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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


A Ramble Through Medford History--

Medford Walking Tour
   
    The text below is a transcript of an extended historic walking tour of downtown Medford I've been giving since 200---. Don't look for polished prose; this is history on the fly, as delivered off the top of my head on Medford sidewalks. As a rule I have to leave out much of the information below, due to time constraints and distractions.
    The history on this page is necessarily condensed, a bit hyperbolic, and not held to an excruciatingly accurate historical standard. Please click on the hyperlinks for the newspaper, magazine and first-person accounts from which the tour is derived.
    I typically give the tour at 11:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month (though I can schedule tours for other times); we meet at the corner of 10th and Central in Medford, under the awning of the building that houses the Southern Oregon Historical Society research library. Since I'm not terribly keen on spending my time waiting on the corner to see if a group will materialize, I recommend calling in advance to let me know you'll be on the corner too. My number is 541-773-8369.
    If you memorize this page and read the links, you'll know more about the tour than I do and I won't even need to show up.


    First we need to get some housekeeping issues out of the way:
    If you're here for the historic Medford walking tour, you're probably in the right place. If not, keep moving. Or stay--it's your choice, stragglers are welcome.
    The tour will be six hours long today--or would be if my voice could hold out that long. There really is that much history here in downtown Medford. Realistically, we should be done in about two hours.
    We won't be doing that much walking; however. We're only going to walk west from here to the railroad tracks, south to Main Street, then along Main almost to Riverside where we'll talk about the opium den and I'll set you free. So it isn't going to be as much of a walking tour as a standing around staring at me while I babble away tour.
    We will be climbing stairs to the second story of somewhere between three and six buildings--I only have keys to a couple of them--so if mobility is an issue, I apologize. These are old buildings; only one has an elevator. If you can't climb stairs I'll try to deliver as much of the tour on street level.
    There will be bathroom opportunities in at least a couple of those buildings, so that shouldn't be a problem.
    And don't worry about parking; there is no parking enforcement in downtown Medford on weekends, so unless you're parked next to a fire hydrant you should be fine for as long as it takes to do the tour, eat lunch in beautiful downtown Medford and do some shopping.
- - - - - - -
    When I started this tour about eight years ago I gave it a name that's a little embarrassing now. I didn't think anyone would come, so I called it "The Haunted Brothels and Opium Dens of Medford Walking Tour." So sometimes younger people attend the tour with lots of piercings and tattoos, and they're here for the stories about the skeletal hands reaching up through the pavement of Main Street and pulling people into the underworld, and spectral blood dripping down the walls of the Mode o' Day clothing store, and banshees howling from the roof of the First National Bank. If that's why you've come today, I promise you, you will be disappointed. But that title isn't just a come-on; there are hauntings, there were brothels and there was at least one opium den. So you will be hearing a little bit about downtown ghosts, way too much about brothels, and we'll end the tour with the story of Wo Lee's opium den.
    Why do we meet here? It's the best awning in town, for one thing, and I do this tour year-round (if someone shows up); I've done it in the snow. It also reminds me to talk about the Southern Oregon Historical Society research library, which is in this building. The major part of the ground floor used to be exhibits; those items are all back in storage in White City, but the Society's collection is over a million items, and the vast majority of that million items is photos and documents, and all the photos and documents are still here in Medford, in the building behind me, and just anyone can go in here and ask to look at some old stuff.
     These are the original documents of your history, and anyone can look at them. You can look through the original account books of the Siskiyou Mountain Rangers, who played soldier in Ashland before and during the Civil War; you can go through Pinto Colvig's two unpublished autobiographies, and his scrapbooks from his silent movie days. Everyone knows who Pinto Colvig was right?
    It's hard to be brief about Pinto's career, but he was a local boy made good. He was born in 1892 in Jacksonville, but it isn't commonly known that he spent his teenage years in Medford and went to Medford High School before embarking on a long and varied career in show business.
    Pinto had a very brief career in vaudeville, toured two summers with a circus, then embarked upon yet another career as a newspaper cartoonist in Reno and then Carson City. Mysteriously--and there are lots of mysteries in Pinto's career--the next year finds him in San Francisco making animated advertising cartoons. In 191-- he and a partner animated the world's first feature length cartoon--this is -- years before Snow White. The cartoon is lost now, but five frames of it survive--five frames of the world's first feature-length cartoon--and they're in this building, and no one ever looks at them.
    In 1921 Pinto moved his family to Southern California to try his luck in Hollywood, where he worked as a gag man for several of the comedy studios and even appeared on camera in a few films. In 1930 Pinto signed with Disney where he continued as a gag men and created a career for himself as a sound-effects artist. With Disney Pinto co-wrote "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" and was the voice of the Practical Pig, a couple of the Seven Dwarfs, Pluto the Pup, and Goofy.
    But what he's best known for is probably one of his lesser achievements--after World War Two he contracted with Capitol Records to write and record the Bozo records. He was the first Bozo, he was the first TV Bozo, and every Bozo ever since has been imitating Pinto Colvig's voice and mannerisms.
    And his stuff is in this building and no one ever looks at it. Of course, one reason they don't is because, as it says on the window, the SOHS library is only open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4:00 p.m. So if you go to school or work for a living you can't get in. If that strikes you as a dumb policy, I encourage you to call and write to the historical society and tell them just how bad an idea that is.
    So if that doesn't make it clear, this is not a Southern Oregon Historical Society tour. This is my tour, so if you have an complaints, I'm the one to come to.
    Of course, a lot of the stories I'm going to tell come from the historical society's archives, as well as the microfilm of our local newspapers at the public library a few blocks south of here. I got involved in our local history about twenty years ago when I had a couple of history  questions I wanted answered, and the answers just weren't available.
    In the process of researching those questions I kept running across all these wonderful stories that took place in Medford. Now, I'd been led to believe that nothing ever happened in Medford, that all the history was in Jacksonville. Well, if you're talking about gold mining and the Indian wars, that's almost correct. But Jacksonville has been a ghost town for 120 years, and for all that time Medford has been the economic, the political and the cultural center of the Rogue Valley. This is where the history is.
    So let's start the tour. And feel free to ask questions, but I warn you, the more tangents you get me off on, the longer the tour will be.
[We walk to the corner of Sixth and Front.]
    Well, here we are at Sixth and Front, but when the town was platted in 1883 Front Street wasn't Front, it was D Street. All the streets had letters and numbers for names. Riverside was A Street; Bartlett was B, Central was C, and so on through Peach, Quince and Rose.
    Riverside now bears the sole distinction of being the ugliest street in Oregon, but it has a 10,000-year history. It's the descendant of the Indian trail that the local residents used for trade before the white man came and messed everything up. Peter Ogden was the first white man in the Rogue Valley, and when he passed through in 1826 the Indians scattered. He poked around in one of their villages near Table Rock and saw two china bowls--from China--and a steel sickle. So even though the Indians here had never seen a white man, their trade network stretched across the oceans.
