Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon

Date added: December 16, 2023 Categories:
West and South elevations (1930)

The Hotel Grand is one of two first-class hotels left standing of the five structures that were in existence in 1930 in Medford, Oregon. Originally named the Barnum Hotel upon its construction in 1914-1915, the building was used continually for residential purposes until 1980 when the organization responsible for the hotel ceased operations. Known as the Hotel Grand since 1927, the building is situated directly east of the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot on North Front Street. As the sole example of hotel architecture created individually by southern Oregon architect Frank Chamberlain Clark, the Hotel Grand possesses all original elements of design on the exterior and has experienced very little alteration there. The setting of the structure, in the core of the railroad district of Medford, remains intact. It is one of the major buildings in the area which also includes the Southern Pacific Depot, an early fire hall, and several older commercial structures. The integrity of materials and workmanship are evident on the exterior of the building which remains little changed. The feeling and association of the Hotel Grand with its significant role in early transportation and commerce in Medford is enhanced by the continued relationship between Front Street and past and present railroad operations in the area.

The building embodies the distinct characteristics of a hotel designed to serve travelers on the railroad cars who wished decent but modest accomodations, and local residents who needed the same. The second surviving hotel, the Medford Hotel, was planned to serve a slightly more distinctive social class of citizen, and located some distance from the railroad, was not immediately as accessible. The Hotel Grand is constructed of brick and faced on the west and south elevations with ivory-glazed bricks. It is one of four major structures in Medford employing glazed bricks. All four were designed by architect Clark.

W. S. Barnum and his family for many years operated the Rogue River Valley Railway Company which linked Jacksonville and Medford. Mr. Barnum played a part that was vital in the development of transportation in southern Oregon. As one of two early 20th-century hotels remaining, the Hotel Grand is an example of a period when the business flourished in Medford. The hotel's significance in the area of transportation lies in its existence as the primary structure connected with the Barnum family, who played a critically important role in the establishment of transportation services in Jackson County. The railway line which they operated for approximately twenty years was built to connect isolated Jacksonville, the county seat, with its larger neighbor, Medford, which sprang up when the Oregon and California Railroad line was established in the area in 1883. In Jacksonville, the small depot remains which served as the western terminal point for the line. The Medford counterpart is gone, but the Hotel Grand, constructed by W. S. Barnum to serve his traveling public remains as evidence of the railroad line's important service.

Of special concern is the immediate threat of demolition to the Hotel Grand. When hotel operations ceased in late 1980, the Fire Marshal closed the building to prevent fire danger caused by transient visitors. Efforts to obtain a Housing and Urban Development grant failed. Earlier the American Legion Post #15, the owners of the property, attempted to demolish the building and construct a large apartment. Interior salvage work, in preparation for demolition, began. The Southern Oregon Historical Society purchased an option to consider conserving the hotel for their use as Society offices. When this was found financially unfeasible for them, another potential buyer was found who plans restoration of the interior for residential purposes, and intends to restore and conserve the exterior's original condition and appearance.

Medford, Oregon townsite was officially founded on December 20th, 1883 as the progressing railroad tracks of the Oregon and California Railroad promised to create the need for homes and business services for eager new residents. Jacksonville, the county seat, was located geographically in the foothills, and the efforts of some of its citizens to secure the railroad route through their town failed when the Oregon and California Railroad realized the expenses such a road would incur. Four men, including Jacksonville banker C. C. Beekman, offered the railroad company twenty acres of land lower in the valley on property owned by the group. They also granted title to every other block in the proposed townsite for railroad ownership. Final settlement was made on December 22nd, 1883, and during that winter forty buildings were constructed as the small community pushed its way toward becoming the largest town in Jackson County. Named by David Loring, a native of Massachusetts, Medford saw its first depot constructed in the middle of Main Street near the railroad tracks. Within six years Jacksonville had suffered severe economic problems and lost many of its citizens to Medford. Most businesses and services were now located in the newer town including two hotel buildings, saloons, livery stables, churches, and mercantile establishments.

A move was made in Jacksonville to gather funds for the construction of a railroad line to connect the little town with its larger neighbor and to increase exchanges between business people and residents who had occasion to travel to the courthouse which was still located at Jacksonville. The firm of Honeyman, DeHart and Company constructed the line in 1890 and the first small train reached Jacksonville on the morning of January 16th, 1891. On February 7th, 1891, the line was officially incorporated as the Rogue River Valley Railway Company. Regular train service brought two trains a day in each direction. The line was successful, but in 1893, when plans to extend the rails to Eagle Point failed, the company was leased to William S. Barnum of Medford for the remainder of the year. He and his sons ran the operation, and fourteen-year-old John Barnum attracted national attention when the cover of the Railway Gazette printed a photograph of the youngest conductor in the nation. Mr. Barnum gave up the lease when it expired late in January 1894.

