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Skidmore Academy district lands on national registry

ASHLAND - A large area of northwest Ashland, called the Skidmore Academy district, has won placement on the National Register of Historic Places, allowing residents to receive property tax freezes and to avoid building codes requirements in order to restore historic structures.

The 525-home district, bounded by Granite Street, Scenic Drive, Maple Street and the railroad is the oldest and most intact neighborhood in town.

"We're tickled to get the designation," said George Kramer, an Ashland preservationist who wrote the lengthy application, including documentation and photography of each structure.

The district is named after an academy built amid rolling orchard lands in 1872 where Briscoe Elementary School now stands on North Main Street. Methodists used the building from the late 1870s until 1905 when the school district tore it down and built Washington Elementary. It became Ashland High School in 1911 and was razed in 1949. That marked the end of the "historic period" for the Skidmore area, Kramer said.

The designation doesn't guarantee preservation of any historical properties, but it does allow owners to apply for a 15-year freeze on assessments, as long as they put a historical plaque on the building and allow a public open house once a year. It allows building code waivers if code requirements would harm the historical nature of the building. Owners also may apply for a 20 percent federal investment tax credit and matching funds for restoration.

Skidmore is the third of four Ashland historical districts to gain approval, which comes first from the State Historic Preservation Office, then the National Park Service. The city has held local hearings and is about to submit an application for the Siskiyou-Hargadine Historic District, bounded by East Main, Morse, Beach, Iowa and Pioneer streets. Approved earlier were the main Downtown District and the Railroad District.

Skidmore's varied architectural styles reflect boom periods with the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s, the planting of orchards in the 1900-1910 period, the 1920s prosperity and the post-World War II boom, Kramer wrote in the application.

The oldest houses in the zone go back to 1871 and are called vernacular style. That means simple homes with a flexible floor plan, with an unaffected, unaccented way of building, Kramer wrote. These dominated the district's first 30 years. After the railroad arrived in 1884, Queen Anne, stick and Italianate styles bloomed. The 1920s boom saw the historic period style, Spanish colonial revival, Norman farmhouse and moderne styles.

The public may view the historical and photographic record of the district at the Ashland Public Library, the city planning department or the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

Skidmore Academy district lands on national registry