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Road Trippin' : Stepping into history

Trish Glose/KTVL

The tourism season is beginning to ramp up in Southern Oregon and many people will visit Jacksonville this summer to eat, shop or see a Britt concert.

Town historian Larry Smith hopes people visit to take in the history, “It’s probably the best-preserved town in Oregon, in the sense we understand our heritage and we have the rules here to help protect it.”

Smith was given the distinction by the mayor. Few people in Southern Oregon know more about this area.

“When the town was first built, it was built out of wood of course and they used what was closest by. But they didn't go up and get wood, they cut down the trees in town, so you find these old pictures and there are a bunch of stumps. Wood didn't work well and the town burned down three times. Then it was declared everything needed to be made out of brick and there were five brickyards in town, one down by Zigler trail,” Smith says.

When the railroad was finally built, Smith says it became much easier to haul bricks, which later helped in building Medford and Ashland.

“The old city hall was originally a mercantile store for 20 years, they tore it down and then they rebuilt it using some of the original bricks. You can still see some of the paint, it was built out of re-used bricks and now it's considered the oldest, continuously used city hall in the state of Oregon. It's still being used every week by city committees and city council,” Smith says.

The buildings in Jacksonville were never restored and luckily, no earthquakes or fires have taken the original buildings.

Smith says the town has changed so much, even in just the last few decades. He says one thing remains the same, the beauty of the buildings that some of the first residents took great care in creating. He uses the Presbyterian church as an example.

“It was all done by hand, from Sugar Pine so that means they had to find these gigantic trees, cut them up by hand bring them down here and build that beautiful building,” Smith says.

Smith says the Great Depression did not affect Jacksonville because everything had already closed and there wasn't enough money to tear any buildings down.

Smith moved to Jacksonville in 1966 to start teaching. He says a realtor in town told him he could buy a building in downtown for $1500. When U.S. Bank purchased the U.S. Hotel building, which was going to be torn down, Smith says that's one of the key moves which started the whole revival to save Jacksonville.

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