Jackson Creek. News of the strike spread, and soon there was a tent city, the place we know today as Jacksonville, on the banks of Jackson Creek.
 
Up until this time, the Bear Creek Valley, a flat fertile valley protected on the west by the Siskiyou Mountains and on the east by the Cascades had been inhabited only by small, scattered bands of Takelma Indians. They found this a hospitable place, with abundant fish, game and edible vegetation. The Indian bands moved from place to place in the valley gathering food and materials for their livelihood.  
 
Their peace was disturbed by the miners who flocked to the Jacksonville/Applegate area, and then by the farmers, who were either newcomers or discouraged miners who found new wealth in the rich fields and creek valleys.  Families from all parts of the country, encouraged by the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, came to make their free claim up to 320 acres, build homes and till the land.  Many of Ashland's earliest settlers came for this reason, the Walkers, Dunns, and Hills among them.
 
Jackson County was so designated by the Oregon Territorial Legislature on January 12, 1852. Six days earlier, Robert Hargadine, and his partner, a man named Pease, had taken up a Donation Land Claim and built a log cabin in the narrowing end of the Bear Creek Valley, about where the railroad Station is now in Ashland. They were soon joined by Abel Helman, Eber Emery, Jacob Emery, James Cardwell, Dowd Farley and A.M. Rogers who also decided to stay. Helman filed on a Donation Land Claim adjacent to Hargadine's.
 
There was need for sawed lumber in the valley, so the men built a water-power sawmill on the banks of Ashland Creek. Then they built a flour mill in what is now the entrance Lithia Park. Business grew around the open space in front of the mills and people began to call it the Plaza.  
Settlers came to the Plaza from neighboring farms to trade their wheat for flour, or to purchase lumber for improved cabins and homes. The California-Oregon Trail route passed through the little community and travelers bumped over ruts in the summer and tracked through mud in the winter pass either direction.
 
Gradually stores and small businesses appeared on the Plaza and some individuals, who made their living by them, built homes nearby. The earliest homes were built on Main Street, then on Granite and Church Streets.
 
Ashland developed gradually during this time, and, perhaps then, got its roots as a solid community where people came to stay, to live their lives. Unlike neighboring Jacksonville, which began as a boomtown, and later Medford, which developed with the coming of the railroad, Ashland grew slowly as people moved into the area or as generations of families grew up.
 
 
The First Twenty Years
 
Ashland was named after either Ashland, Ohio, or Ashland, Kentucky, in both of which the early settlers had ties. The Ashland Mills Post Office was established in 1855 - it took six months to get mail from the east - and the town became official. In 1871, the word "Mills" was dropped.
 
Ashland, a growing community of 50 by 1859, was a stopping point on the California-Oregon Stage Company's route. A hotel was built to accommodate travelers, then a school on East Main Street near where Gresham Street now intersects. A sawmill and shop were set up, then a planing mill and cabinet shop. In 1867, the Ashland Woolen Mills were built on the banks of Ashland Creek where B Street now intersects with Water Street. Underwear, hosiery, shawls and blankets were all made from wool produced locally. Nursery stock, brought to Jackson County by Orlando Coolidge and his wife, Mary Jane, and planted on "Knob Hill" is credited by many as stimulating the fruit industry of Southern Oregon. W.C. Myer brought imported stock to his farm just north of town. The barn still stands in a field near the railroad overpass on North Main Street.
 
The Methodist Episcopal Church, organized in 1864, held a conference here in 1869 and it was suggested that Ashland would be a "remarkably fine" place for an institution of higher learning. The Ashland College and Normal School that was housed in a building on the site where Briscoe Elementary School now stands was the forerunner of today's Southern Oregon University.
 
 
Growth and Incorporation
 
Ashland grew faster than any other Oregon town south of Portland during the 1870s and 1880s. As the shallower mines in Jackson County were worked out and abandoned, agriculture became the main industry. The production of wheat and oats, corn and hogs, sheep, hay, honey and potatoes made farming profitable and this in turn brought more people.
 
Ashland, population 300, was incorporated on October 13, 1874.  In the first issue of The Tidings, published June 17, 1876, the editor remarked, "There is no church and no saloon, but whiskey is sold by the bottle and preaching is done in the schoolhouse; and therefore, the people are generally happy."
 
The Methodist Church was built on the corner of North Main and Laurel Streets, then the Presbyterian Church on North Main and Helman Streets. Land for a Catholic Church was purchased, and a First Baptist Church was organized.
 
Fire destroyed many of the wooden business buildings on the Plaza in March 1879. That summer they were replaced by a number of brick structures, including the Masonic Hall, the Perrine Building, and the IOOF building. The Ashland Library and Reading Room Association was established, and in 1880, Alpha Chapter, Order of Eastern Star, was established in Ashland. It was the first Eastern Star chapter in Oregon.
 
