Until this spring, I had only passed through Jacksonville once before. I don’t remember much of it, except that the town seemed to appear in the review mirror before I could blink. Add to this that it’s a bit out of the way from the major thoroughfare and it can easily be overlooked! If you were to get out a map of Oregon, you’d find this quaint, incredibly friendly town about 5 miles southwest of Medford and just a little north of the California border.
Jacksonville has a rich, interesting history dating back to the wild and crazy days of the gold rush. The town was founded in the mid 1800s, and was at one point the largest town in Oregon. By the late 1800s, all the gold had been found, the railway was bypassing the town and life slowed down. What was left were a large number of beautiful (now) historic residential and business buildings.
Jacksonville also was home to Oregon’s first Chinatown. Chinese immigrants, mostly the men, moved up from San Francisco to work in the mines and help build the railroads. Some day I’d like to read up on this chapter of history a bit. It strikes me as rather interesting.
Finds at a local construction site around 2004 revealed many Chinese artifacts from that period of time.
Today, once you enter the town and park your car, everything is easily accessible on foot. There are over 100 historical buildings, both residential and commercial, in the downtown area. They are maintained in their original designs and unaltered. Stroll along Main Street and discover all kinds of small boutique stores selling handcrafted and often locally produced gifts and knickknacks. There are quite a few restaurants, and of course some local coffee houses. My favorites were the Pony Expresso and the GoodBean. Both places brewed up a great cup of java, and a delicious mocha! I even brought home some of their coffee beans!
During the summer months, Jacksonville hosts a seasonal music festival in an outdoor amphitheater. Several events are planed for each week, and I hope to attend a Britt Festival concert some day.
The town is fairly flat, but surrounded by rolling hills which are common in that neck of the woods. Gnarly old oak trees dot many of those hills, along with madrone, manzanita and maple trees. If you’re up on a hill and look east, you might be able to spot Mount Mc Laughlin in the eastern Cascades. This snow capped lava cone is almost 9500 feet high and last erupted about 30,000 years ago. And unlike the northern Willamette Valley of Oregon, the weather has more in common with California: hot and dry in the summer, and rainy, but not too rainy and not as cold as Portland is in the winter..
There you have it! If you’re in Southern Oregon it’s worth stopping there and checking the place out. And if you have a little extra time and an adventurous spirit, drive east on South Stage Coach Road and stop in Ashland to perhaps take in a Shakespeare Play at the Elizabethan Outdoor Theater. There is nothing quite like it on a warm summer night!