Phoenix homes in on history

PHOENIX — A survey of Phoenix homes that were built before Interstate 5 arrived in the Rogue Valley will be unveiled today.

Sponsored by the Phoenix Historical Society and the Phoenix Urban Renewal agency, the event will feature historian George Kramer. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Museum, 607 Church St.

Contracted by the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency earlier this year to survey the town's historical buildings, Kramer has amassed a survey of 150-plus properties built before 1965. The $5,000 project is part of PURA's goals to revive the city center and assess historically significant properties near the city core.

Kramer said the survey focused on structures built in 1964 or before, because of construction of the nearby freeway, which shifted traffic patterns and other dynamics for the small town.

"The year 1964 is basically when the interstate opened," said Kramer.

"From 1960 to 1970, Phoenix's population grew by 60 percent. Anything built in Phoenix before 1964 was built in an entirely different world than anything after that point — 1964 is a bright line in the history of Phoenix."

PURA director Marla Cates said the survey would give city officials a solid inventory of historical structures and provide residents one of the most thorough assessments of the town's early days to date. Owners of properties included in Kramer's survey received a formal invitation to today's event and residents also are invited to attend.

The survey covered an area slated for urban renewal and includes the town's oldest areas, along Main Street and west of the city core in areas of Church, Rose, Pine and First through Sixth streets.

Cates said a previous survey, conducted in 1986, listed fewer than 20 historical properties.

The city's oldest property, the 1855 Samuel Colver house, was destroyed by a fire in 2008. Another favorite, the old fueling station along the city's main drag, which was home to Ken's Auto, burned earlier this year.

Cates hopes the survey will identify and draw attention to some hidden gems in the town.

"Because of all the work we're doing in the city center with rehab, facades and restorations, any new construction must speak to the old historic buildings already in existence," Cates said.

Phoenix Historical Society museum secretary-treasurer Dorothy Cotton said she was excited for today's event and appreciative that PURA had an appreciation for historically significant structures.

"It is really nice for people to know what's here so we can save some of it," said Cotton.

"I'm excited to hear what George found out during his survey. There's a lot of history in Phoenix."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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