There were 854 people living in Ashland on September 28, 1880, when President Rutherford B. Hayes, Mrs. Hayes, General Tecumseh Sherman and their entourage made a brief stop here. They were greeted by a crowd of some 2000. A platform was built on the Plaza and an arch was made of evergreen boughs. Under the greeting "Welcome to Oregon" was Ashland's motto, "Industry, Education, Temperance - Ashland honors those who foster these." There were speakers, and four little girls presented President and Mrs. Hayes with a tray of peaches, pears, apples, plums, grapes, blackberries, almonds and figs, all grown in Ashland. The stagecoaches then rolled on to Jacksonville where the presidential party spent the night in the U.S. Hotel.
 
 
The Coming of the Railroad
 
For two decades, Oregon had been relatively isolated from the rest of the world and wanted the opportunity to ship goods in and out. Ashland had bountiful crops, products of mills, and a desire for growth, but no practical way to carry on trade outside of the local area.
 
One of the most important events in the development of Ashland, therefore, was the coming of the railroad. Track was being laid south from Portland north from Sacramento. On May 4, 1884, the first train rolled into the Ashland station from the north pulling a short string of mail, express and passenger cars.
 
Shouting and waving from the windows was a group of people in high spirits who had gone as far north as five miles to ride the train into town. Waiting at the station were the Ashland Brass Band, predecessor of today's Ashland City Band and a number of dignitaries with speeches and congratulations.
 
Ashland was the southern terminus of the railroad for three years. Merchandise and passengers were carried on south over the Siskiyou Mountains by freight wagons and stagecoaches. The Golden Spike that connected the Southern Pacific's San Francisco-Portland line was driven in Ashland on December 17, 1887. This completed the circle of railroad tracks around the United States.  Ashland was a railroad division point. Already twenty-one employees lived here, and more were to come to build homes, rear families and participate in the development of the community.
 
 
Development & Growth
 
The coming of the railroad meant fruit could be exported. Apple, pear and peach orchards were well established. Thousands of fruit trees had been planted and a number of five- and ten-acre tracts near town had been cleared of brush and turned into fruit farms. South of the Plaza were orchards planted by S. B. Galey, who planted the first peach orchard for commercial purposes. The Galeys and the Henry B. Carters (Mrs. Galey's parents) were prominent in local affairs. They felt every self-respecting city should have one wide, main street, a thoroughfare that would provide a sense of dignity, so they laid out, right through the middle of their orchards, a boulevard 60 feet wide. The grand new avenue led nowhere until U.S. Highway 99 joined it late in the 1930s. All travel through the city then was along East Main Street.
 
Ashland's entire street system got attention in 1888. The city spent $3,000 grading, putting in culverts and crossings, and improving, somewhat, the muddy mess that was the Plaza. In response to a petition, the city council ordered construction of one and one-half miles of solid planking sidewalks.
 
By the late 1880s, Ashland had a bank, two schools - South School and North School - a small college, the Ashland Electric Power and Light Co. (which produced enough electricity to light the city streets and homes), the Ashland Hotel (a beautiful brick building that stood on Main Street between Oak and Pioneer Streets), the Depot Hotel (at the railroad station, this hotel had forty sleeping rooms and a large dining room). There were stores and shops, a real estate and insurance office, several livery stables, a laundry, bakery, doctor, dentist ... and a swimming pool called Helman Baths that had been opened to the public by Grant Helman who enjoyed swimming in the sulfur springs on the Helman property. By now, Ashland also had five saloons.
 
The Ashland Gold Mine was discovered in the hills west of town in 1891. It tapped a rich mineral belt which was known to extend more than 200 miles between Yreka, California and Cottage Grove, Oregon.
 
The mine and three ingots of its bullion displayed on the Plaza were proclaimed "harbingers of a Golden Era." Plagued with disputes over property rights and legal problems, the mine was worked on an on-again, off-again basis until 1942 when it was closed as a wartime measure. 
 
Ashland High School's first graduating class - Miss Lora Colton, valedictorian; Oley Thornton, salutatorian; and Miss Moody Scott, who read an essay - received their diplomas on May 22, 1891, before a packed audience in the Ganiard Opera House (this stood on Main Street at the comer of Pioneer Street and was used for many public gatherings).
 
 
Chautauqua Chooses Ashland
 
Chautauqua, a traveling program of lecture seminars and entertainment that originated in New York, was the first mass education entertainment program in this area.
 
The Southern Oregon Chautauqua Assembly was organized in Central Point in 1892. The plan was to hold meetings in a grove near that town, but at the encouragement of George F. Billings of Ashland and others -- they pointed out that Ashland had electric lights, city water and a better hotel that did Central Point -- it was decided that Ashland, where there was a small college and a wooded site on a hill above the Plaza, would be a more suitable spot.
 
A bond issue in the amount of $2,500 covered the cost of land acquisition, the building, and the first year's program. A large beehive-shaped building was built and the first Chautauqua program was presented in it in 1893.
 
People came from miles to camp in Roper's Grove on the banks of Ashland Creek, and indulge themselves in the luxury of culture. Admission was low, $1 for the ten-day season, in order to keep the support of the people and make it possible for all to attend.
 
