Cooley & Neff building at 3rd and Fir Streets. Jim Craven 9/21/2007 - Jim Craven

One of a Kind

Although it's seen better days, the Cooley-Neff warehouse on North Fir Street was deemed worthy of preservation after it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The warehouse was described by the federal agency as "the best surviving commercial example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style" in downtown Medford.

George Kramer, the Ashland historian who wrote the nomination, said the hulking grey building along the railroad once served as a paper warehouse.

"There are many interesting things about the warehouse," Kramer said. "It was built by two prominent Medford businessmen who actually went to the trouble of making a warehouse look good."

Friends and business partners J.H. Cooley, a lumberman, and attorney Porter Neff built the warehouse in 1924 during the height of the Spanish Colonial architecture craze, Kramer said.

The style's most distinguishing features are dramatic arches, tiled roofs and stucco walls, which make the Cooley-Neff warehouse stand apart from its modern counterparts.

"Today warehouses are built with utilitarian purposes in mind," Kramer said. "They are usually boxy and simple in appearance."

Cooley and Neff also commissioned what is now known as the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in downtown Medford. That building housed Neff's law office upstairs, Kramer said.

The warehouse stands empty now. According to tax records it is owned by Fortune8 Services LLC out of Jacksonville. It was recently posted for rent on Craigslist.

Inclusion in the National Register allows substantial state and federal tax benefits to encourage refurbishing damaged or run-down buildings, Kramer said.

The Cooley-Neff warehouse could benefit from a facelift. The building has been tagged by graffiti and some windows are boarded up.

Getting a building on the National Register is a complicated process. The nomination is presented to a nine-person governor's advisory committee in Salem.

If they approve the nomination, it is then sent to the National Park Service, which maintains the National Register under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

"People think that any building with historic value is put on the Register," Kramer said. "But it takes a dedicated property owner or community to take on the trouble of nominating it."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail

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