J'ville history to come alive - again

New group to start tours and events as temperatures rise

JACKSONVILLE — Visitors will again peer into the vault and safe of Oregon's second-oldest bank, as a new group revives tours at California Street's Beekman Bank on second Saturdays from May through September.

Historic Jacksonville Inc. will bring back the tours that ended when the Southern Oregon Historical Society left town a half-decade ago.

The new organization in many ways is a successor to Jacksonville Heritage Society, says President Carolyn Kingsnorth, who also led that group. The Heritage Society served as interim caretaker of four historic structures, including the bank, before Jackson County transferred the buildings to the city in November 2012. The society held tours at the Beekman House.

"Unless there is some way to bring them to life, they just become old buildings," said Kingsnorth. "What we are trying to do is "¦ facilitate events that will offer more insight into history and help people be more aware of their history and appreciative of it."

Tours of the Beekman House will continue on what is now called "History Saturday," with the Friends of Jacksonville Historic Cemetery offering history tours in the morning. House tours will follow from noon to 4 p.m., and bank tours begin at 11:15 a.m.

Living history tours at the Beekman House, held on third Saturdays beginning in May, will also continue, said Kingsnorth. The events, which include Beekman family re-enactors, have been sellouts the last two years. Cornelius Beekman was the town's first banker and a major figure in the town's development.

Events will kick off on Easter with an egg roll and other offerings at the Beekman House from 1 to 3 p.m.

In future years, the group hopes to add more events and tour days. Among proposals are house and bank tours Thursdays through Mondays during the summer, re-enactments of historical trials in Old City Hall — with spectators as jurors — and ghost tours of allegedly haunted buildings.

Group organizers also hope to involve more youth in programs. Board members include Kristen Sullivan, a teacher in the Business Academy at Crater High School, and Stephanie Butler, pre-college youth coordinator at Southern Oregon University. Butler is a former SOHS programming director.

A Jacksonville resident, Sullivan led tours at the Beekman House last summer and during the holidays.

"I want to do what I can to preserve the history and structures that have historic significance in Jacksonville," said Sullivan.

Experience at Crater working with student government and on events should help her with fundraising events and connecting with students, Sullivan said.

SOHS offered tours for a number of years, but then withdrew from Jacksonville. The heritage society then subleased the 1883 Jackson County Courthouse, the Beekman House, Beekman Bank and the Catholic Rectory.

Friends of St. Joseph's Parish have taken over management of the rectory. City officials plan to move city offices into part of the courthouse if rehabilitation expenses are not prohibitive.

Events or tours in the courthouse would be considered once it is rehabilitated and its use determined, said Kingsnorth.

Historic Jacksonville is seeking 501(c)(3) status so donations can be tax-deductible. A portion of event proceeds will be designated for building preservation.

Other board members include Secretary Tim Balfour, president of the Chamber of Commerce; Treasurer Whitman Parker, Jacksonville Review publisher; photographer Ken Gregg; and pediatrician Kerri Hecox.

For more information, email BeekmanHouseInfo@aol.com.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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