 
Ashland College and Normal School
 
Ashland's "institution of higher learning," now called The Ashland College and Normal School, had been approved as a state institution, but allocated no money. It closed its doors for lack of funds and the school district bought the property on North Main Street.
 
In 1893 Portland University said if the people of Ashland would furnish land and provide a building, the university would endow the school in Ashland and make it a branch. The Carter Land Company made a gift of a campus site (about where Beswick Way and Normal Avenue now intersect Siskiyou Boulevard) and a building was started. Before it was finished, however, Portland University withdrew its offer. Under the leadership of Professor W.T. VanScoy, and with funds raised by the citizens of Ashland, the building was finished, furnished and renamed Southern Oregon State Normal School. In 1899, the state accepted the property and endowed the school.
 
 
Turn of the Century
 
January, 1900. There were 3,000 people in Ashland, the largest town in Jackson County (population 15,000). There had been no boom, but steady, continued growth. Fifty new homes had been built during the last year and several business buildings. There were no vacant houses to rent. People were coming from various parts of the coast and from the Middle Eastern states. Ashland was known as the "home town" of Southern Oregon.
 
It was also a payroll town. The Southern Pacific Railroad payroll ran from $7,500 to $10,000 per month. The woolen mills, flour mills, creamery (Ashland had the only creamery in the county), a sawmill, two planing mills, the Ashland Iron Works (doing a brisk business with the miners and lumbermen), and the Ashland Canning and Evaporating Company all contributed to this payroll. Fruit and vegetables raised here were shipped by the thousands of boxes -- the "Ashland peach" was known all over the Pacific Coast, and Max Pracht orchards took a World's Fair premium for peaches in Chicago in 1893. There was a noticeable increase in activity in timber harvest, and stockraising was an industry of considerable proportions in the foothills near Ashland.
 
Ashland claimed industry, beauty, charm, culture, diversified resources, bright business prospects, and the "sweetest flowers and prettiest girls in the world."
 
On January 21, 1900, the Ashland Woolen Mills, considered one of the most important manufacturing industries in the state at that time, burned. Thirty-two Ashland workers were without jobs.
 
In September, 1900, Ashland's first brick school building was constructed on Siskiyou Boulevard  (on the site now occupied by the Safeway store). Hawthorne School served as a grade school, then a junior high school.
 
 
Main Street Develops
 
Main Street began to develop during 1904 with brick business buildings replacing a number of homes. The Fourth Street business section was, by now, well established. Many new homes were built, including the C. C. Chappel residence on Siskiyou Boulevard, known today as the Swedenburg House. (Most home construction ran between $1,000 and $2,500; the Chappel house cost $7500.) Mountain View Cemetery was opened, and the city spent $25,000 to install a "comprehensive sewer system."
 
It was in 1908 that the fire department replaced its two hand- pulled hose carts with a hose wagon pulled by horses. This was phased out in 1913 with the purchase of a gas-powered fire truck.
 
 
Library and Hospital
 
For seventeen years the ladies of Ashland had maintained a library collection. "Although fiction
predominates, it is generally good fiction, "said the state librarian. Following a controversy over whether or not Ashland should build a library building with "tainted" money offered by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who was funding libraries all over the world, a formal application for $20,000 of Carnegie money was made. The reply was that $15,000 would be given if the city would provide a site and a maintenance fund. There was so much controversy over the site -- on the knoll near the Chautauqua building, on Meade Street, on Siskiyou Boulevard at Gresham Street -- that the matter was settled by election. The library was built on Gresham Street and ready for use in 1912. The total cost $17,673.
 
In March 1909, fire extensively damaged the Southern Oregon Hospital that had been operating for eighteen months in a converted private residence on Main Street. Discussion of the need for a newer, larger facility led to the backing of the Commercial Club, and the construction of the Granite City Hospital on the south side of Siskiyou Boulevard, near the intersection of Palm Avenue, about where Stevenson Student Union now stands.
 
The Commercial Club worked to promote growth in Ashland but was powerless to help when, in 1909, the state legislature withdrew all normal school support. The doors of the Southern Oregon State Normal School were closed and nailed shut. Alumni and citizens immediately set to work to get it reopened, but it was fifteen years before that goal was achieved.
 
 
Parks for Ashland
 
"Ashland the beautiful must be deserving of its name," said the members of the Women's Civic Improvement Club. They raised money to buy land on Siskiyou Boulevard between Liberty and Beach Streets so it could be developed into a triangular park, they inaugurated a system of small parks in town, and they were instrumental in getting the landscaped strip down the center of Siskiyou Boulevard and shade trees planted in residential park rows.
 
The Chautauqua grounds had been improved by the Ladies Chautauqua Park Club, and now the ladies began to press the city council for assistance in an expanded program. The flour mill on the Plaza had been closed and abandoned. At the rear of the big building was a pigsty, a barn, and mud puddles. The Chautauqua building stood on the hill above this unsightly mess that also produced flies and gnats.
 
