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U.S. Bank exits historic U.S. Hotel in J’ville

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune U.S. Bank has moved out of the historic U.S. Hotel in Jacksonville, after occupying it for 56 years.

U.S. Bank has closed its branch in the 1880 United States Hotel in Jacksonville, a building it helped save in the mid-1960s when demolition seemed a real possibility.

The bank was leasing lower floor space from Jackson County, which owns the California Street landmark, but ceased operations late last year.

Town historian Larry Smith said bringing the bank branch to the city was the work of the late Robby Collins, who led efforts to recognize and preserve the historical character of the city. It was among factors that encouraged growth of the town into a historic tourist attraction.

“The pictures showed how rough it was. It was on the verge of being condemned,” said Theresa Spradling, property manager for Jackson County, who came across photographs of what it looked like before the bank performed the renovation. She was doing research at the Southern Oregon Historical Society on the hotel.

Jackson County has had the property for sale for over 10 years. The bank cited a shift to online transactions during the pandemic and plans to downsize as reasons for shuttering more than 30 banks in Oregon last year. The closure became permanent Nov. 1 after a temporary shutdown due to the pandemic. Trolley Stop Antiques continues to operate in another part of the building.

Local brick mason George Holt constructed the hotel in the late 1870s for his wife, a French woman who had a career running grand hotels. President Rutherford B. Hayes and his entourage made an overnight visit to the town and stayed in the hotel shortly after it was completed in 1880.

Jacksonville Properties for Historic Preservation owned the hotel in 1964 when U.S. Bank signed a rental agreement covering reconstruction and remodeling, Spradling’s research showed. In 1967 a deed in lieu of foreclosure transferred the building to SOHS. In 1969, SOHS transferred the building to the county. The society continued to lease the building from the county for a number of years.

The 1964 lease agreement provided for a $200 monthly payment by the bank in recognition of its restoration work for the first 125 months of a 20-year deal. A lease from 1985 showed rent set at $924 monthly.

Smith later wrote down his recollection of a conversation with Collins on the effort.

“Last year he told me the story of how he was able to save the U.S. Hotel. He went right to the top at U.S. National Bank and convinced them that they should open a branch in JV and he had just the right spot for them. The U.S. Hotel,” Smith wrote. “He thought the name was a good fit for them. Jacksonville was hardly a hot spot for investment in 1965, but Robby convinced the bank to take a chance on Jacksonville.”

At the time a number of buildings in downtown were vacant, said Smith. Collins also fought plans to run a four-lane highway through town and championed the effort that resulted in the town’s historic district being designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

The bank’s current lease runs through January 2023, although the institution is working on a termination agreement that would cash out the county, said Spradling. The bank pays $1,996 a month in rent.

Trolley Stop Antiques rents the other downstairs portions of the building. It has been there since 2011. Jacksonville Inn located next door sometimes rented the upstairs area. That use was stopped after the pandemic emerged, said Spradling.

In 2017, the second-story balcony was restored at a cost of $222,000. While structurally sound, the balcony showed signs of dry rot. Steel framework was covered with wood to replicate the original balcony, which was installed 10 years after hotel construction.

While the building is still for sale, it is not currently listed with any real estate agent while negotiations continue with the bank, said Spradling. “We want to make sure the bank part is done,” she said.

U.S. Bank, which originated in Oregon, announced the closure of 32 branches in the state in mid-October. The bank had announced plans to close up to 15% of its branches nationwide in 2019. It paused that plan when the pandemic struck, but then saw an increase in digital banking.

U.S. Bank’s departure leaves the town with two banks, Umpqua and Chase. U.S. Bank also closed a branch at the Rogue Valley Manor.

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