Sunday, November 25, 2012

Littrell Building, Medford...Pieces of the Past

The Littrell Building, which stood at the corner of 6th and Bartlett in Medford’s downtown historic district, was designed by Frank Chamberlain Clark and built by Elmer Childers for local investor John Tomlin in 1936.  Its original tenant, a Safeway market, occupied the prominent corner volume until 1945 when E. A. Littrell purchased the building and moved his auto parts company there.  Littrell expanded to the east, doubling the space and matching the design.  The company occupied this corner for more than four decades.
Next, Lithia Auto purchased the Littrell Building and used it as part of their downtown service complex.  In 2006, with funding from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency (MURA), Lithia undertook a façade renovation and brought the structure back to some of its original cool design, painting the engaged columns and the nifty shield-like finials. I think they even won an award.

Alas, as Lithia began to design its new corporate home, and the adjacent development and park blocks that are to be known as “The Commons,” in downtown Medford, the Littrell Building was demolished.  Lithia agreed to keep the finials (and the sign block) and will use most of them as landscape elements in the new park, along with some interpretative material on this history.  They also plan to keep the “arch” from the old Greyhound Bus Depot (1949), a great Streamline Moderne building that was designed by Clark’s partner, Robert Keeney.  The future of that, unfortunately, is somewhat up in the air, but I’m hopeful that vision will out and the restored arch will remain as part of the design.  I imagine there will be more on that later.
Anyway, some of the finials turned out to be extras and I was pleased to be able to save two of them.  They are happily on display as yard art….not a perfect preservation solution by any means, but certainly better than the dump, and surely mitigated by the fact that the majority will be restored and retained in the new Commons park.  These little curiosities, I think, serve a vital role for those times when a building can’t be otherwise saved.  They make people ask questions…and they remind us that things, even parts of things, are worth saving and have value.  In the meantime, if you know anybody that wants a three-ton 48" x 96" or so 8" thick chuck of concrete that proudly proclaims "Littrell Bldg." let me know.


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  2. I wonder if MURA will be paid back for investing in the restoration? If I read your post correctly it is has been just 5 years since they received the city (?) funds. That amount of time is quite short considering the investment and plans that have been in the works for the last couple of years for the Lithia headquarters. Bummer!

  3. Well Heather, its actually more complicated than that. MURA probably put about 15K into the renovation project a few years ago, but the Agency is a major partner with Lithia in the development of the Commons, paying about $14million, so I doubt there is much incentive to get the Facade money back. It is a bummer, though.

  4. Thanks for the interesting post! I was researching Mr. Littrell's home that was built in 1950 - I'm working on a list of Paul Revere Williams homes and he designed E A. and Frances Littrell's home in Medford. As an architectural historian its always wonderful to see buildings that can't be saved reused in some way - I love what you did with your finials :) Thanks again!

    1. Thank you for comment. Williams, as you likely know, designed two other residences in Medford. The first, for Harry & Eleanor Holmes was recently sold and is being renovated for use as a hospice center. The other, for Glenn Jackson, remains a private residence.