In December 1851, two prospectors from California discovered gold on Jackson Creek, a small tributary of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. The two, James Cluggage and James Poole, began operating placers in January 1852. By that time, the California gold rush had brought prospectors as far north as Yreka, California. When the miners from southern Oregon arrived on Yreka to re-provision, news of the Jackson Creek discovery spread quickly. According to one account, a group of Californian miners watched one of the drunken new arrivals, and after he had secured provisions, followed him back to his camp in Oregon, where "two or three others were mining on the sly. [They] went to work prospecting and found a rich creek and in a short time a thousand miners from California had overrun the whole country." A boom town soon covered the landscape with a mass of tents and shanties.
Peter Britt, a Swiss landscape and portrait painter, arrived in Jacksonville in 1852, and established the first photography studio in Oregon. The Britt House represented the rural charm of country Gothic architecture popular for a brief period in the United States. In 1860, the first part of the house was constructed as a single block with dormer windows lighting the second level. In the late 1880's a higher studio wing containing a sky-light was added at right angles to the first structure. After Britt's death in 1907, in 1912 a third addition of a second story was constructed onto the kitchen wing. Wall construction consisted of wood frame with rock foundations. A fire in 1960, completely leveled the house, yet a major share of the exterior trim was preserved. Since that time, the maze gardens about the house have been turned into a city park owned by the Britt Estate and the State of Oregon.
The corner where the Fisher Brothers Store and the Bella Union Saloon stand is the oldest known business site in Jacksonville. Kenny and Appler opened the first store there in February 1852; by 1855, references were made to the "old Kenny and Appler Corner," indicating that it had been the site of some kind of business structure for several years. In 1856, Kenny divided the property into two lots. He sold the east half of the land "joining Mrs. Gass on the east" to James Burpee and David Linn, and mortgaged the west part of the lot to Frank Brown for $1,500, securing money to pay the mortgage by remortgaging the land to James Hamlin in March 1857. Apparently Kenny needed the money to rebuild his store, since in that same year Love and Bilger secured a mechanic's lien "upon [Kenny's] new store house situated on the corner of California and Oregon Streets" for labor, tin, solder, zinc, iron, and pipe. Kenny seems not to have been a good businessman, since he could satisfy his debt to James Hamlin only by granting him a half interest and entering into a partnership in which Kenny contributed "his skill and services as a Salesman and Clerk" in the business of "buying selling and vending all sorts of Goods, Wares and Merchandise." Even with the partnership, the business did not prosper; in February 1862, A. Fisher and Brothers purchased the business and store for $4,000 from the sheriff. The sale was to satisfy outstanding debts amounting to $4,345 in favor of Joseph Leach and against James and Eliza Hamlin, Thomas Kenny, William G. Kenny, Rhoda Kenny, the minor heirs Daniel M. Kenny (deceased) under the guardianship of William T'Vault and Elizabeth Kenny, John Woods, C.C. Beekman, and E.C. Sessions. In 1863, Fisher advertised his brick store at the corner of Oregon and California Streets. Until the 1890s, the store remained in Fisher's ownership, although he sometimes operated the business in partnership with someone else.
In 1856, Mary Ann Harris bought the lot on the northeast corner of Third and C Streets from Alexander and Maria Benjamin for $500.00. The house, which dates from about that time, is a simple, A-roofed structure with a three bay facade. The central doorway is flanked by four pane over four pane double hung sash windows; the gable window is also a double hung sash. The architraves are plain boards with a moulding surround. The porch, with lattice columns and bracketing, covers the facade. The rafter/moulding also rakes along the sides of the gable end; on the underside, the rafter and purlin ends are exposed. Mrs. Harris apparently bought the house after her husband was killed and she moved to Jacksonville from her farm. According to local tradition, the Harris's cabin was surrounded by Indians, who killed her husband. Finding herself surrounded, Mrs. Harris determined to defend the house, firing at Indians from different windows to convince them that several persons were defending the place. After several hours, the Indians retreated and Mrs. Harris and her daughter escaped into the brush country, where they spent the night. The following day, a party of militia patrolling the road discovered the women and escorted them to Jacksonville.
The lot on the corner of California and Third Streets was for many years known as the site of the New State Saloon, one of the longest operating businesses in Jacksonville. In 1857 James Peters acquired the lot from James Cluggage for $250; the following year it was sold to L.S. Thompson for $1,500. Late in 1857, William McLaughlin was advertising his New State Saloon at that location, so Peters probably erected a new building during the short time he owned the land. The structure was frame and evidently had two stories: James Fey advertised his attorney's office "over the New State Saloon," and J. Forsyth's tailor shop was advertised "on the second floor of the New State Block."
The present United States Hotel, built in 1878-80, stands on the site of a previous frame hotel known variously as the Robinson House, the Union Hotel, and the United States Hotel. In 1853, Jesse Robinson claimed "by preemption and actual occupation" most of block three with the Robinson House; later in that year, he mortgaged the property to John Layton and John Woodruff and, before paying the mortgage fully, remortgaged it to John Layton. The mortgage was satisfied by selling the hotel to Layton in April, 1855; Layton in turn sold it to Austin Badger and Nelson Smith, who changed the name to the Union Hotel. In 1856, Smith sold his interest to Badger, who became the sole proprietor.
This house, one of the last -- and certainly the largest and most pretentious -- to be built in Jacksonville, was constructed on the north side of town for prominent merchant Jeremiah Nunan and his wife between 1891-92. Unlike most of the other buildings in Jacksonville, the Nunan house was designed by an architect -- George Franklin Barber of Knoxville, Tennessee. Barber's plans were selected from his architectural pattern book-catalog, "The Cottage Souvenir."
The second edition of 1892 advertised that "this house was erected from our plans at Taylorville, Ill., and Jacksonville, Oregon." Although the actual cost of construction is unknown, the advertisement placed the cost of executing this plan at between $6,000 and $7,500. H.F. Wood of Jacksonville was the builder.
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