In February 1900, W. S. Barnum purchased the railroad line for $12,000. He continued to operate the Rogue River Valley Railway Company as a family business. Mr. Barnum was an established citizen with a great number of friends throughout the valley. His trains, however, annoyed Medford residents when they blocked the street crossings, and in May 1905, W. S. Barnum was arrested for breaking a new city ordinance forbidding the blocking of traffic by railroad trains. In December 1907, W. S. Barnum's railroad was the center of new trouble. The Oregon Railroad Commission had ordered that a new depot be constructed in Medford for the Rogue River Valley Railway passengers, and while W. S. Barnum agreed to do so, he planned to move an old wooden shed onto the proposed site. To block this move, the Medford City Council rushed through an extension of the fire ordinance and required that any new structure in the area be built of stone or brick. The Commission sent Oswald West, later governor of Oregon, to Medford to see if the order regarding a new depot had been observed. His visit instigated two years of turmoil which ended in the State Supreme Court in 1909. Mr. West, Medford mayor J. F. Reedy, George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, and a few bystanders walked down to look at the depot. W. S. Barnum, who felt highly pressured by previous encounters with the city fathers, reacted strongly. The Ashland Tidings reported the incident:

"The Strenuous Life at Medford"

Medford, December 11th. In a controversy concerning the city ordinance recently enacted, Mayor J. F. Reddy was assaulted by W. S. Barnum, owner of the Rogue River Valley Railway, and the doctor, hatless, was chased by the infuriated railroad president through the deepest mud on the railroad crossing. Not being able to catch the flying doctor, Barnum hurled a double-bitted axe at him, which failed of its mark by a foot. The doctor secured the axe and made a stand, when bystanders interfered and prevented further trouble.

W. S. Barnum was arrested on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon and was released on bail. The grand jury met and refused to return a true bill. They went so far as to establish his innocence in the matter, denying the evidence provided by all witnesses to the affair. George Putnam, one of the eyewitnesses furiously took the grand jury to task in his next editorial:

"It took them just fifteen minutes to indict a friendless horsethief, a poor old woman, and a penniless forger. They spent three days on the Barnum case and then justified the murderous assault. Deputy District Attorney Reames is a most relentless prosecutor, when a man drops a nickel in the slot machine or takes a drink on Sunday, or a poor fallen creature is caught sinning. Such heinous offenses must be punished; they are dangerous at once to life and limb. But any man can try to brain a man with an axe and secure immunity from the blindfolded representatives of justice."

The members of the grand jury proceeded to indict editor Putnam for libel and events that followed involved participants in a famous Oregon court case which involved Jackson County officials, George Putnam, and eventually the Oregon Supreme Court, as they considered the admissibility of the truth as evidence in a criminal libel case. The libel trial opened on January 9th, 1908, before Judge H. K. Hanna in Jacksonville, and he allowed no testimony regarding the facts of the assault. The District Attorney charged that the editorial written by George Putnam implied corruption of the Grand Jury. When Oswald West, State railroad commissioner and an eyewitness was asked by the defense as to his observation, the State objected and was sustained. George Putman was found guilty of libel. Editors throughout Oregon and California were incensed by the denial of freedom of the press. Articles and editorials appeared in the Oregonian, the Spectator, the Telegram, the Sacramento Bee, and many smaller newspapers in support of Mr. Putman. The case was appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, and on March 9th, 1909, the higher court overruled the decision of the lower court and George Putnam was exonerated.

The Rogue River Valley Railway continued to enjoy a profitable period as population and agriculture boomed in Jackson County. Medford's number of citizens increased dramatically from 1791 in 1900 to 8840 in 1910. The development of large fruit-growing tracts throughout Jackson County brought the great influx of people. By spring 1910, the area around Medford was crowded. The Medford newspaper reported that, ". .. . new residents are arriving in such numbers there are not enough accomodations. A tent city of fifty tents is being put up for housing." The shortage prompted the Barnum family to announce their plans to erect a four-story building at a cost of $75,000. The ground floor would serve as a depot and the upper three floors as hotel rooms. Funds were not forthcoming however, and four years passed before the planned hotel would become a reality.

W. S. Barnum, born in Canada, on July 20th, 1885, lived in New York state until 1884, when he and his wife, Bertha, came west to the Rogue Valley where his parents, James H. and Belinda Barnum had already settled. He first operated a sash and door factory in Medford, and then opened a machine shop. He disposed of that when he purchased the Jacksonville-Medford railroad line. With brief interludes, William S. Barnum owned and operated the railroad line from his purchase of it in early 1900 to April 1st, 1924, when it ceased operation. On July 25th, 1925, W. S. Barnum filed a petition with the Public Service Commission to dismantle the line.