    Riverside then became part of the route the Hudson's Bay Company trappers followed, then in 1846 part of the southern route of the Oregon Trail (what we now inaccurately call the Applegate Trail). In 1849 it was the route Oregonians followed to join the California Gold Rush, and a couple of years later it was the route they followed to stream back into Oregon for our smaller Oregon gold rush.
    By 1883 Riverside was the county road, and despite its historical significance it still didn't have a name. It was generally referred to by the place you were going. Oregonians called it the road to California, in the Rogue Valley is was often called the road to Yreka. When Medford was founded in 1883 this small section was given its first name, A Street, and it was the only way you got to Medford. It was the only road through this area.
    It wasn't until 1908 that the lettered streets were given horticultural names that matched their letters, and Front became DeAnjou Street, which didn't stick because Front is just what you call the street that fronts the railroad tracks, or in a harbor town that's what you call the street that fronts the waterfront.
    And Medford was a railroad town. It wasn't a railroad town in the conventional sense, because this was only the terminus for a few days, there weren't freight yards here in the beginning, and there was never a roundhouse here; that was in Ashland.
    Medford was a railroad town because it was started by the railroad, and started for one reason only--to make a buck. Even in the 1880s it cost a lot of money to lay tracks through what was essentially wilderness. You had to buy a lot of horses, hire a lot of men, and move an awful lot of dirt and gravel, a lot of it a shovelful at a time. And then you had to buy the ties and the rails and spike them all together.
    One way the railroads made that money was by surveying their route near as many towns as they could. Not through the towns, near towns. Then they'd try to get the gift of a chunk of property adjacent to the town, or they'd buy it if they had to, survey it into lots, build a depot, and sell the lots at inflated rates. And move on. The railroads weren't in the business of starting towns, or in ensuring the survival of towns, they were in the business of moving passengers and freight.
    When they surveyed the route of the Oregon & California Railroad through the Rogue Valley in 1883 they surveyed railroad additions like these next to Central Point, next to Phoenix, next to Talent and next to Ashland. And they did it right here where we're standing.
    But there was no "next to" here. There was no town to be next to. If you've heard stories about Middleford that was here before Medford--they're all over the Internet, just Google "Middleford"--put them out of your mind, because Middleford is a myth. Middleford is a lie. It never existed. It's bad history: The original town plat survives; it's at the historical society. It was drawn in 1883, before the town existed, and it says "Medford" on it, not "Middleford." And all it takes is a glance at it to see that there were only two houses on the site, the houses of the town founders--one where Lithia Motors just built their tower, and the other on the lot where the post office just moved to.
    So why did the railroad take the unusual step of starting a town? Well, they had always planned to build a big central depot located somewhere in the middle of the valley, and their plans was to do that in Central Point. Central Point at the time was about twenty years old, and a tiny community--maybe 50 people--located almost where the Central Point interstate on-ramp is now. The railroad hoped to get a donation of land, or at least a good price, for a railroad addition where the Central Point business district is today, but the town just wasn't too keen on the prospect.
    One objection was that the people who were supposed to give the railroad a deal were farmers, and they weren't going to benefit all that much from the railroad. Many of the farmers in the valley actually took the railroad to court in Jacksonville to get additional damages for the land the railroad was taking out of production. Another objection was that the route the railroad surveyed passed between the house and the barn of Haskell Amy, one of those farmers. This didn't exactly make him a railroad booster. He knew he could look forward to losing sleep and livestock, which he eventually did.
    So Central Point was out as a location for the central depot, but as they're surveying the route south, the railroad's right-of-way agent, a Massachusetts man named David Loring, knocked on the door of Iradell Judson Phipps, who lived on the site of the Lithia tower, and asked him if he minded if they put a railroad through his back yard. He initially took the railroad to court, then reconsidered and told them to pay whatever they thought was fair. Then he went an additional step. He got together with his neighbors and approached the railroad with a proposition: You put your central depot on our property--in the middle of nowhere, not next to a town--and we'll give you every other block of the town site. It won't cost you any more than the expense of surveying and building the depot. This was a deal the railroad couldn't pass up, and that's how and why Medford began.
    When that deal was struck the land we're standing on wasn't cleared, wasn't cultivated. This area was covered with a patchwork of six-foot high chaparral bushes, scrubby white oak trees and tall pines. In the spring of 1884 the railroad cleared a path through the chaparral, laid track and built a depot, and Medford grew. And the intersection of D Street and Seventh Street became the center of activity, because that's where the depot was. Why wasn't the depot built at the corner of First and A? Why did Seventh become Main Street? Simple: First Street and A Street were on the edge of town, and the depot was built in the middle of town.
    Front and Main streets became the place to be if you were in business. If you had a store you wanted to be close to the depot so you could roll your merchandise to your store on a handcart when the streets weren't too muddy; if you had a saloon or a brothel you wanted to be close to the depot, which is where you found the people with time to kill and money to spend.
    Since Main Street was the street everyone had to travel to get to the depot--remember, Riverside was the county road and the only way to get to Medford--Main Street became the business street. And since Front Street was the street you saw as you got off the train, Front is where you wanted your saloon. Front Street became Whiskey Row, and remained so into the 1960s, though the length of Whiskey Row was whittled down over the years until in the early 1960s it was half a block long on North Front, and Reader's Digest ran an article that called it "the shortest skid row in America."
    That whittling process could be said to start in 1908 when this brick building behind you was built. This was Medford's first city-owned municipal building, housing the city hall, police station, jail and fire station. (Before this building was built city operations were housed in rented quarters.) The jail was next to the alley. It was called Bastille Alley; in the middle of the alley is a metal grate where they poured the confiscated liquor during Prohibition (it drains straight to Bear Creek). Next to the jail was the police station, and the remainder of the ground floor was the fire hall. Upstairs was quarters for the firemen, and in one room overlooking Front was the city hall, which doubled as the town library when council wasn't in session. So let's cross the street and take a look at the fire hall.
    Before we go around the corner, notice the difference between the Front Street bricks and the Sixth Street bricks. You can see the bricks on Front are all the same color, and the bricks on Sixth are different colors. We'll be talking way too much about the bricks Medford is built of.
[If the building is unlocked, we climb upstairs.]
    There are a couple of pictures here from the building's former life. This one shows the fire hall when it was half as wide as it is today, with the fire bell on top and the town's new 1912 Pope-Hartford fire engine in the open doors.
    When the engine was acquired the fire horses, Tom and Jerry, were retired. There's a popular story that Tom and Jerry were plowing a West Medford field shortly after their "retirement," and when they heard the fire bell they took off running for the fire hall and plowed a furrow all the way to the railroad tracks. Great story, but it's a story that's told about retired fire horses all across the country. Tom and Jerry were sold to a Gold Hill farmer, so it's pretty unlikely they could hear the fire bell.
