3/08/2018

Taverns in Historic Buildings -- Southern Oregon

While the first Euro-American settlers came to southern Oregon as trappers, urban development in Southern Oregon was initially driven by the California Gold Rush. Many Oregon prospectors streamed to the area from the Willamette Valley in 1848-1849 after word of a gold strike at Sutter's Mill spread throughout the country. Additional discoveries in the Illinois Valley (known as "Sailor's Diggings"), Waldo, Rich Gulch, and Althouse established the importance of the area as a gold mining region. A small mining camp at the head of the confluence of Jackson and Daisy Creeks quickly developed into the town of Jacksonville, and the town was named the county seat in 1852.

There's a lot of history to explore in the Rogue River Valley, and having a solid list of pubs while visiting the area is essential. What's even better is visiting an establishment that is situated in a historical landmark. We've scoured the area for some the best pubs in historical buildings to try.

1. Homestead Pub & Restaurant (119 E Main Street in Rogue River). Originally named Woodville, the town of Rogue River began with a river crossing, known as Evans Ferry, along the California-Oregon Trail. The ferry was set up during the gold rush days of the 1850s. When Mark Whipple opened the Homestead Tavern in 1906, he had a booming business until Prohibition was enacted in 1914. The tavern was converted into a grocery store, cafe and real estate office until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed. Ward Wills, who ran the cafe, converted the market back into a pool hall and bar and named the entire complex the "Homestead" in 1935.

Historical Image from "Rogue River" By Cheryl Martin Sund

The Homestead Pub still has the large neon "H" sign that was added in the 1960s.  Currently the Homestead bills itself as a pub AND restaurant even though it still appears to be more the former than the later. The bar has live music weekly with shuffleboard and pool tables. The menu was standard pub fare, burgers, sandwiches (with excellent French fries), but slim pickins' for vegetarians with only one option.  There is full bar with about 8 beer taps that are dominated by Bud-Miller-Coors monopoly however they do offer a couple good local craft beers.  The friendly clientele is what you would expect from any Southern Oregon dive bar, gravelly-voiced eye-patch-wearing grandmas rubbing elbows with local pot farmers.



2. J'ville Tavern (125 W California Street, Jacksonville). Built in 1856, the J'ville Tavern at 125 W California St, Jacksonville was originally a general merchandise store named Anderson & Glenn General Merchandise. One of the first merchants to sell supplies to the area's gold seekers, John Anderson established his business in this small, rectangular fireproof brick building. The store survived two of Jacksonville's major fires in 1874 and 1884. Anderson joined in partnership with James Glenn, large landowner and town treasurer, in 1859. The men continued to operate a dry goods store here until 1866 or 1867, when the business became Glenn, Drum and Co. In the 1870s, the business operated as Martin and Drum, and then as White and Martin. However, John Anderson maintained ownership of the building until 1877 when it was sold by his widow to Louis Solomon. It was used continuously as a merchandise store until the turn of the century.

Bird's Eye View of Jacksonville 1883 from the Library of Congress

While several businesses have operated here, the J'ville Tavern is currently occupying the building.


Inside, the J-ville Tavern has a full bar, friendly staff and a very respectable tap line-up.  This is not really a place to get food, just more of a watering hole to escape the scorching summer heat or to rehydrate after a day of hiking/biking the surrounding hills.  Hundreds (thousands?) of dollar bills have been pinned to the ceiling by various customers.  The bills are apparently harvested once per year with the money going to a local charity.  Pretty cool. 


3. Grape Street Bar & Grill (31 S Grape Street, Medford). 
In the early 20th century this site on Grape Street (29 and 31 Grape St.) was occupied by a large building used as a livery stable with a blacksmith shop. The Grape Street Bar & Grill building, formerly known as the Davis Storage Warehouse, was most likely was constructed in 1921 after a fire in the old West Side Feed & Sale Stable next door. After construction, the Davis Transfer and Storage Company operated a moving and shipping business here and in the adjacent stable building until the mid-1930s. During WWII, the buildings operated as the City Transfer Company. These two companies (Davis and City Transfer) were among the three or four transfer businesses that existed in Medford at that time. Orchards and ranches relied heavily on them to transport their produce and supplies to and from the railroad freight depot. The building was eventually sold and used as an automobile garage from the mid-1950s through late 1970s. It still has an industrial look with large multi-pane windows and central bay.

