The Johnson-Childers Building, with its distinctive bay windows, was built in the early 20th century and is one of the stops on the Taste of History Tour. - Jim Craven

History never tasted so sweet

Forget boring lectures and books full of mind-numbing timelines. Learn Medford's colorful history and architecture with a wineglass and hors d'oeuvres in hand at the fourth annual The Taste of History Wine Walk and Historical Tour to be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 21.

The tours start at Vogel Plaza, corner of East Main Street and Central Avenue, and stops at 19 historic downtown buildings will feature food from restaurateurs paired with regional wines.

"Then and Now" photographs of each building along with "wacky facts" will be displayed at each stop, and tour guides will recount the role the structures played in the development of Medford and its surrounds. Musicians will add an instrumental note, artists will present their work and members of Belles and Beaus dressed in period clothing will make appearances along the tours.

"This is really about keeping the history of Medford alive," says Nancy Passey, co-chairwoman with Leesa Henselman of the Taste of History board. "It's having your own experience in the historical buildings while enjoying the foods, wines and art of our region."

Participants can visit four downtown regions, each housing several historic buildings. These include the Huggins-Robinson Building, which first opened in 1925 as a Studebaker automobile dealership and is now the Rogue Valley Art Association, and the Johnson-Childers Building from 1896, which still features some of its original bay windows designed to maximize natural light in the days before electricity.

For those who don't wish to hoof it around downtown, the Urban Minx double-decker bus will make stops throughout the tour area.

"The bus will stop at Vogel Plaza, 4 Daughters, Red Rock and Porters, then back to Vogel Plaza," Passey explains. "So you can go to one area, do that whole thing, then move on to the next."

Architectural heritage tours will be guided by local historical consultant George Kramer, and City Council member Ben Truwe will raise eyebrows during his "Haunted Brothels and Opium Dens of Medford" walking tour.

"I'm amazed that so many are interested in hearing about these colorful spots of early Medford," Passey says. "It's all that juicy stuff that was going on back in the old days."

Born during a brainstorming session as a way to showcase historical building façade renovations paid for with Medford Urban Renewal Agency grants, the event has grown from 12 to 19 venues and now features a gala reception the preceding night.

Passey and Henselman — along with their husbands — have done the heavy lifting behind The Taste of History since its inception. This year, they took it one step further by asking the city of Medford to sanction the event.

The group also decided to form a board, with Passey as president, and a committee of 10 people who have certain assigned tasks.

"The four of us just decided to make it official — to get a board, some by-laws and an account," Passey explains. "Now we have a purpose. We can invest in the event. This has been really a good thing."

More than 20 local restaurants and eateries will be serving appetizers, tapas, artisan cheese and handcrafted chocolates. Top vintages will be poured by more than 15 Rogue and Applegate valley wineries. Art will include watercolor, pencil art, glass work, custom stonework pottery and pastel art. Music will be by Diamond & Ames and Ted Killian.

The painting by Karen Cain-Smith that inspired the event poster will be displayed at an art reception to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 20, at the Rogue Gallery. Painted from a photograph, it features a Model T parked by the original Medford train station, which is now Porter's Dining at the Depot.

"We wanted to kick off the event with something special, so the artist will be there to sign posters," Passey says. "The poster will be available for $10 each, and Elements Tapas Bar and Lounge will be serving food."

Wine from RoxyAnn Winery will be featured, live music by Jon Galfano will be presented and there will be a silent auction for a framed event poster.

"We're hoping to make it kind of fancy, rather dressy, in hopes that it will be the first of many annual galas," says Passey.

Tours on Saturday cost $25 per person and include a commemorative wine glass and poster. Call 779-5455 or 772-4388 or see thetasteofhistory.com.

Jennifer Strange is a freelance writer living in Jacksonville. Reach her at lstrange@hotmail.com.

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