    The other picture shows Tom and Jerry's predecessors, Skinny and Rastus, pulling the town's 1907 chemical fire wagon. This was the cheaper alternative to steam fire pumps, operating along the same lines as a chemical fire extinguisher or a vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano. You can see why they were replaced; they were pretty light horses and had a lot of weight to pull. Tom and Jerry were heavier and stronger draft horses, bred for this kind of work.
    The dog's name was Dick--he was killed by a car a couple years after this picture was taken. The photo was taken in front of the town park--today's Alba Park--the water tower in the background was on the site of the Carnegie Library. The water tower was Medford's first firefighting system. A steam engine pumped Bear Creek water to twin tanks at the top; the gravity pressure filled fire hoses to fight fires. The water was also used to irrigate yards and gardens; it was untreated and not intended for domestic use. People got their drinking water from wells, which was the reason pit outhouses were banned within the city limits. A very early city ordinance mandated vault outhouses, which had to be cleaned out regularly. Interestingly, I've never found a mention of who cleaned them out.
    Most of the upstairs of the 1908 fire hall--before the 1921 addition was built--was used as quarters for the fire men, but this one room overlooking Front Street was the city council chambers, and doubled as the town library when the council wasn't in session.
    And this was Medford's city hall from 1908 until 1933. Medford built a new city hall in 1926, but didn't move into it for seven years. Why? Medford used their new building as a bargaining chip to pry the county seat out of Jacksonville's cold, dead hands. They actually ran ads in all the county newspapers telling voters that if they moved the county seat they wouldn't have to build a new courthouse, and that was what it took to finally move the county seat. Jacksonville had died rapidly after Medford was founded and took its place as the center of the center of the valley; by the 1920s Jacksonville was pretty much a government town.
    In 1933 Jackson County got federal funds to build a new courthouse as part of a stimulus program to help us out of the Depression, and Medford could finally move its offices out of this building and into their new city hall a couple blocks south of here. The upstairs level of the fire hall became the offices for the CCC--the Civilian Conservation Corps--and in 1942 segued into offices for the Army.
    One of my prized possessions is a photo album I bought on eBay that was put together by the wife of a lieutenant who worked up here in the 1940s, and my favorite photo shows the lieutenant and his corporal standing in the doorway to the stairs we just came up. They're wearing white lab coats and long white aprons, and the sign above them says "U.S. Army Prophylactic Center." So after having unprotected sex at one of the brothels up the street, soldiers would make the walk of shame up these stairs, they'd get a scolding, have their pockets filled with condoms and the corporal would do unspeakable things to their genitals so they wouldn't contract a disease.
[We go back downstairs.]
    So this is the fire hall. When the building was built in 1908 it was half as wide as it is today; the half on the right was built in 192---. We're going to be talking mostly about the half on the left. This is where the big wooden doors were for the fire engine, and the sidewalk is patterned like this to give traction to the fire horses. The pattern goes all the way under the tile inside the building to where the fire horses lived.
    The letters saying "Central Fire Hall" on the front of the building are plastic; they went up several years after I started the tour. You used to be able to see much more clearly the marks where the original brass letters were; you can still clearly see the ghost of the original period--it used to say "Central Fire Hall Period." It used to be the fashion to have a period on your sign in the 19th century, apparently so you'd know when to stop reading.
    And while we're craning our heads back, now notice the difference between the 1908 bricks on the left and the bricks on the 192-- addition, and notice how eroded the 1908 bricks are. That erosion is one of several reasons why we've lost so much of our original architecture in Medford.
    The bricks on the left are locally made, wood-fired bricks, made from Medford dirt. There's a popular myth that Medford was built from Jacksonville bricks, but there's very little truth to that. There are lots of myths denigrating Medford that have been accepted as fact since Medford has done such a poor job of preserving or even acknowledging its history.
    But bricks are heavy, and they were even heavier a hundred years ago, when they had to be moved by horse and wagon over muddy roads. Brickmakers wanted to establish their brick yards as close to where the construction was as possible. These bricks were made at the brickyard of the Medford Brick Company, which was on McAndrews near the intersection of Columbus.
    They had a brick-pressing machine to form the bricks out of the mud, then they were spread out to air-dry; Then the green bricks were stacked to form the kiln themselves--there never was a permanent brick kiln in the Rogue Valley. The kiln (called a "clamp" or a "scove kiln") was fired with wood for around a week, then left to cool for another week. Then the sorting began, sorting the brick into piles: Melted "clinker bricks" would be thrown out or used for decorative purposes, and there would be a big pile of bricks that would be only slightly misshapen, or burnt on one end; those bricks would go inside the walls or be covered with plaster or go onto the Sixth Street side of the building--where no one would ever see them. And there would be a small pile of "face bricks"--the bricks that are a uniform red color. Those are the bricks you see here on the Front Street side, where you want to put your best face on for the public.
    The problem is that the reason these bricks are so uniform is that they're underfired. That's also the reason they've eroded. Bricks are supposed to go "clink" when you drop them, because they're vitrified--almost turned into glass. If you dropped these bricks they'd go "clunk" and maybe turn into a pile of powder. I've talked to building owners in Medford who've told me that before their building was stuccoed they'd have to shovel up a layer of brick dust from the sidewalk every spring--there was that much erosion.
[We walk south, in front of the VFW building.]
    And that's just one of the reasons we've lost so much of our architectural history. Inside this stucco monstrosity is an 1895 brick livery stable, and this is where the big wooden double doors were for the horses and buggies to go in and out.
[We continue walking to the U.S. Bank sign.]
   


    In those pictures we looked at upstairs you probably noticed how lively downtown Medford used to be. That's because this was the center of town for eighty years. This was where the depots were, so this became where the action was. If an organ grinder got off the train with his monkey or if a traveling preacher or revolutionary wanted to set up his soapbox, this was the place to be. And the saloons were here, so this was where the fistfights took place, and this was where you hung out if you hoped to cadge a drink or pick up some day labor.
    The result was that the sidewalks often jammed with people, farmers in town for the day looking for some excitement, bums looking for a free drink, day laborers hoping for work. These men, were such a fixture in Medford that names were invented for them. They were called the "army of the unemployed"; they were called the "Haymarket Rangers" (because the block where Key Bank sits was called Haymarket Square after the depot was moved from it in 1910); they were called the "miners of the Nash district" (referring to the Nash Hotel, where the only mining that took place was that of bums mining the pockets of the well-to-do); or they were just called the "bar crowd."
