Linda Donovan plans to transform the historic Cooley-Neff warehouse on Medford’s North Fir Street into an urban winery and tasting room. - Bob Pennell

Urban winery planned in Medford warehouse

When winemaker Linda Donovan glances around the building she wants to convert to a winery, she sees not a single grape vine.

Standing outside the historic Cooley-Neff warehouse, at 340 N. Fir St. in Medford, she's surrounded by cracked sidewalks, railroad tracks, shuttered buildings and industrial sites. Inside, though, there's plenty of space for making wine and storing it.

Built in 1924 as a paper warehouse, the building is one of the region's best surviving examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Within a few months it may become Southern Oregon's first urban winery.

Donovan said making wine in urban settings is common in Europe, and it's becoming popular in larger cities in the United States.

"Every wine region has a big custom crush facility to service smaller clients or people who don't want to invest in millions of dollars in equipment or facilities," she said.

The plan calls for making and storing wine in the building and offering storage space for other winemakers in the 12,000-square-foot building.

"This is an ideal building for wine storage," she said. "I've been in here in the dead of summer and during winter, and it's (always) the same temperature downstairs."

Other possibilities could include a tasting room and, a community garden. She also hopes the building's new uses also will breathe life into a part of Medford's former industrial core.

George Kramer, a historic preservation consultant, said the Cooley-Neff warehouse was built by two local businessmen, Medford Lumber president J.H. Cooley and attorney Porter Neff, who built several buildings in the Spanish Colonial Revival style around Medford. It was constructed along the railroad tracks to take advantage of the rail line to ship paper.

Kramer, chairman of the Oregon Heritage Commission, worked to have the warehouse placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

He said the Spanish Colonial Revival style debuted at a 1916 exhibition in San Diego and eventually found its way to Medford, (most notably at the original Craterian Theater), despite the fact that Southern Oregon has no connection to the Spanish colonial era..

"It was a well-regarded exhibition, so people started copying that style," Kramer said. "There was a whole portion of Medford with Spanish Colonial Revival buildings,"

Most of those buildings were lost.

Kramer said he hopes the winery can spur a revival of the neighborhood.

"It's a perfect use for a building that was never really good at being much more than warehouse," he said. "It's getting a new life."

Donovan's business partner, Dan Sullivan, said he hopes their enterprise will lure wine connoisseurs and winemakers who need space to work and store their wares.

Donovan said she and Sullivan hope to have their project up and running by summer. Sullivan said their timing should help Southern Oregon's growing wine industry.

"We can see that the Rogue Valley is poised for some very dramatic growth in terms of its wine industry," he said, "and it's probably entering a phase where the growers and people are really starting to understand what varieties grow well here."

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

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