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DailyTidings.com
  • ASHLAND'S LIVING ROOM: THE PLAZA

    Cornering the market

    There's always been something to buy here
  • Stop and look at the brick building anchoring the corner of North Main Street and Winburn Way across from the entrance to Lithia Park.
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  • »  RELATED CONTENT
    • 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 pos...
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      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.
  • Stop and look at the brick building anchoring the corner of North Main Street and Winburn Way across from the entrance to Lithia Park.
    Although it sits on one of the most pedestrian-popular spots of the Plaza, few know its story.
    Since 1890, something has been for sale here, from buggies and workmen's overalls to housing and toys.
    Tourists today look at glossy ads for properties listed by Gateway Real Estate at 5 N. Main St. These visitors might find it hard to imagine that a 19th-century blacksmith shop selling wagons and farming implements made this site critical to the young city's success.
    People also might be surprised to learn that the existing two-story structure once was a department store that introduced Ashland residents to television sets in the 1950s and Beatles-inspired clothing in the 1960s.
    In 1947, when Weitzel's Department Store opened its gleaming glass doors, it ushered in a modern approach to shopping. In the mid-1950s, the name was changed to Park View Department store and that stayed until the mid-1970s.
    Linda Barker Monroe (Ashland High School class of 1961) recalls buying 5-cent Hershey bars and penny bubble gum here when she was growing up.
    The department store had an entry from the park-side sidewalk that led into the candy and toy section.
    "That's where we would buy our candy when we were playing at the park playground," she says.
    When she was attending Lincoln Elementary School in 1953, she saw her first television set at Park View Department Store. She says the screens flickered with test patterns.
    She's not sure there was even a television station broadcasting programs, "but people still bought TV sets," says Monroe, 70, who was born and raised in Ashland.
    John Yaple, whose dad, also named John, co-owned the Park View Department Store for 25 years, remembers Channel 5 (now NBC-affiliate KOBI-TV) broadcasting two hours of programming from 5 to 7 p.m.
    The Medford station was the second in the state, launched as call letters KBES-TV in August 1953. It carried programming from all the networks, but it was a CBS affiliate. Yaple's family enjoyed comedy shows hosted by Jackie Gleason and Art Linkletter.
    At the store, people also bought stereos, furniture and other modern accessories using new charge accounts.
    The department store's original Streamline Moderne-style exterior, which looked like a cruise ship with rounded walls and green carrara glass, is gone. But so too are the pesky parking meters and chunky American sedans lining the sidewalk.
    Above the department store were 11 apartments with an entrance at 15 Winburn Way. In 1947, a story in the Ashland Daily Tidings described the homes as finished in glass brick, green linoleum and shiny chrome.
    Decades later, in the spirit of the thriving Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the exterior was remodeled and curved walls became strict right angles, and the exposed brick walls rose up to meet a Tudor-style second floor topped with a metal mansard roof.
    The bricks, though, remain touchstones to the past.
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