Lithia Park, which began with eight acres in 1892 as a place where the Chautauqua
Association could bring entertainment and culture to southern Oregon,
has continued to grow and change along with the community that surrounds
it. Its growth and development from a Chautauqua site (where the original
Shakespeare theater began in 1935) to a complete reflection of the
public parks movement makes it of great historical as well as landscape
interest. Today 42 of its 93 acres are listed in the National Register.
Visitors approaching Lithia Park will note the towering Tree of Heaven
at the Plaza entrance planted in the 19th century by--according to
legend--Abel Helman's Chinese cook. In 1908 at the urging of the Women's
Civic Improvement Club, the people of Ashland passed a measure
to include park maintenance in the City Charter.
Lithia Park has grown since 1892
into a 93 acre park
Photograph by Terry Skibby
Lithia Park's growth came in 1914
with the hiring of John McLaren, who designed San Francisco's
Golden Gate Park, date of historic photo unknown
Courtesy of The Terry Skibby Collection
The following year the old flour mill was torn down, a park board
was elected, and additional acres bordering Ashland Creek were acquired.
In 1910 the lower duck pond and waterfall feeding it were constructed,
while Bert Greer, an ambitious newspaper editor conceived of making
Ashland a world-famous spa by capitalizing on the Lithia springs
of the area. The development of today's park began in 1914 with
the hiring of John McLaren (also designer of San Francisco's Golden
Gate Park) as landscape architect. Lithia Park embodies the distinctive
characteristics of park design in the tradition of Frederick Law
Olmsted. McLaren's landscape plan for Lithia Park was organic in
layout, following the natural canyon of the water course. The plantings
were naturalistic to the extent that native alders, oaks, conifers
and madrones were incorporated, but other plants, such as willows,
maples, sycamores, and numerous ornamental varieties were introduced
and selected for hardiness, form and color. Once within the Park,
the visitor can walk along the trail on the east side of Ashland
Creek to the Park headquarters and obtain a map showing the location
of both historic (e.g., 1915: Lithia Water Fountain, Butler-Perozzi
Fountain Terrace, Sycamore Grove, Upper Duck Pond) and more modern
park features including a trail guide to the most significant trees
throughout the Park.
Lithia Park is located at 59 Winburn Way and is open to the
public. Trail guides and other booklets about the park can be obtained
from the park office of Ashland Parks and Rec. Dept., open Monday-Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm, and free performances are frequently offered at
the Bulter Bandshell. For performance schedules and further information
call 541-488-5340 or visit the website.
The Chamber of Commerce offers nature walks Sundays, Wednesdays,
and Fridays at 10:00am (call 541-482-3486 or visit the website).