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As It Was: Medford and Ashland Get Southern Oregon’s Early Elevators

Elevators were a big deal in large cities after the turn of the century, but Southern Oregon buildings tended to sprawl rather than stack.

Early elevators in Medford included The Medford Furniture Co.’s freight elevator in 1905, and the Garnett-Corey Hardware building’s passenger elevator in 1910.

Ashland’s first passenger elevator was in the nine-story Lithia Springs Hotel on Main Street, advertised as the tallest building between Portland and San Francisco when it was completed in 1925.  Extensively renovated, it’s known today as the Ashland Springs Hotel.

When the Elks Temple in Ashland, Ore., opened in 1910, it contained an elevator shaft, but an elevator wasn’t installed until 1937 as a gift from Gwin Butler.  The present-day lodge has a shiny brass plaque recognizing Butler’s generosity.

Fred and Myrtle Putnam of Ashland lost their daughter Mabel in an elevator accident in 1910.  She was a stenographer at the editorial offices of the Portland Monthly Magazine when its elevator dropped without warning, somehow wedging and dragging Mabel between the top of the cage and the wall of the elevator shaft.


Sources: "Elevator Exacts Sacrifice." Ashland, Ore., Daily Tidings, 5 Sept. 1910; "Splendid Temple." Eugene, Ore. Guard Being Built by Elks, 9 Oct. 1909; "New Building Completed." Morning Oregonian, 16 Dec. 1910 [Portland, Ore.];  "Lithia Springs Hotel." Oregon Historic Sites Database, heritagedata.prd.state.or.us/historic/index.cfm?do=v.dsp_siteSummary&resultDisplay=39423 . Accessed 19 Nov. 2017; "Rogue Valley Firsts." My Southern Oregon History Pages, edited by Ben Truwe, truwe.sohs.org/files/s.o.history.html. Accessed 26 Nov. 2017.

Maureen is on the Sociology/Anthropology faculty at Southern Oregon University. Her research interests are the Southern Oregon wine industry, heritage agriculture, and the “culture of kitchens.” She has a Rutgers University master’s in library and information science, which prepared her for a career in technology services, medical education and a lifetime of learning, thinking, and writing. She lives in Ashland.