Skip to content

Medford federal building, built amid controversy, celebrates centennial

May 12, 2016
Medford US courthouse 2016 b

The use of non-local bricks created controversy during the construction of the federal courthouse in Medford.

by Rebecca Nielsen, Historic Preservation Program Specialist

One hundred years ago this month, May 8, 1916 to be exact, the Medford Federal Building opened to rave reviews. The Medford Mail Tribune called it “substantial,” “modern,” and “very attractive.” The $110,000 brick American Renaissance Revival style building housed the post office (it moved out in the 1960s), a courtroom, legal offices and chambers, and an office for Crater Lake National Park.

Three days short of its centennial last week the public celebrated the milestone with a noontime courtroom ceremony, speakers and an open house.

There were controversies over building a federal building in Medford. Post office receipts confirmed the city’s rapid growth. Once the funds were appropriated by Congress in 1910, location was a big issue. Residents speculated on which side of the river the government would build. There were complaints during construction about the bricklayers waking people too early, the bricks not being local yellow Willamina bricks, and the stone coming from Auburn, Wash., instead of Oregon. (The original design called for terra cotta instead of stone.)

“Few cities of the size of Medford have a more imposing federal building,” the local paper boasted (although Pendleton had a federal building of the same design completed a few months after Medford). Medford US courthouse 1939

In 1939, an addition to the back of the building was added. It doubled the size of the symmetrical plan with arched windows and stone balustrade and cornice and it cost $230,000.

Today’s building, renamed the James A. Redden U.S. Courthouse in 1997, retains most of its original exterior, and inside you can view the original courtroom. Another historic feature is the recently restored original woodwork and original terrazzo flooring that can be found on the second floor.

For more information visit the website of GSA’s Center for Historic Buildings

Rebecca Nielsen is a historic preservation program specialist with the US General Services Administration.

Medford US courthouse 2016

The U.S. federal building in Medford in 2016.

Prominent Independence building helps with downtown revival

May 10, 2016

This is the first of a series of posts about this year’s Oregon Heritage Excellence Award winners.

Built in 1895, the J.S. Cooper Block is the key architectural feature in Independence’s historic downtown. Its owner was a prominent banker who later became a key figure in the region’s booming hop industry, which eventually led the city of Independence to be named the “hop capital of the world.”

Despite its storied history, a series of remodels replaced the Cooper Block’s historic storefronts with dark, bunker-like walls and windows. Two storefronts were completed bricked over. For many years an absentee landlord declared tenants to be a hassle.

Two years ago that all changed. A local developer Florin Drutu bought the J.S. Cooper Building. With the help of another local developer and Central High School graduate Bodie Bemrose, they began to return the building at Main and C streets it to its glory look.

Using grants from the City of Independence and the State Historic Preservation as well as their own funds, they restored the building’s façade. Brick was repointed, and windows were repaired and restored.

The original steel columns of the C Street storefronts were found, enabling the original storefronts to be replicated. Historic photographs enabled an accurate representation of the Main Street storefront to be created.

Ninety percent of the building’s 30-foot-long , 2-by-12 inch joints had to be replaced with beams that were milled to true 2-by-12 inch dimensions.

Once again, the Cooper Block is alive. The three commercial spaces on the first floor are filling. Apartments and offices on the second floor are filled.

Conference keynotes focus on power, place, commemoration

April 12, 2016

For people who are involved in their heritage or the heritage of their community, words like place, commemoration and power have important meanings. Yet we rarely talk about their significance with each other.

The Oregon Heritage Conference next month will give opportunities to converse about them as two keynote talks and several sessions will address them. The conference’s early bird registration rates end this week, so now is the best time to register and assure your spot in the discussions about these important topics.

Bob Beatty, the chief operating officer of the American Association for State and Local History, will talk about “Commemoration: The Promise of Remembrance and New Beginnings” in his keynote talk on May 5 in the Capitol’s House Chambers. In particular, he will show how it motivates organizations.