The ladies talked of razing the mill and making this a park entrance. Immediately there was a wail of protest from some of the businessmen who felt the land was too valuable and should be used for business purposes, and from some of the "dear old pioneer women" who felt the mill was a landmark and should be preserved.
 
On December 17, 1908, the people of Ashland, by a vote of more than five to one, dedicated the old mill site for a city park. They also approved a tax levy. In 1909, an additional forty-five acres of land south of Chautauqua Park, bordering Ashland Creek was purchased.
 
The mill was torn down; a park board was selected. Ashland was soon known not only for the annual Chautauqua, but as a town with a park. This first park in Southern Oregon was used for all large public celebrations.
 
Although Ashland had just built a new school, classrooms were becoming overcrowded again. In 1911, the new high school building on Iowa Street, between Morse and Mountain Avenue, was opened. Crowded conditions were once again alleviated.
 
 
The Lithia Water Era
 
Following discovery of a Lithia water spring in the hills east of town, the idea occurred in 1911 to Bert Greer, editor of The Tidings, that Ashland might become a famous health spa like Carlsbad, Germany, or Saratoga, York. Meetings were held and there was great enthusiasm until it was learned that owners of the spring refused to cooperate. Then another spring, finer and just as accessible, was found, and the project surged forward.
 
Mass meetings took place, chemists analyzed the water, land adjacent to the Chautauqua Grove was acquired for additional park development, and a bond election was scheduled. The promotion committee brought in John McLaren, designer of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and top-ranking Southern Pacific railroad officials. Songs were written and slogans such as "Ashland Grows While Lithia Flows" were chanted. The election carried, providing $175,000 to pipe the water to town (it cost $50,000 more by the time it was done), and McLaren was retained to landscape the new Lithia Park.
 
In 1915, the work was completed; the health-giving water bubbled from fountains in the park, at the railroad station, the hotel, the library and the Plaza, but no more was heard of plans to make Ashland a spa city. The community enjoyed the park and went on to other things.
 
School grounds were landscaped during the early 1900s, a "city beautiful" campaign encouraged the tearing down of many old barns and outbuildings, and Main Street continued to develop. The Vaupel Store/Oregon Hotel building was built, as was the Elks Temple, the first building in Southern Oregon with poured solid cement walls. The Vining Theatre, a magnificent theatre that had box stalls and a most ornate interior, opened in May 1914, with the opera "Faust."
 
The people of Ashland were also enjoying swimming in the twin pools of the big, new Ashland Mineral Springs Natatorium building. This grand structure was expected to help bring visitors to Ashland. Along with other features, it had a solid maple dance floor, which doubled as a skating rink.
 
 
Improved Highways
 
In 1913, there was a "better roads" movement in the West. The decision was made to build a Pacific Highway over the Siskiyou Mountains, a highway that would follow nearly the same route as the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road, which had been operating as a toll road. Governor Oswald West, state highway commission members, and about 100 prominent citizens joined for a ground-breaking ceremony near Ashland and the governor predicted the Pacific Highway linking Oregon and California would be the "scenic boulevard" of the west. (In Ashland, East Main and North Main Streets would become part of this interstate route.) In order to cut costs, however, only an eight-foot wide strip was paved.
 
Several years later engineering began for building a highway over Greensprings. The original Greensprings Mountain Road was not much more than a trail chopped through the trees, a trail that led from the settlements in the Rogue River Valley to the homesteads in the Klamath Basin. There had been increased pressures to lay out a better road because of the number of families who were moving between the two areas, and because of the movement of freight.
 
 
Troubles for Chautauqua
 
The 24th annual Southern Oregon Chautauqua season of 1916 lasted for twelve days and brought an excellent program, including a concert by the Marine Band, but there was a deficit of $200. Directors felt if the building were enlarged to seat more, it would pay for itself. The Chautauqua "tabernacle" was replaced with a new building -- the cement walls enclose the Oregon Shakespearean Festival's outdoor Elizabethan theatre, but under the combined pressures of the radio, the automobile, and poor management which took the program planning out of local hands, the Golden Age of Chautauqua was coming to an end.
 
 
Ashland Granite
 
An off-again, on-again industry here for more than forty years was the quarrying of granite. In the late 1880s, a ledge of stone comparable in quality to the famous Barre granite in Vermont was discovered on Nell Creek and worked spasmodically until about 1916 when W.M. Blair took it over and decided to develop it.
 
Blair harvested money and bought enough machinery to fill small orders. The Lithia water fountain on the Plaza was built of Ashland granite. Ashland granite was used in the construction of the post office in Salem and to build the rotunda and steps of the Washington State capitol building at Olympia. In 1918, it was considered for construction of the First National Bank in Portland, but rejected because Blair could not get out such a large order promptly.
 
