Bikers cruise along Bear Creek near the Main Street Bridge Tuesday. The wall behind, erected in 1913, is all that remains of the once-grand Page Theater. - Jamie Lusch

The Page Theater's sturdy wall endures

"If it was a snake it would have bitten you."

What clueless child hasn't heard that from a frustrated parent?

Sometimes local history can be like that. A casual walk turns into a minor archeological expedition when eyes suddenly stumble upon evidence your mother might say was "as plain as the nose on your face."

Next time you're on the Bear Creek Greenway between 8th and Main streets in Medford, point your nose and eyes across Bear Creek and notice the concrete wall supporting a parking lot. It's been there since 1913.

Nearly hidden by clinging vines weaving their way up the wall are glassless windows that once looked into the heart of Medford's "most gracious shrine to the performing arts."

Behind those windows, in the basement of the grand Page Theater, the smell of greasepaint once mixed with opening night jitters as hundreds of actors prepared to perform in the auditorium above.

Built by Dr. Frederick C. Page, a 45-year-old retired surgeon-turned-real-estate-developer, the massive, multi-storied brick theater took a mere four months to complete. But it was solid. The west wall was engineered to support a five-story building on the adjacent lot; a place where the doctor's dreamed-of hotel complex was never built.

Ahead of its time, the theater was built with a floor that angled down to the stage. Though not quite the stadium seating we see today, it did give the audience a view most had never had before.

With balcony seating, private boxes and the main auditorium floor, the Page was able to seat more than 1,000 people.

On opening night, May 19, 1913, Maude Adams pulled on her boyish green trousers and tunic and adjusted the feather on her cap as she made a last check of her makeup.

One of the great actresses of her day, Adams walked upstairs to perform her signature role of "Peter Pan."

The Mail Tribune's theatrical critic, Ed Andrews, of the Andrews Opera Company, gave her a rave review, but George Putnam, owner and publisher of the paper, did not.

"Maud Adams is the most striking example of the manufactured star now before the footlights," Putnam wrote. "An instance of what money can do with mediocrity."

He called the production a "fairy story. Not particularly entertaining except to the juvenile mind."

The publisher of the Medford Sun newspaper, Robert Ruhl, who would soon become owner and publisher of the Mail Tribune, took an editorial swing at his competitor.

"Those who see merely a fairy story," wrote Ruhl, "have not grown up so much as they have grown back. They have lost connection with the immortal spring of youth."

On Sunday, Dec. 30, 1923, the Page Theater was gutted by a fire that took the life of fireman Amos Willits. The ruined walls stood until they were pulled down in the spring of 1930 when plans for other buildings began. The basement dressing rooms were filled in with rubble, the vines began to grow, but that tough concrete wall stood firm.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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