When he and his family decided to erect their railroad area hotel, they hired Medford architect Frank Chamberlain Clark to design the building. Clark's designs were ready early in 1914 and construction was planned. By September 1914, delays had occurred but work was underway. The paper announced:

"Work on the Barnum Hotel, delayed by the non-arrival of foundation lumber is now in full swing."

One year later the same paper described Medford's attributes in a special issue:

"Medford is a city of Fine Hotels and Businesses"

Hotel Medford 1911

Holland Hotel 1911

The pioneer Nash Hotel

Hotel Barnum - This large hotel is in process of erection by W. S. Barnum. It will occupy the entire four stories and will entail an investment of approximately $75,000.

The architect, Frank Chamberlain Clark, had arrived in the Rogue Valley and begun his practice in Ashland in 1903. A recently completed survey of Clark's work has documented over 260 residences, commercial, institutional and agricultural structures as his. The Barnum Hotel is the only hotel documented as solely his. The other example of his hotel work was done in collaboration with Frank J. Forster, New York architect in 1910-1919. Frank Clark was born in Greene, New York, December 27th, 1872. He attended the Cooper Union for two years and then served in the architectural offices of Arthur Curis Longyear and Oscar S. Teale of New York, Robert Williams Gibson of New York, and briefly in 1896 with McKim, Mead and White. Clark came to the West Coast for a respite in late 1896 and worked two years with Frederich Roehrig. He opened his own office in 1899 and went to Arizona to execute projects in Prescott, Tucson and Jerome. He moved to Ashland in 1903 and executed plans for an administration building for the State Normal School. His practice in the valley ended with his death in 1957.

For three years the Barnum Hotel was managed by William H. Barnum, son of W. S. Barnum. He and his wife, Jessie lived in the hotel and in 1916 welcomed a son.

W. H. Barnum died of influenza in October 1918, and was buried in the IOOF Cemetery in Medford. His wife and two-year-old son lay ill in nearby Sacred Heart Hospital while his services were being conducted. After W. H. Barnum's death, his widow continued to manage the hotel. William S. and Bertha Barnum continued to live in their residence just north of the Barnum Hotel. On December 14th, 1927, just two months before his death, W. S. Barnum sold the hotel to J. S. Goswick and his wife. The structure immediately became known as the Hotel Grand. Mr. Barnum died at the age of 73 on February 28th, 1928.

The Goswicks owned and managed the hotel until her death in 1944. Three owners held the property as individuals briefly between 1948 and 1955. In 1955 the Grand Hotel Company bought the Hotel Grand and operated it until April 1980, when they sold it to the American Legion Post #15, Medford, Oregon. The Legion sold it to the Talent Community Services Corporation late in 1980. Throughout the years the hotel functioned as a hotel with the clientele gradually changing throughout the years to house at the last, elderly men and Southern Pacific crews and Continental Trailways drivers.

The Hotel Grand retains its significance as one of the major buildings in Medford associated with the early period of railroad transportation and local commerce. As one of only two remaining hotels out of five major hotel structures that existed in 1930, the Hotel Grand exemplifies a type of structure designed to accommodate the everyday traveler and working population. The Medford Hotel, which stands on west Main Street, on the other hand, often catered to the wealthier traveler and businessman, and housed meetings of organizations such as the University and Colony Clubs, whose membership consisted in large part of eastern members of the fruit industry.

As one of the area's only practicing architects after the turn of the century, Frank Clark had the opportunity and capability to design a variety of building types. These included barns, schools, churches, hotels, airplane hangars, and residences, all in varying styles. There are 32 extant commercial structures designed by Frank Clark of which 16 retain sufficient architectural and environmental qualities to be ranked as primary or secondary. Thirteen of these buildings stand in Medford, including the Garnett-Corey Building (Park Place) and the Fluhrer Bakery Building.

