John Lopes of Central Point works Thursday to salvage a gazebo from the property that once included the historic Mon Desir, which burned down in January. Volunteers hope to restore the gazebo and relocate it to a park in the city. - Jamie Lusch

Saving the memories of the past

CENTRAL POINT — The historic Mon Desir may be gone, but what little remains could one day be returned to the community as a tribute to the special events once held at the dinner house along Hamrick Road.

Surrounded by blackberries and soot-covered debris, an old metal gazebo stands as a reminder of both past celebrations and the imminent demolition of the once-picturesque, Tudor-style structure.

Built in 1910 by orchardist and landowner Conro Fiero for his bride, actress Grace Andrews, the Mon Desir burned down in January and the property remains fenced off.

An investigation by Central Point police, Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and the State Fire Marshal's office ruled in January the blaze was arson, and a criminal investigation remains open.

Community volunteer Debbie Saxbury and a handful of locals are helping to clear debris from around the gazebo — the only structure remaining on site. Their hope is to restore the gazebo and relocate it elsewhere in the city.

Saxbury, whose wedding was held at Mon Desir and included the gazebo, said that with so many local memories attached to the Mon Desir, the gazebo should be preserved.

"It needs sandblasting and it needs a new roof, but from what we're being told, the structure is all fine. We're hoping, once it's done and pretty again, we can find a place for it somewhere in the city, maybe a park," Saxbury said.

"After it's demolished it will be as if it was never there. We can't have that. The Mon Desir was too much a part of our community not to have anything to represent those memories," she said.

Saxbury plans to form a committee and recruit help to sandblast and reroof the gazebo. She estimates restoration will cost around $500.

The gazebo was built in the mid to late 1980s by Bill Evanston as a favor to former Mon Desir owner Betty Walters. Evanston was a regular customer and friend of the Walters family.

Danny Walters, son of Betty Walters and a former Mon Desir chef, said it would be "an honor to see the gazebo saved."

Property owner Edic Slevia, a property investor from San Jose, said this week he was pleased with Saxbury's plans. Slevia said plans to demolish the charred structure have been held up by insurance delays in recent months.

"Our goal has always been to restore the Mon Desir and, unfortunately, the fire has kind of stalled us," Slevia said Thursday.

"However, we still are hoping to rebuild the property since we have everything we need to do that," he said.

Eventually, Slevia said, he would like to rebuild the original Mon Desir, which was significantly smaller than the structure that burned.

"Even before this happened, we were never going to keep the additions that were put onto Mon Desir. Thousands of square feet had been added to the original building," he said.

"We want to bring back to the original structure, which was absolutely beautiful, and we have a lot of pictures and documentation that the community sent to us so we know how to build it back to where it was."

Saxbury said she hopes to approach the city once the gazebo is restored and find a city park or prominent place to relocate the structure.

While no plans or promises have been made, the city would discuss the project with Saxbury, said Parks and Recreation Manager Matt Samitore.

"The city is always interested in keeping historical pieces within the community, and we like to work with any group who is potentially looking to restore something and find a suitable location for it."

Slevia said preserving the gazebo, not part of the original property, was a nice idea for the community.

"Debbie has been after this gazebo for years," he said with a laugh.

"I'm sorry it took a fire for it to happen but, even before the fire, I had promised her we would get it restored. I'll be glad to see it find a new home and be preserved."

To donate supplies or volunteer to help with sandblasting, relocation or roofing of the gazebo, e-mail Saxbury at or call 541-727-1679.

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

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