Southern Oregon ’s pioneer past is vividly preserved in Jacksonville. Located five miles west of Medford  and cradled in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, this small town of 2,400 residents retains an atmosphere of tranquil isolation. With more than 100 original wooden and brick buildings dating back to the 1850s, it was the first designated National Historic Landmark District in Oregon and the third of eight such sites in the nation.
Named in honor of President Andrew Jackson and the town’s namesake county, Jacksonville was surveyed in September 1851 into 200-foot-square blocks. Then as now, California and Oregon Streets were the hubs of Jacksonville business and social life. But the city’s tightly packed wooden structures proved to be especially prone to fire. Between 1873 and 1884, three major fires reduced most of the original buildings to ash.
These harsh experiences prompted merchants to use brick in the construction of a second generation of buildings, and the practice was bolstered by an 1878 city ordinance requiring brick construction. Most of the bricks were made and fired locally. To protect them from the elements and the damp season, the porous bricks were painted; cast-iron window shutters and door frames further reinforced the structures.
Boomtown Jacksonville was the first and largest town in the region, and it was selected as the county seat. It was even nominated and briefly considered for the state capital. The prominence of Jacksonville was made manifest with the 1883 erection of a 60-foot-high courthouse with 14-inch-thick walls.
But like the gold finds that quickly dwindled, Jacksonville’s exuberance faded when the Oregon and California Railroad bypassed the town in the early 1880s in favor of nearby Medford . Businesses were quick to move east to greet the coming of the iron horse, and Jacksonville’s stature as a trading center diminished. By the time the county seat was moved to Medford in 1925, Jacksonville’s heady days had long since vanished.
During the Depression, families with low incomes took up residence in the town’s derelict buildings, taking advantage of the cheap rents. Gold mining enjoyed a brief comeback, with residents digging shafts and tunnels in backyards, but it was not enough to revive the derailed economy. However, the following decades saw a gradual resurgence of interest in Jacksonville’s gold-rush heritage.
The Southern Oregon Historical Society was created after World War II, and individuals began to care for the many unaltered late-1880s buildings and restore them to their former glory. The Beekman Bank was one of the first structures to be spruced up, and the prominent United States Hotel was rehabilitated in 1964. The restoration movement was rewarded when the National Park Service designated Jacksonville a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Today, Jacksonville paints a memorable picture of a Western town with its historic buildings, excellent museum, and beautiful pioneer cemetery. In addition, a renowned music festival, colorful pageants, and rich local folklore all pay tribute to Jacksonville’s golden age.