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Historic tours set to return in Jacksonville

Mail Tribune file photo The Beekman House and Beekman bank, historic properties managed by the group, will likely open to the public starting in September.

Visitors will again be able to take guided historic walking outdoor tours of Jacksonville starting in June after a year’s hiatuses brought on by the pandemic.

Horse drawn tours have resumed, trolley tours start in mid-June and cemetery talks with tours will begin in July.

Non-profit Historic Jacksonville, Inc. will offer their free Saturday walking tours beginning June 5 and continuing through Sept. 4. Haunted tours in the evenings resume June 11 and continue monthly through October. The Beekman House and Beekman bank, historic properties managed by the group, will likely open to the public starting in September.

“It really is going to depend on how comfortable our docents are doing tours,” said Carolyn Kingsnorth, president of the organization, about opening indoor spaces. “One of the things (the closure) has allowed us to do is take care of some of the deferred maintenance, to repair old plaster.”

“Walk through History,” offered at 10 a.m. on Saturdays, visits government buildings, fraternal lodges and homes in the town’s National Historic Landmark Districts. Docents relates stories of the people who transformed the gold rush town into the area’s social, governmental and commercial hub.

The tours are free but donations are accepted. Reservations are required for the tour. Participants who are not fully vaccinated are requested to wear masks.

Two haunted tours are offered the second Friday of each month starting in June. In October tours will be offered on both Friday, Oct. 8, and Saturday, Oct. 9. A Britt Hill Tour features tales of arson, saloons and Oregon’s first Chinatown. The Courthouse Tour highlights stories of brothels, epidemics and hangings.

Haunted tours are $10 per person and reservations must be made by 4 p.m. of tour days. No walk-up sales will be available. Private tours can be arranged for 10 to 12 guests at a cost of $15 per person. All tours begin at the Jacksonville Visitors Center at the corner of North Oregon and West C streets. Registrations can be made online at historicjacksonville.org.

A September opening of Beekman House is planned when the group resumes weekend living history presentations with one featuring Victorian Fashion.

Docents will be dressed in attire from the period. In October Victorian mourning customs will be presented. The traditional Victorian Christmas events will also be held at the house.

“One of the issues is the space is just too small. We’d looked at doing self-guided tours this summer, but by the time we had sufficient docents inside to oversee it, it would have taken more than to do a whole house tour,” said Kingsnorth.

During the pandemic Kingsnorth wrote “posts” titled “Mrs. Beekman Invites You to Call,” a twice-weekly series that appeared on the group’s website and told of happenings and history of the family and the details of the home during 1912 and 1913.

“I tried to use a voice that would represent her,” said Kingsnorth. She had a collection of letters written by Julia as well as recollections from others of things she said. The series will conclude in mid-June.

Beekman Bank tours might also resume in the fall. The bank is the oldest financial institution in the Pacific Northwest. Previous tours included “Secrets & Mysteries of the Beekman Bank”.

Gary Rose’s “Back in Time” wagon rides resumed in May. The rides go through the historic district, last 20 minutes and cost $10 per person. A one-hour tour is also available.

Arrangements can also be made for winery tours, weddings and a visit to the Rose Horse Farm north of town by wagon. Information can be found on Facebook at Horse Drawn Wagon Rides – gary rose.

Jacksonville’s Chamber of Commerce will resume trolly tours on weekends in mid-June. The 45-minute tour is $6 for adults and $3 for children. It leaves from the Visitors Center. Full-week operations are expected to start during July.

Visitors who want to explore on their own have several options to learn about the town’s history.

New City Hall, the former 1883 Jackson County Court House on 5thStreet, has a display of more than 75 photos of the town from the 1850’s to the 1930’s in its main hallway. The exhibition was curated, printed and installed by City Councilman Ken Gregg, a professional photographer.

In front of New City Hall, “A Path Through Time” has a dozen granite slabs placed into the sidewalk that tell tales of the town’s development.

Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery has information including a self-guided tour brochure available at a kiosk next to the Sexton’s Tool House. A total of five talks with walking tours will be held from July through September. Details can be found at friendsjvillecemetery.org.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.