    The bar crowd had a lot of time on their hands, and sometimes what they did to fill that time got into the newspapers. The fistfights and assaults made the papers, of course, but sometimes the newspaper stories were of a more amusing nature. One took place in 1895, before the Goldy Building was built. There were several small wooden buildings here, and in the Postal Telegraph building at that time was a working display of electric buzzers and bells you could buy. The bar crowd saw this as an this opportunity and if someone were a little too wealthy or too well known, they would egg him on to push a button. If he did, the cry would arise "Call for beer! Call for beer!" And at this prearranged signal the barman from the Nash Hotel bar across the street would come over with a fistful of glasses and a bucket of beer, asking the button-pusher "Did you order this beer?" And the sucker, who felt obliged to be a good sport, had to pay for the beer. The reason this story survives is because one of the suckers was the publisher of the Medford paper, the Medford Mail.
    Another story takes place twenty-five years later, at Thanksgiving of 1920, when someone from the bar crowd gets a turkey head and feet from the butcher shop on the next block, and stuffs a paper bag with newspaper with the head and feet sticking out. He put the bag between the trolley tracks at Main and Central and crept to the sidewalk to watch the fun. The newspapers this time report the names of many of the suckers who thought "Oooh, free turkey!" before lifting the bag, instantly realizing there wasn't a turkey in it and joining the laughing crowd on the sidewalk. The list included the mayor and the chief of police and Romeo Koppes, a reporter from the Medford Mail Tribune, who told the story on himself.
    My last story isn't really a bar crowd story, but I'm going to tell it anyway. It involves Tom Bartholomew, who was a new pharmacist in town in 1910 at the Rexall Drug store at Main and Grape. The previous year, 1909, was the first year an American coin had a real person's head on it. Before the Lincoln penny, heads on coins were a mythological figure or a metaphorical figure, like Columbia or Liberty. But the Lincoln penny was new in 1910, so Tom Bartholomew put a sign in his window saying "Will pay $15.00 for 1909 pennies." The newspaper reports a stream of people coming through his store with pennies in their hot little palms, and Bartholomew told each one of them, "That's only one penny. If you want to get fifteen dollars you'll have to bring in one thousand, nine hundred and eight more."
    Across the street is one of my favorite buildings in downtown Medford. The building with the interesting black metal facade is the 1912 First National Bank building. As you might guess, it didn't look quite like that in 1912. The facade then was all carved Indiana limestone, with huge fluted columns and Corinthian capitals. The inside was even more beautiful, with potted ferns and polished brass and mahogany and stone. Some of the stone was imported from the quarries in Ethiopia where they cut the stone for Napoleon's tomb in Paris.
    In 1955 the building was seen as old-fashioned, and First National Bank had outgrown the building, so they built a new bank at the corner of Main and Front, that red-brick cube we walked past without even noticing it. It looked like they threw away the new bank and kept the box it came in.
    And they sold the 1912 bank. I guess the new owners didn't really have a lot of options; they'd bought a building that looked like a bank, but didn't have a bank to go into it. It was too big for a store, with one central entrance, so they jackhammered off the facade, created two storefronts, and put up this beautiful tin facade. It quickly became known as the Bathmat Building, the story being that if those suckers ever fell off they'd never be able to pry them off the sidewalk. One story is that the suckers were supposed to represent camera lenses, one of the first tenants being Brainerd's Photo Studio.
    And if you think this building is beautiful now, when the suckers went up the whole panel was pink--the same color as those original tiles on the Morrissey's half of the building. You can see some pink paint peeking through on the bathmat where the black paint is peeling.
    But there's a mystery associated with this building. Before the Nui Kai pet store closed you could go in that half of the building and walk on some of the original stone flooring, and go in the original bank vaults, and the bank offices were intact upstairs. But the upstairs above Morrissey's is completely different. There aren't even stairs to get up there; the access is through a ladder in a closet. It's this huge dark space, without a window or a skylight, lit by a couple bare light bulbs. You can see where the partitions were torn down and fixtures torn off the walls. And this entire piece of downtown real estate was entombed in 1955--when downtown Medford was still very much alive--and has been entombed for the sixty years since.
    Moving on to U.S. Bank, wouldn't this be a nice place to sit down? It'd be a great place to sit in the winter on sunny days, and the Central Avenue side would be a great place to sit in the summer in the shade and eat your lunch and breathe exhaust. But you can't sit here comfortably because this metal bar is installed into the concrete.
    People on the tour often say, "Well, that's to keep skateboarders off." But this bank was built in 1966. I had a skateboard in 1966, and you didn't do tricks on them. The hard plastic wheels they had didn't allow it; the only trick possible was staying upright on one.
    In 1980 when the Rogue Valley Mall opened and there was continual hand-wringing in the local papers about how we were going to save downtown Medford, I wrote a letter to the Mail Tribune suggesting that if downtown merchants really wanted people downtown, one small thing they could do would be to show that by allowing shoppers to sit down while they were here; they could remove this metal bar.
    The Mail Tribune conferred with U.S. Bank and answered me in the paper by saying, "Oh, this is just a decorative device. it helps make the bank beautiful." Well, architects have a name for an attachment like this; they call it an "anti-sit device," and the only way it makes the bank beautiful by keeping people from cluttering up the architecture with their existence on the planet.
    Interestingly, U.S. Bank knows I've been complaining about this on my tour every month for the past eight years. A year or two ago I had a few U.S. Bank employees on my tour, and they seemed to think I made a good point. They said they would bring up the issue with the home office. I didn't hear back directly from them, but a couple of months later they painted it. So
I did get my answer. It needs repainting.
    Walking, on, I want you to please take a mental picture of the buildings across the street; later we're going to see pictures of what they looked like when they were built. The two-story building housing Father & Son Jewelers and Sunrise Cafe was built in 1886; that's the building where, before it was stuccoed, they had to shovel up the brick dust every spring. The Tuxedo Den building on the corner is one of the oldest buildings in Medford. It was built in 1884; they were laying brick for that building when they were laying railroad tracks through Medford. Of course, these buildings didn't look like this then. I wonder how much of the Tuxedo Den building dates to 1884; it's been through so many remodels and has been hit by cars a couple of times. I suspect it's like Old Ironsides, which has been rebuilt so many times that only 1% of the original ship survives. Or like a treasure I recently bought on eBay: the original hatchet George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree. The guy said he had to replace the handle--and the head--but it occupies the same space as the original.
    Across Central on the corner of Main is a good place to talk about the building that got me interested in the seamy side of Medford history, the building half a block south from here, across the street from the Craterian Theater. About ten years ago or so my mailman told me, "Did you know there was a brothel there in the 1930s? It was called The Brass Steps." I thought, "Great! Now I have a name, a date and a location for these vague stories I've been hearing. This will be easy to research."
    So I went first to the old city directories. Now you can't look under "B" for "brothels" or "P" for "prostitution," of course, but there's nothing called "The Brass Steps" in the city directories, or the phone books for that matter. It was called the Palace Hotel from the 1890s until 1939.
