Jacksonville moves ahead on historic buildings

JACKSONVILLE — The city, which took possession of four historic sites in November, has received a $5,000 grant to look at uses for one site, has approved use agreements for three of them, and formed a building management team.

The Ford Family Foundation of Roseburg awarded a grant to examine potential uses and work needed to accommodate them at the 1883 courthouse building.

The city will match the grant with an additional $6,000 in funds and in-kind work.

"We'll look at the options and needs and what could happen there," said City Administrator Jeff Alvis. "We can evaluate the property and really see what the fit would be for the community and what it would take to proceed."

Jacksonville gained the historic sites from Jackson County on Nov. 26. They include the Beekman House, the Beekman Bank, St. Joseph's Catholic Rectory and the Courthouse complex, which includes four buildings.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved leases or rental agreements for three of the sites with groups that had leased them under agreements with the county and other organizations.

A five-year rental agreement was signed with the Friends of St. Joseph's for the Catholic Rectory. The group will pay the city $1 per year, but will assume maintenance responsibilities. Formed in 2011, the friends have worked to preserve the property.

A five-year lease at $1,500 per year with Jacksonville Review publishers Whitman and Jo Parker was approved for the Beekman Bank.

An electronic information kiosk and a brochure rack will remain in the lobby area of the bank. The Parkers will open and close the lobby, allowing public access to view the bank office.

A one-year lease was signed with Art Presence, which has occupied the jail building, formerly the Children's Museum, since April 2012. The group puts on regular art shows and other programs.

The future of the Jacksonville Heritage Society is up in the air at this time, said President Carolyn Kingsnorth. The group formed in 2010 to care for the historic structures as the Southern Oregon Historical Society withdrew from Jacksonville.

SOHS had leased the buildings from the county, and then did a sublease to the JHS, which in turn leased to other organizations.

Heritage Society members presented living history shows and offered tours at the Beekman House. The group also secured gifts and grants for a new roof and porch repairs at the house.

Alvis said the city will concentrate on getting the repairs done first, but does plan to work with volunteer groups to offer some programs there.

Composed of elected officials, citizens and top city staff, the management team was formed by Mayor Paul Becker. The team reviewed agreements approved Tuesday.

"We'll use it as a discussion group, not necessarily a decision group," said Alvis. "It's good to have a committee like that to say, 'What do we want to do?' "

Management team members include Alvis, Becker, councilmen David Jesser and Paul Hayes, residents Steve Casaleggio, Linda Winterburn and Charlie Wilson, and city department heads.

City crews have cleaned out the Courthouse and undertaken grounds maintenance at the properties, said Alvis.

"My staff will try to bring (the Courthouse) grounds back to life," said Alvis. "You want them looking nice when tourists drive by."

Alvis hopes to open the inside of the Courthouse on July 4 when the city holds a public picnic on the grounds.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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