Later a group of local men tried to sell enough stock to form an operating company and finance a larger operation, but nothing came of their venture. The quarry remains today as it was last worked in the 1920s, a gash in a canyon, its perpendicular walls rising above a streambank strewn with huge chunks of glossy, gray granite.
 
 
World War I
 
April, 1917. America declared war on Germany. Young men from Ashland enlisted in the Army and the Navy, and the families who stayed behind helped by buying war savings stamps and bonds, supporting the many war charities, knitting scarves and caps, collecting clothes for war orphans, feeding troops who passed through Ashland, and doing whatever they could to support the war effort.
 
December, 1918, World War I was over. The Tidings published an article saying: Practically all the youth of the city answered the call of the country and entered into military or naval service and a large majority of able-bodied men responded to the call for labor at shipyards and war industries... Social life of the community was extremely quiet... Merchants reported good sales...There was an increase in the payroll of railroad employees, crops and fruit brought good prices, and the men who left and worked in war industries sent money home.
 
 
The 1920s
 
In 1920, the Pacific Highway over the Siskiyou Mountains was widened to a sixteen-foot strip, a surface highway was being built over the Greensprings, Oregon was growing, and, in Ashland, the mood was optimistic.
 
Ashland businessmen invested money in the development of shale oil beds on the backside of Grizzly Peak, and they built the nine-story Lithia Springs Hotel. When the hotel opened in 1925, it was advertised as the tallest building between San Francisco and Portland.
 
Another distinctive feature of downtown Ashland was the Enders Store. On Main Street, extending between First and Second Streets, a series of separate buildings was opened into one so that there was a corridor -- an inside shopping mall -- running the entire length of the block. It was during the 1920s, however, that many of Ashland's "great visions of the future" began to fade.
 
Little or no more effort was put into the promotion of Lithia Water. The Ashland Mineral Springs Natatorium failed (this has been attributed to many things, including the advent of the bathtub in the home and motorized travel, plus the building of outdoor swimming pools), and Chautauqua faded into nothing. The tabernacle was abandoned, the dome crumbled, weeds grew and the walls flaked off in chunks.
 
 
Train Robbery
 
The most publicized crime ever to take place on the Southern Pacific Railroad lines occurred near Ashland on October 11, 1923, when the DeAutremont Brothers blew up Train No. 13 in Tunnel  No. 13 on the Siskiyou Mountains. The brothers -- Roy, Ray and Hugh -- shot and killed three trainmen and a postal clerk when they dynamited the mail car, which was so badly damaged that they were unable to collect any loot from the smoking, steaming tunnel where the attack took place.
 
One small scrap of evidence, a registry receipt for a letter mailed by Roy DeAutremont found in a pocket of a pair of overalls left at the scene, put police on the track of the brothers. Four years later, Hugh was arrested in the Philippines, Roy and Ray were apprehended in Ohio and returned to Jackson County for trial. All were given prison sentences for the crime.
 
 
Campus Moved, School Re-Opens
 
In 1925, the state legislature appropriated $175,000 to re- establish Southern Oregon State Normal School. Because of a desire to have the campus closer to the center of town, the city gave twenty-four acres on Siskiyou Boulevard, where Churchill Hall was constructed and served as administration and classroom building.
 
Doors opened at this location on June 21, 1926. The school since has operated continuously as a state supported institution.
 
It was also in 1926 that the Ashland School District, once again feeling the need for more  classrooms, enlarged Hawthorne School to serve as the Junior High School, and purchased land on Beach Street to construct Lincoln School. This project received financial assistance from the state because it was used as a training school for teachers being trained at the college. West Side School was re-named Washington School.
 
Ashland now had a high school, junior high school, two elementary schools, and 1,519 children on the census rolls.
 
 
Southern Pacific Deals a Blow
 
In 1927, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company opened the Natron cut-off, a straighter, better, newer, more efficient and more economic route over which to move passengers and freight between California and Oregon. The Natron line left the main north-south line at Black Butte, just south of Weed, and headed north through Klamath Falls, rejoining the main line again at Eugene. It eliminated the Siskiyou grade, one of the steepest in the nation, and it nearly eliminated Ashland.
 
The railroad company continued to maintain its division point, repair shops, etc. at Ashland, but  all the fast freight and the best passenger service were re-routed. There remained only two through trains per day. Most of the crews were moved out. Some families packed up their things and left for new jobs, others were transferred. The economic impact on Ashland was nearly disastrous. Businesses lost some of their most regular customers, and at least one business closed. Landlords lost renters, organizations lost members, and the whole area of town now called the Railroad District changed character.
 
During the late 1880s, when the first railroad employees and their families arrived in Ashland and built homes, the Railroad District became a small community of its own. Fourth Street, where remnants of some of the old establishments can still be seen, was the center of business activity. People were coming and going. There were hotels and rooming houses, eating houses, liveries, and stores opened to serve both the passengers and the neighborhood residents. After the railroad began using the Natron line, there was little activity to keep this district alive.
 
