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DailyTidings.com
  • You can't beat City Hall

    The building has endured on the Plaza
  • The Ashland City Hall building, so familiar to residents paying utilities bills or meeting the mayor, has anchored a corner of the Plaza since 1891.
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    • Ashland's living room: The Plaza
      About this series
      Clues to Ashland's past as a pioneer settlement, mill town, railroad town and arts city are visible in its buildings. Nearly 50 of its structures are listed on the National Par...
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      Ashland's living room: The Plaza
      About this series

      Clues to Ashland's past as a pioneer settlement, mill town, railroad town and arts city are visible in its buildings. Nearly 50 of its structures are listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. See a list at www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ashland/sitelist.htm.

      To launch this historic tour of Ashland, the Daily Tidings will spotlight buildings around the downtown Plaza, a turn-around where the city began. If you would like to suggest a building to be the focus of the next segment, please email jeastman@dailytidings.com.

      A brief look back at Ashland

      Pre-pioneer times: Shasta Indians inhabit the land

      1852: Abel Helman and others arrive, build a sawmill, then later a flour mill on land that is now an entrance to Lithia Park

      1871: The post office shortens the town's name from Ashland Mills

      1874: Ashland incorporates

      1879: Fire destroys Plaza's wooden businesses; brick storefronts emerge

      1908: Women's Civic Improvement Club campaigns for a park along Ashland Creek the same year Lithia water is discovered

      1935: First performances of what would become the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

      Ashland mayors

      1885: George Willard

      1886: George Engle

      1887: J.W. McCall

      1888-89: D.R. Mills

      1890: H.C. Hill

      1891-92: G.M. Grainger

      1893-95: J.R. Casey

      1896-98: J.P. Dodge

      1899-1900: W.B. Colton

      1901: R.P. Neil

      1902: D.B. Grant

      1903: D.B. Provost

      1904-05: H.S. Evans

      1906: G.S. Butler

      1907: F.H. Carter

      1908: W.F. Loomis

      1909-10: R.N. Snell

      1911-12: R.P. Neil

      1913-16: O.H. Johnson

      1917-22: C.B. Lamkin

      1923-24: C.L. Loomis

      1925-26: O.H. Johnson

      1927: C.H. Pierce

      1928-32: Edward Thornton

      1933-48: T.S. Wiley

      1949-50: T.S. Williams

      1951-53: P.H. Stansbury

      1954-68: Richard L. Neill

      1969-72: Charles H. McKeen

      1973-74: Archie C. Fries

      1975-80: Gary Prickett

      1981-88: L. Gordon Medaris

      1989-99: Catherine Golden

      2000-03: Alan DeBoer

      2004-07: John Morrison

      2008-present: John Stromberg
  • The Ashland City Hall building, so familiar to residents paying utilities bills or meeting the mayor, has anchored a corner of the Plaza since 1891.
    Before a remodel 100 years ago, the brick building wasn't as wide or deep, yet it held the fire hose brigade, police station, council chambers, mayor's office, recorder's office and the library reading room.
    Today, Boy Scouts who visit Mayor John Stromberg delight in seeing the old jail, which is located at the back of the building nearest the park. "When you go into the jail cell, remember to bring the key," advises Stromberg.
    Employees in the finance department work in a large room outside the former jail. When the steel door is pried open, they can see a block-glass window that once offered a glimmer of hope to prisoners looking for a way out of the cold, damp cell. All natural light was eliminated when the window was blocked off with new construction.
    In 1913, city leaders believed it was time to remodel City Hall.
    The original building had two tall, arched entrances facing Main Street. Through these bays, police on foot and firemen pulling hose carts, and later riding horse-pulled hose wagons, would roll into action.
    The police and fire stations now house administrative offices. "It's too bad the fire pole is gone," says executive secretary Diana Shiplet, standing upstairs on a floor that has sloped for a century, "because it would be an efficient way to exit."
    During the remodel, a wooded addition brought the front facade in line with the adjacent building, a hardware store where Martolli's now serves pizzas.
    Rectangular windows were installed during the City Hall expansion and the entire structure was covered in stucco and painted. The bell tower, which once rang when city councilmen started their meeting, was dismantled.
    Untouched, however, is the Hermann Safe Co. vault, made by a San Francisco-based company that began in 1889. Barbara Christensen, the city's recorder and treasurer, says it's her favorite place inside City Hall. Protected behind the heavy steel door are documents dating from 1854, 20 years before the city incorporated.
    A plaque that designates that the original building dates back to 1891 now hangs over a walk-up entrance on North Main Street.
    "People used to go up those stairs to see the mayor," says Terry Skibby, 67, an Ashland historian and photographer.
    In old clippings from the Ashland Daily Tidings, which started publishing in 1876, Skibby has found grumblings from citizens that the expansion was encroaching on the Plaza, even though the shaded area wasn't as wide as it is now.
    Despite the changes, Skibby says that it's rare that a city hall has remained in one place for so long.
    That's not the case in many towns," he says. "We're lucky it's still on the Plaza."
    Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.
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