Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Medford's West School

In 1884, within a year of founding their city, the citizens of Medford passed a tax levy to construct the city’s first public school. Later known as West School (presumably after they built another school building to the east), Medford’s house of education was a fine two story wood frame building with interesting stick detailing on the exterior and a belltower on the top. It stood on Oakdale, near Main street, where the Jackson County Courthouse stands today.

In 1891 Medford decided to build a new school building on the site (a brick structure that would be known as Washington Elementary). Local businessman A. A. Davis, president of the Medford Roller Mill, purchased the school building and moved it to a lot on 10th Street, near Oakdale, behind the Catholic Church. Davis, a wealthy landowner, entirely remodeled the old school as his residence, stripping off the belltower and building a fine two-story Temple Front porch as the entry. To the east he had a porte cochere, a covered driveway, built to create a dignified appearance.

After Davis, the house was occupied by another pioneer family, the Alfords, and then during WWII was transformed into an apartment complex, the “Colonial Arms.” It remained as apartments, falling on harder and harder times, until 1976 when two attorneys purchased the place and decided to transform it into offices. Their major remodel was longer on heart than quality but the building housed a host of professional uses including the Britt Festival administration, before it was purchased by Sacred Heart Catholic Church, for use as the church offices.

Today, 40 years after the well-intentioned remodel, the wood siding is failing, woodpeckers have discovered the place, and the non-insulated walls and ceilings are creating huge heating and cooling bills. We are working on some specifications to guide a major rehab project, replacing the poor 1976 siding with new material after installing wall cavity insulation, shear, and better venting. The windows will be rebuilt and improved, some bad design decisions will be corrected and, all-in-all, the building will get a new, and improved, lease on life. Think of it as the 120-year tune up.

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