 
The Depression
 
The 1920s culminated in Ashland, as in the rest of the country, with the stock market crash in October 1929. The community struggled along to get through the Depression years of the 1930s. Most residents continued life as usual, finding ways to live and raise their families. Many citizens who lived here during these years recall that life did not change drastically, partly because the size and relative isolation of Southern Oregon had fostered a resourcefulness in people who had long tried to make a living here.
 
 
Crime & Violence
 
During 1931, a year of rum-running and violence, Ashland was known as "Little Chicago."
A blast on the fire siren was recognized as an all-out call for help and more than once a "war-like" atmosphere prevailed as heavily armed men combed streets and countryside" looking for bandits and killers, the Tidings reported.
 
In January, Sam Prescott, a city police officer, was shot and killed on Siskiyou Boulevard by a professional rum-runner. The runner's car carried thirty-five cases of liquor, a cargo valued at 3,000.
 
In April, two men held up the State Bank on the Plaza. One was killed by the clerk in a nearby drug store who shot him as he attempted to escape carrying $100 in currency, and the other escaped. "Not long ago we observed that with modern highways, it would be only a matter of time till bank bandits � la Chicago would try their skill in these parts ... The incident calls attention to the fact that Gov. Meier is at least on the right track in his efforts to create a state policing system," said The Tidings.
 
In November, Victor Knott, an Ashland merchant police officer, was shot and killed while on night patrol in the Railroad District. The man who killed Prescott was hanged. The man found responsible for Knott's death was given a life sentence for murder, second degree. In 1945, he was granted full commutation of sentence.
 
 
Two Men with Special Talents
 
A young man named Angus Bowmer arrived in Ashland in 1931 to teach English composition and public speaking at Southern Oregon Normal School. The school at this time had a faculty of thirteen an 250 students.
 
The abandoned Chautauqua shell caught his attention. In it he saw a "peculiar resemblance" to a 17th Century sketch of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. As Ashland prepared to celebrate July 4, 1935, Bowmer encouraged the city to include a three-day festival of Shakespearean plays produced in the Elizabethan manner. The festival was considered a success and more productions were scheduled for the next summer. In this rather inauspicious way, the Oregon Shakespearean Festival came into being. It continued to grow under the leadership of Angus Bowmer, founding director.
 
Another man whose special talents have contributed a great deal to Ashland is Chester C. Correy, who came in 1935 as assistant park superintendent. In 1937, he was named superintendent, a position he held for thirty-two years. It was under his direction, and to his design, that many sections of Lithia Park were developed.
 
 
Southern Pacific Reduces Service
 
In 1931, through passenger service between Portland and Oakland via Ashland and the Southern Pacific Railroad's Siskiyou route was reduced to one train a day. In 1938, this service was terminated. There was one train a day from Portland to Ashland and return, and one from San Francisco to Grants Pass and return, but no through trains. The "crack" trains were routed over the Natron line. Passenger service in and out of Ashland was reduced a bit at a time until it was finally cut off all together in the 1950s.
 
At the close of the 1930s, Ashland industry included a cannery, an iron foundry, a box factory, creamery, granite works, car shops, and a dry ice plant located near the Lithia Springs. Sawmills in the mountains near town also provided work. And, the importance of tourism had been recognized. In a booklet, "Where Nature Lavished Her Bounties," published by the county, Ashland was described as the "front door" to Oregon. Ashland's clean air, abundance of water and scenic beauty were recognized as potential economic assets.
 
 
World War II
 
In 1940, the Oregon Shakespearean Festival, which had been gaining each year in quality and in
popularity, played its last season for the next seven years. Its closure was in response to the new  focus of America's energy, World War II. Ashland's young men left to join the military and the community rallied to support them. Families left behind participated in war relief efforts, and kept track of the war events through letters, the newspapers and radio. As in all small towns, most families gave up a loved member or shared the grief of their neighbors.  
Housing was extremely scarce in Ashland during the war years because of the large Army training camp built on Agate Desert just out of Medford. On weekends, the streets were filled with servicemen milling around, looking for something to do. Camp White was activated in August, 1942. It was a training center for between 36,000 and 38,000 troops at any one time. Wives and families of the regular post personnel came when, and if, they could find a place to stay. Many of them made Ashland their temporary, wartime home.
 
The college declined in population through these years and by the end of the war it was at its lowest ebb. A new president, Dr. Elmo Stevenson, came to the school to try and rescue it from failure. Dr. Stevenson found enthusiastic, talented and dedicated educators to welcome the returning servicemen and other students. During the next few years, education again became a strong part of the Ashland scene. Enrollment climbed from a low of forty-five in 1945 to 782 in 1949.
 
 
Post War Ashland
 
The Shakespearean Festival re-opened in 1947 and replaced the old theatre, which had suffered fire damage late in 1940. The Festival began to attract more participants and a larger audience.
 
Ashland grew after World War II. To meet a need, two new schools, Walker Elementary School and the George A. Briscoe Elementary School, were built. Briscoe replaced the old Washington School, but Walker stimulated the growth of a new residential area. Land that had been farmed was subdivided for homes.
 