Reiko Hillyer, an assistant professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, will talk about “Who Owns History? The Politics of Preservation” in her keynote talk on May 6 in the Capitol’s Senate Chambers. The talk will give perspective on who owns the past, who decides what parts of the past get preserved, and the parts that are forgotten in the process.

Other conference sessions will also deal with these topics. More than 30 workshops, sessions and tours are part of the conference. Be sure to look at the preliminary conference schedule.

Salem: the Capital of Culture

March 30, 2016

From upper left, clockwise: Bush House, Hallie Ford Art Museum at Willamette University, Oregon Capitol, Elsinore Theatre.

By Sarah Pearson

Salem maintains a diverse community of cultural-heritage organizations that add depth, passion, and a sense of belonging to the Capital of Oregon. Salem is the best of town and city, with a growing buzz around the events and programs coming from the array of organizations serving this community.

From deep-set traditions such as the Salem Art Fair and Magic at the Mill to newer programs like Deepwood’s Kid’s EdVentures, Salem’s cultural-heritage organizations reach out and work together to build a stronger community with a deeper connection to history.

Salem supports over 60 cultural heritage non-profits, with many other organizations contributing to the diverse framework of our community.

The Salem Heritage All-Star Forum was founded in 2013 in response to Salem’s designation as a Heritage All-Star Community by the Oregon Heritage Commission. It has worked diligently to foster a sense of collaboration and support for organizations of all sizes.

With amazing City of Salem staff support, the Salem Heritage All-Star Forum has completed significant projects, such as a collaboration handbook, which will serve the cultural-heritage community in the coming years. The Forum has also been working towards thematic packages that will promote visitation to the community.

Our Capital is more than what people expect. With a vibrant historic downtown that includes over a dozen museums, galleries, theatres and attractions, Salem is filled with surprising discoveries that we are passionate about.

The Salem Heritage All-Star Forum is excited to welcome the greater Oregon Heritage community for the 2016 Oregon Heritage conference May 4-7. We hope those visiting, and those who make Salem home, will look around this great place and discover Oregon’s Capital of Culture.

Sarah Pearson is the vice chair of the Salem Heritage All-Star Forum’s steering committee and the museum manager at Deepwood Museum and Gardens.

Uncataloged collection yields historic items; beads returned to family, tribe

March 24, 2016
Return of beeds cropped

Perry Chocktoot, culture and heritage director of the Klamath IndianTribes, (left) shakes hands with Lane County Historical Society director Bob Hart during the transfer of historic beads.

by Heather Kliever

The Daily Eugene Guard on May 17, 1898 printed a list of items that had been placed in the cornerstone of the new Lane County courthouse. Along with the business cards,  miniature boot, and a list of teachers, the inventory included  “part of a necklace worn by ‘Capt Jack’, Modock Indian chief, when he was hung for killing Gen Canby, by R.M. and Bessie Day.”

R.M. Day was an undertaker for the city of Eugene when the placement took place. It is possible that Day attended the  Captain Jack’s hanging on Oct. 3, 1873 and thought the event and souvenir important enough to include in a time capsule 25 years later.

Captain Jack, whose name is Kintpuash, was chief of the Modoc tribe that had been forcibly moved by the U.S. military to live on the neighboring Klamath reservation in southwest Oregon. There was resistance to this move and eventually Captain Jack led a total of 150 people back to their home in the Tule Lake area- 55 were men with the remainder women and children.

When a fight between a soldier and a Modoc warrior took place during surrender negotiations in 1872, Captain Jack and his people moved to the Lava Beds for protection. In April 1873, during a peace commission meeting, Captain Jack and others killed Gen. Edward Canby and Rev. Eleazer Thomas.

Gen. Canby’s successor, Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, whose namesake was the Confederate president in the Civil War,  dispatched 1,000 soldiers to the Lava Beds.  The outnumbered Modoc surrendered on June 1, 1873 with Captain Jack laying down his rifle.

