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Holmes House added to historic register

Courtesy photo Holmes House

The Harry and Eleanor Holmes House on Modoc Avenue in east Medford was added to the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the 45th property in the city to receive the distinction, according to a news release from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice, the current owners of the property, submitted the paperwork to apply for the distinction in December 2020 and received the listing July 19.

“Our entire board and staff are honored to receive this award on behalf of the community,” said Julie Raefield, development director of Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice.

The 5,500-square-foot house was built in 1939 on a 2-acre lot. It has five bedrooms and six and a half baths. The California Georgian-style home’s significance stems from being designed by Paul Revere Williams for Harry and Eleanor Holmes.

Williams was a notable 20th century architect in Southern California and the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects and the first African American elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, according to his website.

He designed homes for, among others, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

Harry Holmes and his brother David Holmes were the owners of Bear Creek Orchards and the founders of Harry & David. They developed the first gift-tower and the Fruit-of-the-Month club, which set the foundation for the premium food and gift model that made the company famous.

The house passed through a handful of owners before it became a hospice care facility in 2016.

Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice completed an eight-room, 5,723-square-foot addition to the house in 2018, but the listing was awarded to the original mansion, not the addition.

“We have a commitment to adhering to the architectural style and design in any remodeling, and having this designation will continue to support this goal,” Raefield said. “That addition was very much in keeping with the original architectural design of the building.”

Maryann Gum, one of the donors who funded the National Register of Historic Places application, has a mutual contact who knows William’s granddaughter, Karen Hudson.

Through Gum’s contact, the hospice group and Hudson were put in contact with each other, and Hudson hosted a mini-workshop with Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice to teach them about Williams’ life and legacy, Raefield said.

The hospice group gave Hudson all the original documentation of the house, which is now part of the Williams’ archive co-owned by the University of Southern California and the Getty Museum.

Raefield said that Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice wanted to honor the legacy and history of the building.

“We view the home and those who created it as important contributors to our ability to honor and respect those that we care for,” Raefield said.

The distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places is primarily honorific, although it does come with perks such as grant opportunities and tax incentives. Raefield said the distinction will only affect future changes to the original mansion and not how the hospice conducts business.

If COVID-19 protocols allow, Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice will host an event for the community to celebrate the recognition, as well as the individuals who gave the building its significance.

Correction: this article was updated Aug. 10 to reflect Gum’s role funding the National Register of Historic Places application.

Reach Mail Tribune news intern William Seekamp at wseekamp@rosebudmedia.com.