The demand for lumber immediately following World War II saw a proliferation of small, family-owned sawmills in and near Ashland. By the early 1950s, there were more than a dozen mills in town, many of them running three shifts a day. Log ponds, drying sheds, and stacks of lumber awaiting shipment meant jobs, and jobs meant money. People didn't talk about air pollution; they simply swept away the soot that came from the wigwam burners.
 
Because railroad access was important to the shipping of lumber, most of the mills were located adjacent to the tracks, generally from Helman Street to the Mistletoe Road area. The mills substantially contributed to the economy of Ashland until the mid to late 1950s when the attrition rate of family-owned operations soared following the arrival in Jackson County of the large, diversified wood products manufacturers.
 
Some Ashland men and women who had retained active reserve status following World War II were called back into military service in 1950 when Communist North Korea attacked the American-supported regime of South Korea and the United States sent troops to resist. This was the last military action or history-making event that was "remote" from Ashland.
 
In August 1953, television came to the Rogue River Valley through the local broadcasting station, KOB1- Television 5M. Ashland, 101 years old, was now part of the visual, instant world. A spectacular but costly event occurred in August 1959, when fire swept from the hills above Jackson Hot Springs along the forested ridges above and toward Ashland. Audience members at the Shakespearean Festival that warm summer night watched "Antony and Cleopatra" and could see and hear the fire burning, exploding and cresting behind the stage of the theatre. Before the blaze was brought under control, nearly 5,000 acres were blackened.
 
 
Growth & Expansion
 
The new Ashland Community Hospital, a 35-bed facility, was built on Maple Street in 1961 at a cost of $507,180. It has grown substantially in size, and in services offered, ever since. The old hospital building was taken over by the college, used for a few years, then razed as part of the campus expansion program.
 
In 1963, the city council appointed an airport committee to study the possibility of acquisition and expansion of Parker Field, the airstrip adjacent to Dead Indian Road. Later that year, the site, which had been leased, was purchased. In 1968, the airport runway was paved and lighted, a small apron was paved, and an administration building was built. Ashland now had a municipal airport.
 
Interstate 5 was opened between Ashland's north and south interchanges in 1964. This took the heavy traffic off Siskiyou Boulevard and North Main Street and out of downtown Ashland, which was considered good, but at the same time there was concern about the effects on business of "being bypassed."
 
Ashland grew physically and expanded in several directions during the 1960s. A new Junior High School was built on Walker Avenue and the old Junior High School site on Siskiyou Boulevard was converted to commercial use (Safeway store). Commercial growth continued in the area of the college and along Oregon 66.
 
The Bellview district annexation in 1964, the largest annexation in the history of Ashland, stimulated growth in this southern section of town and Quiet Village, a large subdivision, stimulated growth in the north end of town. In 1966, Helman Elementary School was built to serve this developing neighborhood.
 
The Mount Ashland Ski Lodge and Winter Sports Area was built during 1963-64 because of the enthusiasm, backing and dedication of winter sports enthusiasts and businessmen who felt there was economic potential in an expanded tourist season.
 
The Shakespearean Festival continued to bring more and more visitors to Ashland each summer. The outdoor theatre, completed in 1959, had a seating capacity of 1189 and frequently was filled. Plans were started for an indoor theatre. The Angus Bowmer Theatre, seating 600, opened in the spring of 1970. With this facility, the theatre season was extended into the spring, fall and winter.
 
 
Planning for the Future
 
The 1960s brought change to both the face and community life of Ashland. A new awareness of the necessity for planning for growth resulted in a update to the 1946 zoning ordinance in 1964, and the first sign code in 1967. There was more concern about the appearance of buildings. A project was undertaken in 1973 to add visual enhancement to the Main Street commercial area with trees, planters and decorative streetlights. Utility lines were buried underground.
 
Tourism had, by now, become a major recognized source of income in Ashland. Artists and craftspeople opened studios and shops, motels and restaurants were filled with visitors. There was concern, however, over lack of a stable economic base. A wood products plant, one lumber mill, a tank and steel manufacturing plant, a firm that manufactured dental office equipment -- this, for the most part, comprised the source of Ashland's "industrial" payroll. For "new money" the community was heavily dependent upon the college, the schools, governmental agencies, and tourists. Economic Development Commissions, it seemed, could sell livability more easily than they could sell plant location.
 
During the 1960s, through the medium of television, the people of Ashland watched with horror the fighting in Vietnam. Never had a war seemed so close, yet so far. They knew that some local young men were there, and that from time to time some local young men completed their tour of duty and returned home. They also knew that much of the unrest in the nation and on the local college campus was the result of this undeclared war. It was also through television that Ashland witnessed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, and the landing of American astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969.
 