    But I ask around; I asked Jenny Anderson, who runs Instaprint in the building, and she told me, "Oh yes, I've been upstairs. It had to be a brothel--it has all these tiny rooms." Well, I've been in old hotels, and they all had tiny rooms. You didn't expect much from a hotel a hundred years ago; all you wanted was room for a bed and a dresser and a bathroom down the hall. But I borrow the key, remove the padlock and crack those doors that have been sealed since 1972, and on each step is a wide brass strip--so there are "brass steps," and there is at least a little truth behind the rumor.
    I go up myself, and it's pretty much what I expected--a wonderful time capsule; an 1890s hotel that's been sealed in amber, shut up and unused since 1972. The bathroom is down the hall, the electrical wiring is exposed on the ceiling, and the fire escape is a knotted rope you throw out the window.
    But this still doesn't answer the brothel question, so I researched the owner, and in the 1930s the owner was the widow Addie Halley, who lived in the building and with her husband Richard L. Halley had built the hotel in stages, beginning in the 1890s. And her obituary makes mention of the fact that she was a fifty-year member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
    So if we're to believe that Addie Halley was a madam, we have to picture that somehow in this tiny town of ten thousand people, she was going to W.C.T.U. meetings, speaking before the W.C.T.U., then going home to run her brothel, and no one was ever the wiser and the ladies of the temperance union were fine with it. It isn't possible. It's a myth.
    So I went back to my mailman with what I'd learned, and we pieced together how the myth arose. When the mailman's father was a small boy, his parents ran Tom's Grocery on the ground floor of the Palace Hotel building, and they would tell the boy, "Don't go up those brass steps." Years, later,
my mailman's father put two and two together and got four thousand. So like most history myths, there's a kernel of truth, but no foundation to the story that the Palace Hotel was ever a brothel.
    Walking on, we come to the Lindley Block [?], the site of which in Medford's very earliest days was occupied by Sam Hadley's hardware store. His store initially was a tent, quickly superseded by a small wooden building. One of his earliest employees in 1884 was a young man named Fernando Broback, "Nan" or "Nando" for short. Nan was the son of Charles Wesley Broback, one of our town founders, and had been a cowboy until an accident confined him to a wheelchair. But he still seemed to get around all right, because he was wheeling that chair not only from his house at Tenth and Riverside to his job here, but to the saloons around town, where he liked to play poker and drink.
    One of his card-playing associates happened to be a man named William Caldwell, who was known to be a rough character. It was rumored he'd killed a man in California before moving his family to the Rogue Valley. One day in March of 1884 Caldwell decided that Nan owed him [__] dollars, and he resolved to collected what was due him. He spent most of the day going from bar to bar, grousing about the money that was due him, and pounding his pistol on the bar to emphasize his determination to collect. He came to Sam Hadley's store here, grabbed Nan by his neckerchief, and hauled him around town, telling all and sundry that Nan owed him {---} dollars, and by God he was going to collect.
    The next day Caldwell still wanted his money,  and apparently had decided to repeat the events of the day before. He went to the hardware store, but found Nan's father waiting for him in front of the store. We only have one side's recollection of the subsequent events. Apparently Caldwell approached Mr. Broback, who offered to pay him off and reached inside his coat for his wallet. Caldwell thereupon said, "Oh, so you want to shoot it out, do you?" pulled his pistol, pointed it at the town founder's chest and pulled the trigger.
    Caldwell had apparently, however, banged his pistol on one bar too many the previous day, because he'd broken the firing pin. While he was clicking away, Broback pulled his own pistol and shot Caldwell through the lungs. Caldwell stumbled away, looking for a doctor, and died later that day.
    As was the legal procedure of the time, the county coroner assembled a jury of townsmen, who immediately summoned witnesses and held an inquest over the corpse. They determined the facts to be as Broback told them, and closed the affair.
    The affair was opened some months later, however, when Mrs. Caldwell sued Broback for damages. Of course, she didn't have a leg to stand on, since the killing had been legally determined to have been in self-defense, and her lawsuit went nowhere.
    If we walk on just a few feet we come to the Wilkinson-Swem Building, which I like to think of as the Miracle of Main Street, because it's one of the few buildings that looks pretty much the way it did when it was built, and it was built in 1895. The upstairs is so fancy because it was the private apartment of the owner, Ed Wilkinson. The apartment has been completely and repeatedly remodeled, but it still has the ornate 1895 oak mantel, which was carved in 1895 at the Weeks Brothers factory in Phoenix.
    Moving on, we come to Norris Shoes, which is now, with Hubbard Brothers Hardware leaving downtown, the oldest business downtown. Norris Shoes is the direct descendant of the shoe business of A. C. Tayler, who came to Medford from England by way of Chicago in 1891. He started Medford's first shoe store here, calling himself Tayler the Footfitter, in the days when shoes that actually fit were a pretty new thing. That's why the brass feet in the sidewalk here advertise "foot-fitting shoes." Tayler always advertised "look for the feet on the sidewalk" in the days when there was a board sidewalk here, and when a concrete sidewalk was poured here in 1901 he installed these brass feet in the sidewalk, which are older than this building.
    This building, the Tayler-Phipps building, was built in 1909; the west half was built by A. C. Tayler for his shoe store; the west half was built by Dr. Ira Phipps for his dentist's office. His office was upstairs, and he rented out the downstairs store space.
    Going upstairs is like stepping back in time. I like taking younger people up here and asking them if they recognize that smell. They don't, of course; I tell them it's an endangered smell. Every other upstairs in downtown Medford either smells like decay or paint; this upstairs smells like 105 years of occupation. When I was a kid, this is what every old building smelled like.

It's the smell of history, though those of a literal mindset might point out that it's also the smell of the linseed oil in the original lincrusta wallpaper; the raised pattern is made of what's called composition, a combination of linseed oil and sawdust and plaster.
    Dr. Phipps was the son of town founder Iradell Judson Phipps, the guy on whose door David Loring knocked and asked if he minded if the Oregon & California company put a railroad through his back yard. Phipps' office was in the room overlooking East Main, and I've been assured by his former patients that he was by no means a painless dentist.
    I've also been told, by John Norris, the current owner of this building, that the x-ray laboratory is haunted by the ghost of Doc Phipps. Unfortunately, his story is similar to most downtown ghost stories, which tend to follow similar lines: "I was all alone in the building--late at night--and I got a funny feeling. . . ." And that's the whole story. A lot of people are absolutely convinced that if they get a funny feeling in a building that that proves that the building is haunted.
    Not that there aren't more convincing ghost stories in Medford. Most of them take place in residences, but there's one peculiar downtown ghost story that I can't figure out. It's actually three ghost stories.
    The first ghost story is one I heard third-hand. I've been told that in the basement of The Office, the strip club at the corner of Main and Riverside, people have heard the ghost of what sounds like a scared little girl. I don't even know for sure that that building even has a basement.
    The second story was told to me by the people who work across the street. Some of the people who work in Lawrence's Jewelers swear that they sometimes hear what sounds like the steps of a toddler running up and down the hall, when they know there's no one up there.
