Ashland, Oregon is home to the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with performances throughout the spring, summer and fall. We found there’s much more ado about Ashland than just Shakespeare and we set out to explore.
By the time we get rolling, it’s time to eat. So what’s new? We love food and enjoy hanging out in small restaurants in the heart of town. We come upon a cute little place along side the Ashland Creek and pull up a table on the patio. Greenleaf Restaurant has tasty food and offers a gluten free menu along with a few vegetarian options.
While we are eating, we enjoy the sound of water rushing down the riverbed. Peaking over the edge we spot a foot path that leads into Lithia Park. Lithia Park is 93 acres of forested canyonland around Ashland Creek, stretching from the downtown plaza up toward its headwaters near Mount Ashland. Its name originates from lithium oxide or “lithia,” which is found in the stream water. Lithium oxide water, found in a nearby spring in 1907, was thought to provide positive health benefits. The park has tennis and pickleball courts, a sand-pit volleyball court, picnic areas and miles of hiking trails.
Butler Perozzi Fountain is one of the beautiful sights you will encounter. Lithia Park began as only 8 acres in 1892 as a place for entertainment and cultural arts. The development of today’s park began in 1914 with the hiring of John McLaren who was also the designer of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park as a landscape architect. In 1982, 42 of the park’s 93 acres were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Oh yes, Shakespeare is a big deal in Ashland! The festival began in 1935 and has since grown to three theaters. From inception in 1935 through the end of the 2015 season (except during the war years 1941–1946) the Festival has presented all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays a total of 303 times! Three plays are staged in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, three in the Thomas Theatre, and five in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Each season continues to include three to five Shakespeare plays along with a wide range of classic and contemporary plays.
Hail the Bard! All around town you will see Shakespeare banners, buildings with references to “The Bard” and hotels named after him.
Ashland Elks Lodge built in 1910, is situated less than one block from Ashland’s celebrated Shakespeare Festival and is one of the largest buildings in town. The view from the upstairs bar is very dramatic.
Teddy Roosevelt, the grand old man of Lithia park’s animal life. Teddy, a 7 point elk, was purchased from a California game farm by a group of Elks and presented to the City of Ashland. The city kept him in a pen in the zoo at the upper end of Lithia Park. Over the years he became quite an attraction and drew many visitors to the zoo. As old age started to catch up with him, he started to turn mean. It was then decided that Teddy should live out his remaining days in the wild. He was taken to Ashland Gap and released. But, as the story goes, the wilds were not to his liking and he was waiting for his benefactors at the pen gate when they returned to town. Teddy was given back to the Ashland Lodge.
After his death he was stuffed and mounted. His meat provided the Brothers with four big barbecue banquets that year. Since his death in 1936, Teddy has been on display in the Ashland lodge. He survived the 1968 fire and was the center piece of the Ashland Elks float in the 4th of July parade of 1978.
Next time you are passing through Ashland Oregon, make sure to stop by and grab a bite to eat by the creek, brush up on your Shakespeare and, if you are a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, stop by and say hi to Teddy!