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SOHS plans to make history center an events venue

The Southern Oregon Historical Society hopes to convert its History Center at Sixth Street and Central Avenue into an events venue that can accommodate weddings and large meetings. Mail Tribune file photo.

The historic building that serves as Southern Oregon Historical Society’s headquarters and home to its archives could be renovated to become a venue for events in downtown Medford.

SOHS seeks to raise about $1.2 million to convert a large portion of its 1948 built research library building at 106 N. Central Ave. in Medford into an event center capable of accommodating wedding receptions and large meetings, according to a release issued Monday by the nonprofit.

The nonprofit sees an opportunity to fill the niche that Inn at the Commons previously filled in downtown Medford before the hotel was sold to a developer planning to convert the rooms into apartments, according to an earlier news report and quotes attributed to SOHS President Douglas McGeary in the release.

“With the recent sale of Inn at the Commons and the apparent closure of that facility’s event rental spaces, a vacuum exists in Medford for events such as weddings and large meetings,” McGeary stated. “Following numerous inquiries from parties interested in renting portions of our building, our Board of Trustees decided that creating a permanent event center would both well-serve the community and SOHS.”

The bulk of the 26,000 square foot building registered with the National Register of Historic Places is for storing SOHS’ collection of more than 64,000 photos and 93,000 artifacts, according to an earlier news report.

The building was originally built in 1948 as a J.C. Penney department store, and is an example of the “streamline moderne“ architectural style. Oregon Architecture and Kramer & Company will design renovations and furnishings that fit with the historic building’s architecture.

The front of the building was previously occupied by Kid Time Children’s Museum. Kid Time relocated to the historic Carnegie Building — the former Medford library building now owned by the city of Medford — in the second half of last year, according to earlier news reports.

Among the first steps towards fundraising for the conversion will be a banquet gala that celebrates the nonprofit’s 75th anniversary at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at Edenvale Winery, 2310 Voorhies Road, Medford. Those interested in attending should purchase tickets before Sept. 8 at www.sohs.org/dinner75. Tickets are $85 per person.