    And the third, most perplex of all, involves the 1955 First National Bank building at the corner of Main and Front. I've talked to people who worked there in the 1960s when it was a bank, in the 1980s when it was a nightclub, and in the 2000s when it was first occupied by the Mountain Christian Fellowship, and they all report the same thing: Upstairs at night they hear what sounds like the sobbing of a scared girl--which makes no sense at all, because there's never been a residence on that site, there's never been a crime there either. That bank is the second building on the site; the first building built there was the Exhibit Building, that free museum I told you about, built there in 1905.
    So you make sense of it; I can't. I actually lost interest in ghost stories a long time ago. If ghosts had the decency to give us their names so I could look up their stories I'd be a lot more interested, but until then there isn't much to do with those stories other than repeat them.
    Looking out the back door of the Tayler-Phipps building, you can see the building with a peaked roof just to the west that was Ed Wilkinson's slaughter house. He had the whole operation here; the chimney was for his smoke house, and the insurance maps show that he had big pots for rendering lard. Cows and pigs would walk in from the alley and come out the front in small paper packages.
    Wilkinson wasn't in business at this location, though, because in ____ he was found guilty of selling tainted meat and had to sell the business. But he continued to live above his former meat market into the ____0s.
    Standing on this balcony is a good place to get a closeup look at some of our historic bricks. This is where I used to grouse about the myth that Medford was built of Jacksonville bricks. I tell that myth elsewhere because in the summer of 2014 I discovered the location of the Ensele brother's Jacksonville Brick & Tile Works, and scattered all over the site are the chunks of quartz that you see in these bricks before you. And in retrospect it makes perfect sense that builders would have gone to the extra effort and expense of hauling brick from Jacksonville in 1909 during the Orchard Boom, because Medford brickmakers did have trouble keeping up with the demand for brick. If you go upstairs in the Sparta Building at Main and Riverside, which was built in 1911, you can see that the inside walls are a mix of brick of slightly different colors, because they came from three different brickyards.
    Going back downstairs the way we came, our next stop is the Meeker-Strang Building, today occupied by the Medford Market (?). This building was built in 1899, at the same time as the Medford Bank Building on the corner. And I'd like you to take a mental picture of this building, because in just a few minutes we're going to see a photograph taken when the building was new. This western half of the structure was built by Charlie Strang, who was Medford's first pharmacist, as well as being Medford's first city treasurer and running the first telephone company out of the back of his drugstore. That pioneer drugstore wasn't at this location, however. Charlie built this building as a rental property in 1899 and didn't move his drugstore here until 1910.
    When the market was doing some remodeling a couple of years ago they discovered a piece of Medford history that was accidentally preserved, the only way too much of Medford history is preserved. Going inside, on the wall you can Strang's tin sign from 1910 or earlier. The remodelers pulled off a piece of tin flashing in the back of the building, turned it over and voila--history.
    We're going to go across the street now, into the Lawrence's Jewelers building. You'll recall the story of Stella and Della Gatton, who ran the Imperial Rooms bawdy house. On one of my first tours in 2005 a woman pulled me aside and told me that her great-aunt was a madam who ran the Imperial Rooms in the early 1950s. By this time I'd had my fill of myths and didn't believe anything anybody told me, but she gave me her great-aunt's name, and sure enough, she did turn up in the city directories as the "manager" of the Imperial Rooms in 1952, and the next year she was managing the Bishop Apartments on the second floor of the Lawrence's building--though, of course Lawrence's wasn't in this location at the time.
    This building was built in 1890; in fact, all the buildings on this block were built in the 1890s, though they certainly don't look it now. It was built for a saddler and pretty much looked the way it does now other than the stucco. But only about twenty years later a new owner moved in, with new marketing ideas, and he decided to pull off this facade, with its old-fashioned narrow windows with their round tops, and put on a new, modern facade. So this imperative for modernity began a long time before the streamline era of the 1930s.
    There was one problem, though--apparently the contractor didn't tie the new facade to the building very well, because by the 1970s it was starting to lean over the sidewalk, and Lawrence's had to decide whether to save the building or tear it down. Thankfully, they chose to save it, and sank over a million dollars of their money and MURA money into the building, restoring it and rebuilding the facade, bringing it back closer to its original appearance.
    We're going to go inside now, but please don't take pictures inside. Lawrence's is a functioning, active jewelry store, and they get very nervous about people taking photographs.
    Part of the 1970s restoration was removing a drop ceiling that had been installed in the 1950s or '60s, uncovering a beautiful tin ceiling that had been put in place in 1927. It's the only tin ceiling I've ever seen that wasn't painted white. That's the original paint job, created by a painter named John Locke, who painted the entire interior following that color scheme.
    John Lawrence moved his jewelry business to Medford in 1908 from St. Paul, Minnesota, and now Lawrence's Jewelers is the oldest downtown business still in family hands. When he restarted his business he bought this safe used from the Medford optometrist, Doc Elwood, who was getting out of the jewelry business, and they've used it ever since. I think this is Lawrence's seventh different downtown location, and whenever they move they have to reinforce the floor and push the safe down the sidewalk and wiggle it into position.
    This building has had a lot of occupants since it was built in 1890. The saddler who built it was here less than a year before losing the building. There have been multiple clothing stores and a couple of music stores here, and in 1942, during the construction of Camp White, it was Medford's first USO. Medford eventually had four USOs, including the largest one on the West Coast. The photograph on the wall was taken in this building in 1942, during the first party the USO threw. The GI dancing in the foreground just left of center is Benny Fagone, who after his service became a Medford mailman, later being elected mayor of Medford on a write-in vote.
     Follow me to go upstairs (or if you're trying to follow this tour on your own, go outside and use one of the public entrances to get to the staircase), where we're going to look at some old pictures.
    Unlike the Tayler-Phipps building, which is in its original 1909 condition, this upstairs has been restored to within an inch of its life, so about the only original surface you're going to see is this wonderful original hand-carved banister. All of the photos you see upstairs are either photographs of this building or of other Lawrence's locations in downtown Medford. The first one photo, on the landing, is the saddest of all. It shows this entire block of early buildings--the tallest one was built in the 1880s, the rest in the 1890s--all completely wiped of any personality with a smooth layer of stucco. This picture was taken in 1942.
    In the upstairs hall, the first two photos are of this building, showing how it looked originally and how it looked around 1920, with the ultramodern 1910 facade. Next is a picture taken around 1936 at Main and Central, looking north. This is before the JCPenney building, where we met, was built, and it's before Woolworth's occupied the whole ground floor of what we now call the Woolworth's Building. You can see that in 1936 Lawrence's Jewelers was on North Central, on the right in the photo.