Six Modoc men stood trial and were convicted of war crimes by a jury comprised entirely of military men. Four men, including Captain Jack, were sentenced to be hanged.

More than 2,000 people attended the hanging.White bystanders took souvenirs off of Captain Jack’s body.

Working recently through uncataloged items at the Lane County Historical Society in Eugene, we happened upon Captain Jack’s beads, which had been donated in 1959 to the museum after the demolition of the 1898 courthouse. We immediately called the Klamath Tribes Culture and Heritage Department. The Lane County Historical Society and Museum is honored to announce the return of Captain Jack’s beads to his family and tribal members. Feb. 19, 2016 was truly a day of celebration with the return of the beads!

Heather Kliever is curator of the Lane County Historical Society and Museum and a member of the Oregon Heritage MentorCorps.

Special assessment program offers incentives for preservation, rehab efforts

March 10, 2016


New construction, existing or proposed, is included under the special assessment benefit if deemed compatible to the existing structure by the SHPO or the local government.

by Joy Sears, State Historic Preservation Office

The Special Assessment Program is a state-sponsored incentive program in Oregon instituted in 1975 to encourage the preservation and appropriate rehabilitation of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Under this program a property is specially assessed for a period of 10 years. This allows the owner to restore or improve the condition of the property and not pay additional taxes on the resulting increase in the property’s value until the 10-year benefit period has expired.

What kinds of properties are eligible for this benefit?
The tax benefit is applicable to a property listed, or soon to be listed, in the National Register of Historic Places, or that is deemed historic by the State Historic Preservation Officer. NOTE: Properties deemed eligible for listing by the State Historic Preservation Officer must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places within two years of certification in order to retain the tax benefit.

Properties within National Register-listed districts must be considered contributing to the district in order to be eligible, or otherwise become contributing as a result of rehabilitation through the required preservation plan.

What part of the property does the benefit cover?
The special assessment applies to the entire property (interior and exterior), including any outbuildings that are considered historically contributing, as well as specified parcels of land under and around buildings. New construction, existing or proposed, is included under the benefit if deemed compatible to the existing structure by the SHPO or the local government.

What are the program requirements for the Special Assessment program?
1.  An owner must provide a progress report on the preservation plan in the third, sixth, and ninth years of the benefit. By the end of the fifth year on the program, an owner must expend, at a minimum, 10 percent of the property’s real market value in rehabilitation projects to remain in the program. The value of donated materials, labor, or services may be included in that expenditure.
2.  An owner is required to affix an identification plaque on the property. Plaques are provided by the SHPO.
3.   An owner is required to show proof that the property is insured.
4.  An owner is required to notify the SHPO if the property is sold anytime during the 10-year property tax benefit period.

Joy Sears is the restoration specialist with the State Historic Preservation Office.


Civil War veteran’s long-forgotten star returned home after research serendipity

February 10, 2016

by Heather Kliever

The Lane County Historical Society in Eugene has been working on a reconfiguration and upgrade of its in-house collections storage area. While working through the initial cleanup phase of this project I happened upon an object that looked little more than long forgotten garden stake.

GAR marker b web 0116

This Grand Army of the Republic veteran’s grave marker was part of the Lane County Historical Society’s collection for many years.

It was rusty, one of the points was broken off long ago and it had been sawn off half way down its post. The center of the star was embossed with GAR (Grand Army of the Republic). Fortunately, the star had been cataloged and I was able to go back to our files to read up a little more on object.

This object had been donated over 30 years ago and its original owner identified. This small star was a military grave marker that belongs to Chester D. Holloway, Company B, 13th Infantry, Wisconsin. Company B was organized in Janesville, Wis., in 1861 and served in San Antonio, Texas. Holloway was mustered out in November 1865.