 
Historic Awareness
 
In the early 1970s, Mayor Archie Fries appointed a committee of five women to serve as Ashland's first official Historic Preservation Committee. This step echoed an interest growing throughout the country in historic architecture and the past it reflected. Aesthetic awareness and economic necessity combined to encourage interest in the restoration and conservation of older commercial buildings and homes. Newly refurbished building facades brightened the face of the community. Historic preservation became a recognized part of Ashland's profile.
 
The 1960s and 1970s also brought new faces to Ashland. The college encouraged foreign students and American black students; cultural exchange programs, most notably with Guanajuato, Mexico, gave many Ashland young people the opportunity to experience life in other countries. Ashland began to attract retirees, people whose professions allowed them to live wherever they chose, and those who were withdrawing from a kind of lifestyle fostered by larger cities. They came because they found Ashland beautiful and, for the most part, accepting.
 
Ashland today is a unique mixture of longtime residents, retirees, workers, alternate lifestyle folks, students, artists, business people, and others, all tied together with an uncommon love and concern for our community, continuing Ashland's heritage into the future.
 
 
Historic Preservation
 
Many buildings and sites in and around Ashland are of historic interest due to age, design and association with historic events or people. These resources represent a unique part of Ashland. The identification, protection and preservation of these resources is critical in maintaining Ashland's cultural integrity and attractiveness and enables eligible property owners to take advantage of special legislative measures and tax benefits. Several adaptive uses have appeared throughout older districts and the City has strongly supported uses and restorations of historic structures, and in the decade of the 1980's restored City Hall, the Ashland Community Center, Pioneer Hall, the Carter Memorial Statue, the Butler-Perozzi Fountain, and the Abraham Lincoln Statue.
 
The Downtown Commercial District, the Railroad Addition, the Siskiyou-Hargadine District and the Skidmore Academy District comprise four historic interest areas in Ashland at the present time. Each is distinctive, but with the others forms the core of our historic resources. The Commercial District extends roughly from the Plaza to Gresham Street along East Main Street. The Railroad Addition is adjacent on the northeast, the Siskiyou-Hargadine District to the southwest, and the Skidmore Academy District to the northwest.
 
The Downtown Commercial District, with resources ranging in date from 1879 to 1937, evolved as businesses moved out East Main Street from the Plaza. Vernacular brick structures, the eclectic former Lithia Springs Hotel, the Ashland Public Library, the former First National Bank, the Citizens Banking and Trust Company and the Varsity Theatre highlight the area. Several buildings were designed by prominent Rogue Valley architect Frank Chamberlain Clark, including the Elks and Enders Buildings.
 
The Railroad Addition developed with the Oregon and California Railroad's arrival in 1884. Most of the extant buildings date from periods of intense growth, notably 1884-890, and 1898-1910, and represent a variety of architectural styles. The Railroad Addition has particularly significant historic associations with the railroad worker and laborer families who occupied the area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
 
The Siskiyou-Hargadine area is primarily composed of several additions platted in 1888, the year the final rail link occurred at Ashland. Exceptions are the Beach and Hargadine Tracts, laid out before the railroad's impact. The majority of historic structures date between 1888 and 1925, and a wide range of residence style and scale appears. Siskiyou Boulevard is lined with dwellings whose associations with prominent Ashland citizens and architectural diversity lend a particular significance.
 
The Skidmore Academy District, named in honor of the early Methodist College which stood on North Main Street, contains within its boundaries much of the Original Town and some of Ashland's oldest resources. Several of Ashland's earliest families, as well as citizens prominent in commerce or the professions, chose this area to live. North Main Street, one of the two oldest entrances to Ashland, constitutes a highly visible and significant presence in the town's configuration.
 
The four historic interest areas were formally delineated in 1984 when the City of Ashland asked the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office for an opinion regarding its eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in preparation for an extensive housing rehabilitation project. An architectural field survey was conducted that year on all properties within the three pertinent residential areas. During ensuing years, the Historic Commission worked closely with City staff and property owners to monitor construction, remodeling or demolition within the districts.
 
In 1988-1990 the Historic District was surveyed and historic research completed for all properties to determine their historic significance. Approximately 800 properties were evaluated for relative significance according to National Register criteria. Indexed volumes of inventory sheets and qualitative evaluation material are available for City staff and public use.
 
The Ashland Cultural Resources Inventory is an evolving project to which information should be added or deleted when necessary. Additional resources may emerge and new information may require reassessment of a property's significance. While over thirty individual Ashland properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, more nominations, either singly or in districts, may be initiated. New challenges lie ahead. Individual properties as well as neighborhoods need to be surveyed, design guidelines should be explored, and continued public education must be pursued. Ashland's rich historical heritage deserves the continued efforts of the public, the Historic Commission and City staff to ensure that the buildings, landscapes and streetscapes, tangible evidence of that heritage, are protected.  
 
The text for this History of Ashland was taken from and is part of the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan.  The links to photographs and other Internet sites were added.
 
 
Other Links
Notes from Abel Helman's Journal
Hills to Oregon, about the Isaac Hill family who moved to Ashland in 1852