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DailyTidings.com
  • Ashland's car culture

    Dealership building is now the Plaza Mall
  • Few people driving past the corner of Main and Water streets in Ashland recognize the old car dealership.
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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. Almost 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. Almost 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, 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

      1876: The Ashland Daily Tidings prints first edition

      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

      Photos for this story came from Terry Skibby's collection. Digital files of historic Ashland photos are available from Skibby for $15 each. To reach him, send an email to terryskibby321@msn.com.
  • Few people driving past the corner of Main and Water streets in Ashland recognize the old car dealership.
    For almost half a century, the structure that stretches close to a city block across from the Plaza has been reconfigured into stores as part of what is now known as Claycomb's Plaza Mall.
    Today, a warren of halls and odd-angled walls divide the 30,000-square-foot building into retail shops such as Bug A Boo children's clothing and toy store, and treatment areas for clients of the Plaza Salon and Spa.
    Occupying much of the storefront space is Nimbus, a men's and women's clothing and gifts store that is the mall's oldest tenant.
    Over time, irony has also found a place here.
    The parking lot, which was once a sales lot promoting the latest cars, has become a tug-of-war between the Claycomb heirs who still own the property and people who have had their cars towed for staying too long.
    There is tragic irony, as well. In 1948, Walt DeBoer leased the property to launch Lithia Motors, a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealership named after the nearby springs that contain lithium.
    In his first year, DeBoer and his four employees sold 14 cars. The business slowly grew. Then in 1968, he was killed by a car while out for a walk in Phoenix.
    His oldest son, Sid, who had been working as his bookkeeper, took over the company. Today, Lithia Motors is the ninth-largest automotive retailer in the United States, with 87 stores and $3.3 billion in revenue last year.
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