    Most people have a hard time recognizing the next photo, even though the building is still there. Today the cornice is gone, and an elevator tower has been added to the south end, but it's
substantially unchanged. It's most often called the Woolworth Building, though Woolworth's occupied it for less than half its life, and didn't build it. The picture was taken in 1911, when the the building was new, and the initials in the corner stand for the company that built it, the Medford Furniture & Hardware Company. Lawrence's occupied this building in 19___.
    And this is a very significant building in Medford history because it's one of the buildings that burst the Orchard Boom. 1911 was Medford's annus mirabilis, it's "year of miracles." Medford couldn't have been prouder in 1911, because in one year this little town--of about 10,000 people, remember--went on a building spree. That year several huge buildings were built, including this one, Jackson School, Roosevelt School, Sacred Heart Hospital on the top of Nob Hill, the Carnegie Library, the Sparta Building, and hundreds of residences. And if the way you keep a real estate boom going is by always topping the previous year and keeping the line on the graph going up, how do you top 1911? Medford couldn't, of course, and these buildings didn't fill up, real estate prices stagnated, and the boom was very suddenly over. Of that quadrupling in population, a third of those people went away--the jobs just didn't exist--and the Medford Furniture and Hardware Company lost their building. They stayed in business in rented quarters, and eventually built another, smaller, building at Sixth and Bartlett.
    But the situation was even worse than I've painted so far. Because during the Orchard Boom the county and the Rogue Valley towns went on a spree of spending on infrastructure. Jackson County spent a million dollars building roads, Medford spent a million on paving and another million on water and sewage. These improvements are usually written up as a wonderful time in Medford history, when giants walked the earth creating this infrastructure we still use today. But when a county or city invests money in projects like these, it doesn't draw it out of the bank, it sells bonds guaranteed by its future taxing power. And who's going to pay those taxes when assessed real estate values have dropped and a third of your population has gone away? Medford eventually was able to refinance its bonds, and was barely able to pay them off before the next crash, in 1929.
    The buildings in the next picture also survive today in Medford; they're our oldest commercial buildings. Earlier I asked you to take a mental picture of the building that now houses Father & Son Jewelry, Sunrise Cafe and the Tuxedo [Den], and this is a picture of it around 1888. As you can see, the two-story Hamlin Block was built in 1886 by George Williamson; the building on the corner was built two years before that, in 1884. They were laying brick for the Medynski Building when they were laying track through Medford. Of course, these buildings don't look like this now. The Tuxedo [Den] building has been hit by cars and remodeled so many times who knows what's left of the original building. The gingerbread of the Hamlin Block went away in the 1930s when it got its Art Deco front. The awning you see in this picture only lasted a few more years after it was taken; it was removed because it suddenly became old-fashioned.
    The next picture is of the other mental picture I asked you to take; it's the one across the street. It was built in 1899 for Charles Strang and J. H. Stewart, and it too suffered in the Art Deco boom. It wasn't much more than 30 years old when Frank Clark was hired to modernize it, so the gingerbread had to go.
    This is a really familiar picture to anyone doing any work in Medford history; I've been looking at it for decades, and I've often noticed the cute little millinery shop around the corner with the sign reading "H. A. Medynski, Milliner." And it never even occurred to me that someday I'd be able to go inside that shop, but I was recently given a box of glass negatives, and they turned out to have been taken by Henrietta Medynski and her father, and in the box were several pictures taken inside the shop--the kind of thing a local historian never expects to be able to see.
    Until recently when I asked people if they could identify the next building it was very rare that anyone could. Even though the upstairs was completely unchanged, the downstairs until recently was covered with ugly stucco. This is the Sparta Building at Main and Riverside, built in 1911, Medford's year of miracles--one of the buildings that killed the boom. Not that the Orchard Boom would have gone on forever, of course. During the first years of the Twentieth Century the entire Pacific Coast was booming in little localized booms, all of them booming and busting on their own schedules. Ours just happened to peter out in 1912.
    The Sparta has some myths attached to it as well. It was built by a man named John Root, and he's been identified as being from Sparta, New York, or Sparta ____, but if anyone had bothered to check the census, it would have been very easy to learn that he was born in Sparta, Wisconsin--a town nobody has ever heard of. So much easier to just pluck your history from the air. The Sparta Building is also supposed to have been the home of Medford's first Ford dealership, but ____ Hodson was selling Fords on North Fir six years before this building was built. It was the first [?] home of Pop Gates' Overland car dealership, but he wasn't the first tenant, and he didn't secure the Ford franchise until later.
    In ____ some Portland guy with too much money bought the Sparta Building, and essentially told his architect "make it look like this again." I don't know how successful his investment has been; the upstairs is all rented, but the ground floor is still vacant.
    Now we're going to go back downstairs and go to our last stop. We're almost done! [Walk to Jackson Creek Pizza.] This is where we talk about the opium den. Now, the opium den wasn't here, but the story does involve the green building across the street, the Hoover-Cooper Building. The story starts in a little wooden building that was a block south of here on South Riverside, on the site of today's Southern Oregon Pawn [?]. It was a Chinese laundry, and in 1912 it was being operated by an old Chinese guy named Wo Lee, and one night, early in the morning one day in May [?] of 1912, Wo Lee is awakened by a pair of hands around his neck. The hands, as it turns out, were attached to a guy named Jim Ling, who ran an opium den and house of ill repute in Ashland. The two struggle, and Wo Lee ends up getting stabbed, and robbed of $800 in gold. Or $80. Or $50. We don't know exactly how much because so many conflicting details are reported in the different newspapers. I've transcribed all those conflicting accounts onto my web site, so you can read them and piece together your own narrative. So the police are summoned, they take Wo Lee to the brand-new Sacred Heart Hospital on the top of Nob Hill (he survives), track down Jim Ling and throw him in jail, and they turn out everyone sleeping in the Chinese laundry, which turns out to be between 30 and 35 Chinese guys--the sheriff [?] is quoted as saying he didn't know there were that many Chinese in town, much less in one building.
    And they also find the personal effects, the letters and the clothing, of a young woman named Laura White. Or Viola Miller. Or Faye Freeman. I've found seven different aliases for her, and I'll probably never learn what her real name was. And it turns out that the altercation between Wo Lee and Jim Ling was over Laura White, because they had gone halfsies on her and bought her in Portland for $200, transported her down to Medford, and set her up in prostitution in the building across the street from us, Medford's most notorious brothel, the Royal Rooms. Laura White is also tracked down and thrown into jail, because as the only white person involved she's going to be the star witness, and she's a flight risk.
    And for the newspapers this is just great. For the first time in Medford they'll get to talk about sex, drugs and rock and roll on the front page of the Medford Mail Tribune and the Ashland Tidings and the Medford Sun and the Jacksonville Post and the Daily Courier. Laura White is easily accessible to the reporters in jail, and she's talking. So every day there's a new story about her on the front page, and curiously she tends to be the heroine in all the stories. She tells about how she was a poor innocent girl, a victim of white slavery, lured into drugs and the sex trade. And her story was the usual white slavery story: White slavers would target naive girls, get them addicted to opium, then take them far from their support system. The slavers would keep them doped up and control their access to drugs--so by that point they would essentially own the girls.
