Washington Elementary considered for registry listing

The 81-year-old Washington Elementary School in Medford has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

The nomination is one of six that will be considered Friday by Oregon's State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation when it meets at the Jackson County library in Medford.

The public meeting begins at 10 a.m. The library is at 205 S. Central Ave., Medford.

In addition to the Medford school, the committee will review properties in Corvallis, Enterprise, La Pine and Portland.

Nominations recommended by the committee for listing in the National Register are forwarded to the National Park Service.

The agency maintains the register, which helps preserve historic structures under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Committee members hold credentials in many historic preservation-related fields. Ashland resident Jeff LaLande, a historian and retired archaeologist from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, is a member.

Constructed in 1931 during the Great Depression, Washington Elementary School was nominated by Medford city planner Kathy Helmer along with Cathy de Wolfe, chairwoman of the Medford Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission; and Diana Marmon, a member of the commission.

Designed by architect Frank Chamberlain Clark, the old school at 610 S. Peach Street was built in the Art Deco style. Covering 26,363 square feet, it began as a 15-room, two-story reinforced-concrete building with a gymnasium, auditorium, stage, library, office and a few special-purpose rooms.

An addition that included 13,706 square feet was added in 1949, followed by two smaller non-historic additions much later.

"The school's construction during the Great Depression but before the New Deal assistance programs speaks directly to Medford's staggering economic growth during the 1920s and the city's urgent response to the resulting surging population," according to the nomination.

Medford's rapid growth at the end of the 19th century and first third of the 20th century resulted in an acute need for new schools in southwest Medford, it noted.

Paid for by a school bond that was widely approved by voters, the program built Washington Elementary and the old Medford High School — later South Medford and now Central Medford — while adding classrooms to Roosevelt Elementary. Roosevelt school was razed in 2009 and the old high school considerably altered in 2010.

However, the first Washington School was built in 1896, and was the town's first public school. A quarried granite cornerstone bearing the words "public" and "school" from that first school along with its school bell are displayed between the two entrances to Washington Elementary School.

The words "Buckeye Bell Foundry 1896" can be seen on the bell, the nomination noted.

"The bell was not rung in the new school for fear it would wake babies in the neighborhood," it observed.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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