Ashland’s population growth in tandem with a deliberate limited growth policy has strained the town’s housing inventory. Building within Ashland’s city limits, also known as infill, has a long history of citizen support, due to the resistance to its alternative, urban sprawl into surrrounding farmland.
“Up the hill and save a dollar!” shouted H.G. Ender’s department store advertisements in 1913. Enders was determined to grow Ashland’s commercial district, then a closed circle of merchants clustered around the downtown Plaza.
Enders cleared the way for new commercial development on the 200 block of Main Street when he bought residential acreage at 250 Main St. and, in 1910, proceeded to move the Fordyce-Roper home and his own out of the way. Both homes stand today on South 2nd Street across from Ender’s Alley and Ashland’s Main Street is thriving.
“Ashland‘s always been a proponent of strong growth management,” says Bill Molnar, Ashland’s community development director. “We have on the books design standards and a public process to go before the Historic Commission and the Planning Department to evaluate projects,” Molnar adds.
Ashland’s infill policies mean that development is favored when it is close to parks, transportation, the Railroad District and downtown, but are subject to significant scrutiny and must be respectful of the surroundings. Some of today’s residential infill developments involve properties that have long family histories.
The large, beautiful home at 1068 East Main St. and North Mountain was built by J.C. Emerick in 1908 and sold a year later to George Morse. That parcel was known as the Alfa Addition, the whole area an orchard platted by Morse as residential lots.
In 1910, city fathers voted to pave Main Street down to Mountain Avenue and Morse sold his property to Talent’s Eli Knighton Anderson. Anderson himself lived at 344 East Main St. and moved his daughter, Lena Anderson Phillips, into the Emerick House when she was widowed. Lena’s daughter Vetabelle Phillips Carter came to reside at 1068 East Main in 1949, and lived there until she died in 1979.
Today Mark Knox with KDA Homes is developing Vetabelle’s family property at East Main and North Mountain in a way that will add housing and make economic sense without sacrificing historic interests. “The house will be moved towards the street and still have a 50-foot setback,” says Knox. The 1.7 acre property will have 32 units plus the historic home. “The new condos will have deep covered porches, be human scale, a classic form as in the Railroad District,” Knox adds. “People love that.”
Another recent example of redevelopment for housing is Verde Village on Nevada Street, on what was once part of Abel Daugherty Helman’s donation land claim. Joseph Sander established the Ashland Greenhouse there in 1907, a business that continued through the generations to his great grandson, Greg Williams.
“It (the Ashland Greenhouse) was an island completely surrounded by the city, part within the city and part within the county, but it was all within the urban growth boundary and eventually supposed to become housing,” Williams explains. “The greenhouse was a pre-existing, nonconforming use and we were grandfathered in but we couldn’t expand.” This year, Greg and Valri Williams developed the land, building 67 energy efficient homes in the Verde Village community.
Around the corner from Verde Village, up on the big knoll at Randy and Laurel, is a splendid but falling-to-pieces home with the address 707 Helman. The home was built in 1910 on property owned by Otis Orange Helman and the driveway was clear over to Helman Street, hence the address. In 1948, Clarence and Sadie Williams (no relation to Greg Williams) bought part of the acreage and established a dairy when Clarence lost his job as Ashland’s chief of police.
Genelle Williams, Clarence and Sadie’s daughter, nearly 70 years later still remembers moving into the big white house. “We were so excited because we all had our own bedroom,” she says. “There were four kids!” Nevada Street was just a dirt lane behind the Williams’ home. “I learned to drive a truck when I was 11 because I took the place of a hired man,” Genelle remembers.
Over the years, every time Genelle came back to Ashland she found it changed. Today, Genelle’s family property is Helman Elementary, Otis, Randy, Laurel and Nevada Streets and a part of Quiet Village. Soon the house on the hill will be removed and Medford’s Taylored Elements Construction will build eight Earth Advantage homes. “I hate to see it go but I realize that after we owned the house, there was no upkeep on it,” Genelle says. “I think it would have been very expensive to restore.”
— Maureen Flanagan Battistella is affiliate faculty at Southern Oregon University. She is an architect of the Stories of Southern Oregon project at SODA.sou.edu, SOU’s digital archives. SODA has a new photograph collection curated by Terry Skibby with hundreds of historic Ashland images. The collection has been digitized thanks to LSTA funding as a partnership between the Ashland Public Library and Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library.