    Laura White also tells how she'd spent all the money she'd made trying to cure herself of the opium "habit"--the understanding of addiction was even worse in 1912 than it is now--and she gave $500 to a 16-year-old Medford girl named Nellie to get her away from these guys, because they were planning to do the same thing to her. (Nellie was eventually found, and denied everything, naturally.)
    But the upshot of all these newspaper stories was that the community decides that Laura White is redeemable, and the county commissioners and the Women's Christian Temperance Union decide to go halfsies on Laura White (again) and admit her to Sacred Heart Hospital and cure her of her opium habit.
    Then there's a little tiny article in the paper a couple of days later, making clear that they didn't know what the heck they were doing in Medford with a person going cold turkey off opium, and maybe they'd better take her up to Portland, where they could find a sanatarium [?] that had some experience with drug addiction. So a policeman [?] takes Laura White to Portland on the train, and while they're trying to find an institution that'll take her, Laura White escapes. Nowhere to be found.
    Months pass. The time for the trial comes, and they have to find Laura White; she's the star witness. They ask the Portland chief of police to find her; they look, and can't find her. Apparently the Medford police ask again a little more emphatically, because the papers report the Portland chief issues what they describe as a "go-gettem" order, which apparently means "bust doors, bust heads," and they do find Laura White, in the arms of a guy named Ah Yee, who was the guy who got her addicted to drugs in the first place. What's a girl to do? She needs her drugs.
    They bring Laura White back to Medford, she testifies, Wo Lee testifies, Jim Ling testifies, all the 30 to 35 Chinese guys testify. And in those days you had to sacrifice a chicken to swear in a Chinese guy, so the trial is a zoo. It's a rodeo. And, not unexpectedly, the trial ends in a hung jury. Wo Lee was a terrible witness: His English was very poor, and he'd not only changed his story in the newspapers; he changed his story on the stand.
    Here my story kind of falls apart. Jim Ling is kept in jail for a few more months before they decide they'll never get a conviction on him, and he's released. He remains in Ashland for a few more years, occasionally being thrown in jail for opium distribution, before he wises up and leaves town. Where he goes, I don't know. There are several Jim Lings on the West Coast, and there's no way to figure out which is which.
    Wo Lee also stays in town, for several more years. He operated laundries in Ashland and Jacksonville before returning to Medford and then disappearing. The census says he had a wife in China; maybe he went back home.
    And Laura White? Right after the trial there was a little article on page 6 [?] of the Mail Tribune quoting her to the effect that she had a waitressing job in Portland she really needed to get back to. We can guess that there probably was an opium pipe she really needed to get back to.
    I've looked long and hard to find out what happened to Laura White. I've found she used at least seven different aliases, and three of those aliases had shady pasts and associations, so we can't be sure of her real name. That's immaterial, anyway, because I can't find any mention in the newspapers or public record of any of those seven names after that article that said she had to get back to her waitressing job. She just vanishes from history.
    So what happens to the brothel where she worked? You can see the building is still here today, but naturally, since this was such a notorious story, public outrage shut down the Royal Rooms. The next year it was back in the papers--under a different madam anyway--who was arrested in Ashland for disturbing the peace. And you'd think she would have been trying to keep a low profile, because she was arrested exactly a month after Medford city councilman George Millar had been arrested in the Royal Rooms for immoral conduct.
    Most people think George Millar was framed. He was a very outspoken city councilman, and the first socialist elected to public office in Oregon. His Manhattan Cafe was next door to the tailor shop of the mayor, William Eifert, and he'd told one and all that he'd "whip Millar into line" when he was elected. And I think the way he did that was by having someone telephone the Manhattan Cafe for a meal, have it delivered to the Royal Rooms, and when Millar got to the head of the stairs they slapped the cuffs on him and threw him in jail. (No word on what happened to the food.)
    Now, a peculiarity of the Medford city charter was that if you were the mayor you were also the municipal court judge, so guess who was going to decide whether Millar was guilty or not. Millar hired the best lawyer in town, but he still had to pay the fifty dollars. His conviction was eventually overturned, and the city charter was changed.
    So with all this excitement at the Royal Rooms in the space of one year, the place's career as a brothel was apparently over. I don't know how such a thing can be done, but apparently the Royal has been on the straight and narrow ever since.
    You can't say the same, however, for the brothel above us, because the rooming house upstairs, by all accounts, was a brothel into the 1960s--and if the door is unlocked we can go upstairs.
    This is the Barnum Building; it was built in 1894 [?], and it's still owned by the family. And this is what the lobby of an 1890s rooming house--and therefore an 1890s brothel--looked like. It was originally called the Medford Rooms, then the Lynn Rooms, then the Rex Rooms, and I'm sure for many of those years it was probably a legitimate rooming house. But in the 1920s it acquired a new, informal, name. Someone had opened stables on the edge of town, and the name of that business, the Medford Riding Academy, was transferred to this rooming house, though an entirely different kind of riding was taking place here.
    And you'd think with a name like the Medford Riding Academy that there would be lots of great stories about this place. There probably are, but I only know one of them, which involves a guy I know, who's about my age. He recalls that when he was six or seven years old he really, really wanted to learn to ride horses. And somehow this little kid learns (A) that there is a riding academy in downtown Medford, and (B) exactly which door leads to it. There's no sign, of course. He remembers coming up those steps every Saturday and remembers a flustered-looking man behind a desk who would tell him to come back next Saturday, which he apparently did until he got tired--or until his parents found out what he was doing on Saturday mornings.
    The only other stories I know about this establishment are myths. One is that the connecting doors you see between the various rooms are so you can escape during a police raid. Now, it seems unlikely to me that when William Barnum was planning this building in 1894 he decided to plan for something like that, and it seems to me that if the police want to make sure nobody escapes during a raid all they would have to do is wait at the foot of the stairs. Besides, the only police raids I've every found mention of in Medford have been for gambling, or for liquor during Prohibition.
    There's also a myth about the Royal Rooms across the street, that there's a tunnel under Main Street--excuse me, a Chinese
tunnel--from the basement of the Hubbard's Hardware building into the brothel. There are a couple things wrong with that myth, too. One is that no one has ever found any evidence of it--you can go into the basement of Hubbard's after the tour and look for the north entrance to the tunnel. Another problem is that if the idea is to tell the wife you're going to look at agricultural equipment at Hubbard's and then go under the street into the brothel, how to you get from the end of the tunnel to the second floor across the street--when that building doesn't even have a basement?
    That's the problem with historical vacuums. When solid information rarely makes the newspapers--as is the case with vice--that vacuum creates myth by sucking in supposition and invention, spiced with a little half-remembered fact. I've tried to do good history here. If I've gotten something wrong--or if you have something to add, please let me know.