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

    Looking big

    Ashland's history is held in the Masonic Lodge building
  • When Ashland was still young in 1879, civic leaders who were members of fraternal organizations constructed grand buildings to let everyone know that permanent roots were being laid down and people intended to stay.
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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, 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

      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

      Historic 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.
  • When Ashland was still young in 1879, civic leaders who were members of fraternal organizations constructed grand buildings to let everyone know that permanent roots were being laid down and people intended to stay.
    That year, after a devastating fire destroyed the wood structures along the Plaza, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Masons erected storied brick structures on N. Main Street to meet, socialize and sell goods.
    The Masonic Lodge building rose from the ashes as a two-story colonial with spaced arched windows and a pedimented cornice. The contractor who laid the cornerstone was L.S.P. Marsh, who also was the builder of the Jacksonville Courthouse. The structure overlooked what was even then called the Plaza, a dirt turnaround with hitching posts.
    Despite the dusty landscape, the building was completed in time for President Rutherford B. Hayes and his teetotalling wife, nicknamed "Lemonade Lucy," to see. They arrived in Ashland in a stagecoach pulled by six horses on Sept. 27, 1880. The couple stood with another visitor, Civil War general William T. Sherman, under an arch that declared, "Industry, Education, Temperance."
    A photograph dated in the mid-1880s shows other stagecoaches stopped in front of the Masonic building at 25 N. Main St. Then, the ground floor housed a post office, real estate office and a drug store.
    Coaches, wagons and horses brought mail, goods and people over the steep Siskiyou Mountains before the north-south railroad was completed in 1887, according to Joe Peterson's book "Images of America: Ashland." Lurking in the shadows were highwaymen, including the fabled Black Bart, who took advantage of the slow-moving wagons.
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