Current view of A Street in the
Railroad Addition Historic District
Photograph by Terry Skibby
When the railroad arrived from the north in early 1884, to be followed
three years later by the completion of the through line into California,
Ashland became a major port of entry into Oregon and the Pacific
Northwest. The anticipated arrival of the railroad instigated a
major wave of building and the platting of this section of Ashland
when it was sold to the Oregon and California Railroad Company in
1873. The subsection that grew around the new Southern Pacific Railroad
Depot doubled Ashland's size and quickly developed into a distinct
region within the city largely governed by "train time."
Ashland's Railroad District provided housing and traveler-based
commercial services that were almost entirely related to the railroad.
Lots were created in random patterns and, beginning in 1884, residences
and commercial buildings were constructed. The Ashland
Depot Hotel was built in 1888 and by 1890, lodging houses, saloons,
restaurants, stores and warehouses formed a separate commercial
district on A Street where residents could conveniently purchase
goods and services.
By 1893, the national depression slowed building in the district,
but when railroad business increased in 1898, the second major period
of growth began. As railroad workers and tradespeople moved into the
area after 1900, one or one-and-one-half story vernacular frame houses
were being constructed that provided affordable housing for the brakemen,
firemen, and conductors, as well as carpenters, barbers, plumbers
and painters. Ashland's population nearly doubled from 1900 to 1910,
rising above 5,000. The growth of this section of Ashland was affected
by the Southern Pacific Railroad's Natron Cut-off, a new route that
created a direct route between California and Portland.
Historic views of the Railroad
Addition from the 1890s to the 1910s
From the National Register collection
After 1927, when Southern Pacific shifted its main route to the
east, the Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District became a quiet
backwater within the larger city, removed from the downtown area's
automobile-related development. During and after World War II, the
old Railroad Addition became the site of affordable residential
and modest industrial uses, while still retaining its historic character
in large part because of the city's local historic district designation.
Today it still retains a strong visual connection to its early days
while having added a number of art galleries and other cultural
attractions. Many of Ashland's historic buildings, sites, and homes
lie within this historic district, including the
John McCall House, the Ashland Cemetery,
the John and Charlotte Pelton House, the
Ashland National Guard Armory, the Peerless
Rooms Building, and the South Wing of the
Ashland Depot Hotel, among others.
The Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District is roughly bounded
by Lithia Way/East Main, Oak, A and 8th sts in Ashland.