There is not a lot of information available regarding Holloway and his journey west after service in the Civil War. Research through historic newspapers and Polk Company directories revealed Holloway as a blacksmith in the Fairmount neighborhood of Eugene. Holloway passed away at the age of 75 on Nov. 7, 1913 after a horse backed into him. He was buried the next day in Laurel Hill cemetery.

With great excitement I called Laurel Hill cemetery and spoke with the cemetery’s historian, Alice Morton. Alice knew exactly where the star belonged and the return process began for Holloway to receive back his GAR marker.

GAR marker web 0116

Lane County Historical Society executive director Bob Hart transfers the GAR grave marker of  Chester D. Holloway to Alice Morton of the Laurel Hill cemetery.

Heather Kliever is curator of the Lane County Historical Museum and a member of the Oregon Heritage MentorCorps.

Beaverton, Pendleton downtowns show strength with new Main Street designations

February 4, 2016
MainStreetPhotos 24web

Pendleton’s program of signage and information kiosks was designed and built with downtown urban renewal funds.

By Sheri Stuart

Oregon Main Street just accepted the Beaverton Downtown Association and the Pendleton Downtown Association at the Transforming Downtown level of Oregon Main Street. Communities participating at this level have a high degree of commitment to using the Main Street Approach® as a model for their downtown revitalization effort. The Main Street Approach® is a comprehensive program that uses historic preservation as one of its most important tools. It is a practical program that helps a community build on their district’s unique assets.

Both communities are a perfect fit for the Oregon Main Street Network. The Beaverton Downtown Association has worked hard over the last five years to take an aging downtown and transform it into a jewel of Beaverton. Old Town Beaverton now has new unique restaurants, an art gallery featuring local artists, and multiple vintage shops which help to attract people to the downtown core.

According to Paul Cohen, chair of the BDA, “None of this would have been possible without the support of the City of Beaverton, the Oregon Main Street Program, and our hard working volunteers.”


Visitors in downtown Beaverton can take a rest break from visiting the area’s shops and eateries.

While newer to using the Main Street program, downtown Pendleton has an amazing collection of historic buildings mostly built between 1880 and 1920, a solid mix of downtown business, and is home to the city’s civic functions. Significant  public and private sector investment has already been made to improve the look, feel, and function of the district. Participating in the program will help the Pendleton Downtown Association leverage its tremendous assets to strengthen the local economy while preserving their identity.

“The PDA Board and its members are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Oregon Main Street Program and their staff,” said Fred Bradbury, PDA board president. “This nationally recognized program will provide tremendous support for the Pendleton Downtown District as we go forward in implementing our Strategic Plans.”

Over the past few years, Oregon Main Street has seen an increased interest in building a comprehensive downtown revitalization effort using the Main Street model and a renewed awareness of the link between local heritage and sustainable economic development across the state. Between 2010 and 2014, communities participating at the Performing Main Street and Transforming Downtown levels – the two highest levels in the OMS Network – saw an increase of 295 net new businesses, 1,995 net new jobs, 719 private sector building improvement projects representing $53.9 million of private sector reinvestment.

Communities participating at the Transforming Downtown level must have a cohesive core of historic or older commercial and mixed-use buildings that represent the community’s architectural heritage and may include compatible in-fill. They must also have a sufficient mass of businesses, buildings, and density to be effective, as well as be a compact and pedestrian-oriented district. The selection process included submitting an application that describes their community, downtown area, historical identity, goals, readiness, support, and funding commitments.

MainStreetPhotos 1

Using historic buildings, home-grown businesses like The Prodigal Son brewery in Pendleton (above) and the Beaverton Bakery (below) are a common site in Oregon’s Main Street communities.


Sheri Stuart is the manager of the Oregon Main Street Program, which is part of the Oregon Heritage division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.