The West Side Feed & Sale Stable Building next door at 29 Grape Street in 1909 (National Park Service)
Building front as it looks today with the West Side Feed & Sale Stable Building next door

Interior with exposed brick walls
Today the newly opened Grape Street Bar and Grill occupies the space in addition to a nice patio out-back.  This is a great place to grab a pint and a bite to eat.  Grape Street has a full bar with about 20 really good (mostly Oregon and California) micro brew taps.  The Happy Hour specials here are the best around with dollar off drinks and two dollars off appetizers.  The garlic fries are pretty awesome.  There is live music on the weekends and Tuesdays.  The Tuesday sessions alternate between either blues or jazz.


4. Climate City Brewery (509 SW G Street, Grants Pass). 
The original use for the Climate City Brewery building was.... a brewery! The Grants Pass Brewery was first established at this location in 1887 by William Neurath who built it near his well adjacent to Gilbert Creek. Neurath sold the brewery’s rights to Eugene and Marie Kienlen in 1891 who emigrated from Minnesota. The original building was wooden, which was destroyed in the 1902 fire along with many other buildings on G Street. Kienlen rebuilt the brewery with fireproof brick. Kienlen transferred the property to his wife in 1904 after he learned of a serious illness which took his life that same year. Marie held the business until 1908, when Grants Pass passed a local prohibition ordinance. The business subsequently closed down. Other businesses operated here including a saddle and harness store, a granary, grocery store, warehouse, art gallery, and restaurant.

Grants Pass Brewery Historical photo from "Grants Pass" by Joan Momsen and Oregon Brew Lab
1890 Sanborn Map depicting Grants Pass Brewery

Today, you can still dine and drink some locally brewed craft beer on a comfortable patio situated next to Gilbert Creek. If you choose to stay inside, you'll enjoy dining in a rustic atmosphere with tall ceilings, exposed duct work, wood beams, and exposed brick walls.


Acacia Cooper started as brewmaster at Climate City in May 2016. There is an extensive list of house beers available currently including (as of this writing):

Rainie Falls Red ABV 5.5%, IBU 50
Bigfoot Bourbon Porter ABV 6.6%, IBU 32
Fireside Dark Ale ABV 6.8%, IBU 37
Citrodora Strong Ale ABV 6.9%, IBU 37
Hyperion Porter ABV 6.5%, IBU 32
Hot Shot Smoked Helles ABV 5.1%, IBU 28
Winter Wonderbier  ABV 7.6%, IBU 20
Takilma Kolsch  ABV 5.0%, IBU 28
Nookie IPA  AVB 7.2%, IBU 80
"No Stout About It" Stout  ABV 5.6%, IBU 26
Savage IPA  ABV 7.0%, IBU 90
River Town Brown ABV 5.0%, IBU 20
Maracuya Gose ABV 4.5%, IBU 18
Ray's Imperial Red ABV 7.2%, IBU 53
Powerhouse 100 Double IPA ABV 8.2%, IBU 100
Roguator Dopplebock ABV 7.0%, IBU 33
Yellowbelly Blonde ABV 5.4%, IBU 21
French Roast Coffee Stout ABV 5.6%, IBU 26

Happy Hour food is served Tuesday-Friday from 3pm-6pm.  On weekdays Climate City has one of the best lunch specials around:  ten bucks for a burger, fries and a pint!

5. Omer's Restaurant (1380 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland). 
Located near the Southern Oregon University campus, Omer's Restaurant is part of Ashland's history as its oldest restaurant and first public cocktail lounge. The restaurant, opened in 1946 by Omer and Hazel Hill, was built by the owners themselves. They planned to call it "Omer's" but the sign painter incorrectly spelled it as "Omar's."

When you step inside it's like stepping back in time. The booths and Formica tables may even be original. While the restaurant has changed hands, the restaurant's website provides some background on the original owners.


According to a Jefferson Public Radio story, Ashland’s mayor encouraged Omer to open a cocktail lounge in the 1950s because the Elks Club and a few other places served only beer and wine and shut down early. The vintage signs are still in use and the building hasn't changed much since then.