fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

SOU's Britt Ballroom named after Peter Britt's daughter

I'm writing "The Encyclopedia of Jerry Garcia Music Venues," and I'm interested in any info on Southern Oregon University's Britt Hall, where the Grateful Dead performed in 1968.  Who was Britt? When did the building open? When did the name change?

— Harry A., via email

Indeed, the Grateful Dead performed in Ashland once, and only once, Feb. 4, 1968, at then-Southern Oregon College's Britt Ballroom, according to a detailed blog post at http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/, which compiled a list of 1968 Oregon rock concerts. The performance, with San Francisco psychedelic rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service, concluded the "Quick and the Dead" Northwest tour. Tickets were advertised as "2.50 adv. 3.00 door."

"This was the Dead's only appearance in Southern Oregon, as their increasing popularity in Oregon insured that they played the larger population centers around Portland, and the two largest State Universities, for the rest of their career," the site says.

A scanned flier advertised the show at the gymnasium, but two commenters corroborated that the venue changed. Unfortunately, the Mail Tribune library's internal card catalog made no mention of the performance. It truly was a different era.

On to the venue itself. Like the school now known as Southern Oregon University, Britt Hall has had some name changes through the years.

The building opened in 1937 as Memorial Court, where it served as the basketball gymnasium until the McNeal Pavilion athletic center opened in the 1950s.

In August 1957, the building was renovated and re-christened as the Britt Student Center, Mail Tribune archives show. The renovated building boasted a snack bar, the bookstore, classrooms and offices for faculty, student publications, a stage and, of course, "a spacious ballroom."

Some historical books attribute the building's name to accomplished early Jacksonville settler Peter Britt (1819-1905), known for his artistic photography and pioneering winemaking pursuits, and for whom Jacksonville's Britt Music & Arts Festival is named. Neither of his two children ever married.

The Aug. 11, 1957, Mail Tribune article, however, states that the facility was named after Britt's daughter, Amalia "Mollie" Britt, who died in 1954. Among other gifts to the college, such as the family's Jacksonville estate that burned down in 1960, Mollie Britt bequeathed a collection of 2,067 early Peter Britt photographs.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.