Dragon dance, OHS exhibits show struggles of Chinese-American experience

February 2, 2016
OHS 1939 Chinese New Years

A 1939 Chinese New Year celebration in Portland.

by Rachel Randles

America’s desire for trade with China is older than Independence, yet in 1882 the nation’s borders shut for the first time to exclude Chinese workers. A long and bitter contest over immigration and citizenship ensued, influenced by tensions within the United States and the changing tenor of relations between the two countries. This struggle over freedom and the right to belong shaped the Chinese American experience and the formation of American society.

This spring, the Oregon Historical Society is sharing this complicated and deep history through two exhibitions and a slate of public programs. “Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion,” on display through June 1, is an exhibition loaned from the New-York Historical Society.

On Feb. 29, OHS will open “Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland’s Historic Chinatowns,” complimenting the national story with a local perspective of a time when Portland boasted the second largest Chinatown in the West. Using rare and seldom seen objects like Chinese opera costumes, theatrical sets, bilingual text, audiovisual media, and interactive visitor stations, “Beyond the Gate” tells a sprawling transnational story of contact and trade between China and the West, focusing on Portland’s Old (1850-1905) and New Chinatown (1905-1950).

To celebrate these exhibitions, OHS is hosting a dragon dance and parade on Feb. 7. Beginning at 11 a.m. on the corner of NW Davis & 4th Avenue in Portland’s Chinatown, local lion dance teams and volunteers will dance the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association’s beautiful dragon through Chinatown to the Oregon Historical Society in southwest Portland.

Following the parade, which will be the first time in a decade that the dragon has been shared with the public, OHS will be open for free all day and will host special lion dance performances and treats.

For more information on these exhibitions, and on the many free public programs taking place throughout the spring in Portland and across Oregon, visit For more on Chinese American history, visit The Oregon Encyclopedia, an online resource for Oregon history.

OHS Anna May Wong high res 54099_obverse_PR compress

Although born in Los Angeles, Anna May Wong was issued this identity card by the Seattle immigration office.

OHS Chinese New Year, Feb. 8, 1940, Al Monner Collection_6 compressOHS China in New York 4th of July Parade, 1911


Rachel Randles is the communications and marketing manager for the Oregon Historical Society.

Liberty’s lighted sign brings new attention to historic theatre in La Grande

January 26, 2016

By Ginny Mammen

At 4:30 p.m. Dec. 31, a new bright light shown down the main street of La Grande. This symbolized both an ending and beginning of a project undertaken by the Liberty Theatre Foundation to bring back to life a theatre that began as a vaudeville house in 1911.

The building housed a theatre from November 1911 until May 1959 under the names of Orpheum, Arcade and Liberty. The theatre went dark in 1959 and was converted into retail space. In 2010, a group of dedicated citizens came together to restore the theater and the Liberty Theatre Foundation was born.

Five years of planning, façade work, more planning, demolition of the retail inserts, and still more planning finally led to the creation of a sign that would tell those who saw it that someday the Liberty Theatre would again be a vibrant part of not only La Grande’s downtown but all of Eastern Oregon.

With the generous support of State Historic Preservation Office and Oregon Trail Electric Co-op grants, Carlson Sign of Bend was contracted to reconstruct the Liberty sign which had been affixed to the building in October 1930. Everyone involved had to be extremely creative as there were no detailed descriptions of the sign and no color pictures—only black and white. Some carpet scraps in the balcony gave a hint of the burgundy shade that was used inside the theatre in the 1930s to help decide the color which was finally chosen for the sign.

Three days before Thanksgiving, the sign was trucked from Bend to La Grande and during that week, including Thanksgiving eve, four patient proficient employees worked diligently to prepare the building and gently lift the 20-foot sign into place. Topping this was a four-foot detailed eagle with a wingspan of nine feet. Even without the lights being lit it was a beautiful work of art.

With the lighting of the 418 LED light bulbs on Dec. 31 the sign became a symbol of something wonderful to come.

Ginny Mammen is a supporter of the Liberty Theatre Foundation.

Libertyinsert 0216

The LaGrande Observer newspaper created a supplement about the Liberty’s restoration.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 216 other followers