Building Description

The Hotel Grand was constructed in Medford, Oregon in 1914-1915 as a business venture of W. S. Barnum, owner and manager of the Rogue River Valley Railway Company. The four-story hotel exhibits characteristics of the American Renaissance Style, most notably in its symmetry, composition of smooth glazed bricks on two primary elevations, and rustication on the south elevation of the reinforced concrete first story. Large plate glass windows on the west and south elevations are topped by smaller lights. The symmetry of the west and south facade windows is enhanced by poured concrete lintels in a flat arch form. Lintel corners have flared keystones on the fourth-story corner windows. A keystone is also centrally located on each of these lintels. The hotel has a stepped parapet with a cornice detail which includes decorative garlands. Environmental attributes of the Hotel Grand include its location at the heart of the railroad district of Medford. Directly west of the hotel is the Southern Pacific Depot, constructed in 1910-1911. The area still functions as a distinctive part of Medford, set apart now by buildings that are smaller in scale, and older, than most downtown commercial structures. The integrity of the hotel is retained quite thoroughly on the exterior. Minor changes have been made to small parts of the west facade. The interior of the building retains none of its original wall finishing material. All lath and plaster and trim has been removed. The early spatial arrangement of the rooms is discernible since no structural wall members have been removed. The existence of the hotel as one of two such buildings remaining from the early period of Medford's hotel development, and its position as a major building of the railroad district, help offset the interior changes.

Located in Township 37, Range 2 West, Section 17, (Assessor's plat 37 2W 25AA), the Hotel Grand consisted of 58 rentable rooms at the time of its closure. The structure has a rectangular plan on the ground level and a U-shaped form for the upper three stories. The Front Street (west) facade is distinguished by three large bays; formed by extensive plate glass Windows. Similar windows exist on the front portion of the south elevation of the hotel. The central bay on the west facade provided the main entryway to the lobby area. A small walk-in door just north of the main entry afforded access to a former barber shop space. The upper three stories are constructed of common bond brick and rest on top of a reinforced concrete first story. The exterior walls on the west and south elevations are faced with smooth, ivory-toned glazed bricks. The exterior walls inside the U-shaped area have a wooden surface covering and are further protected by thin metal sheeting. The hotel has a flat roof and a parapet which is stepped at regular intervals. The cornice detail of the parapet is enhanced by a narrow masonry course topped by shallow brick corbelling which adds both relief and decorative detail. Additional details on the cornice include stylized garlands and the date, 1915, set into panels.

Windows are one-over-one light with double-hung sashes throughout the structure. The poured concrete lintels which top each window on the west and south elevations are decorated with regularly-patterned variation. Corner bays have central and flared keystones on the lintels. Windows directly beneath these have just a central keystone, and other windows have plain lintels with no keystones. Windows on the east elevation have segmentally arched openings at the tops and fan-shaped relieving arches above them. A fire escape provides emergency exit means on the south elevation.

On the interior of the hotel, in the former lobby area, large central supporting piers remain. The full-size basement has an eight-foot-high ceiling. Softwood floors remain throughout the building. Upper floors are arranged with long central halls and rooms which flank the hallways. A central dog-leg stair provides access to the upper stories. While structurally intact, the stair retains none of its original details. The interior wall material of the hotel originally consisted of lath and plaster. This has been removed, along with the dark-stained plain wood trim which surrounded the windows and doors.

The environmental qualities of the hotel lie primarily in its relationship to the railroad district of Medford. Other structures include the Southern Pacific Depot, constructed in 1910-1911, and various other buildings were erected between the late 1890s and the late 1960s. They include a livery, a fire hall, an early commercial building, a garage, and more modern structures such as a drive-up teller window, and a small bus station. The major route, Front Street, continues to have a close relationship to the railroad tracks, the depot, and the current railroad function. A short distance east of the hotel stands the Medford Elk's Temple, and the Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone building. Medford's Main Street stands two blocks to the south.

Alterations to the exterior of the hotel are not extensive. On the Front Street elevation, the transom lights above one of the large bays have been closed in. Other large windows have been temporarily boarded over to prevent damage and illegal entry. On the interior of the building, salvage work had been carried on in preparation for the demolishing of the structure. After the Southern Oregon Historical Society was allowed to seek a purchase, all demolition proceedings were halted. However, all interior lath and plaster and mouldings have been removed. The elevator shaft remains; the car is gone. No structural members have been altered, thus allowing the original spatial arrangement of the rooms to be easily determined. Baths and lavatories which originally existed on each floor for common use, no longer retain their appliances.

The future plan for the hotel includes rehabilitation of the interior and its continued use for residential purposes. The exterior wall surfaces will be repaired where necessary, physically restored, and retained in their original form and with their original appearance.

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon West and South elevations (1980)
West and South elevations (1980)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon Parapet and window detail west and south elevations (1980)
Parapet and window detail west and south elevations (1980)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon South elevation (1980)
South elevation (1980)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon North elevation (1980)
North elevation (1980)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon West and South elevations (1930)
West and South elevations (1930)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon Main lobby, now dismantled (1980)
Main lobby, now dismantled (1980)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon Main lobby, now dismantled (1980)
Main lobby, now dismantled (1980)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon Current lobby space (1983)
Current lobby space (1983)

Barnum Hotel - Hotel Grand, Medford Oregon Interior of second floor room (1983)
Interior of second floor room (1983)