Home » Jacksonville, Oregon: Small Town Gold by Peggy Dover
downtown jacksonville
Downtown Jacksonville

In 1851, gold mining hopefuls flooding Jacksonville, Oregon hadn’t a clue their dreams of striking it rich would lay the foundation for a town prized by residents and visited by people from all over the world. With a population of 3,000, Jacksonville’s size is perfection for a no-hassle getaway.

City-wide respect for and preservation of a robust history makes this charming town what it is today—irresistible. The downtown streets are flanked with original red brick buildings from the once Wild West. Now they house locally-owned shops, restaurants and wine bars. Picturesque Jacksonville has not only survived, it thrives.

Self-guided maps of homes and businesses listed on the Historic Register are available at the Visitor Information Center, so sightseers can amble through history at their own pace. When riding is preferred, climb aboard the town’s beloved trolley from May through October and take a narrated tour. The iconic trolley bell clang is a welcome sound that signals fun and nostalgia for all ages.

The Beekman House, 1870s home of early banker and entrepreneur, Cornelius Beekman, and Beekman Bank, open their doors to small group tours to view original family furnishings, heirlooms, and the vault with inner workings of the first and oldest financial institution in Oregon.

Local fine artists exhibit their work at Art Presence Art Center, a gallery transformed from the original county jailhouse.

The town boasts nearly twenty independently-owned lodgings—most tucked inside masterfully restored historical homes. Some may be rented for an entire season, when guests find leaving difficult. Restaurants and pubs, many offering live music on weekends, are within walking distance, and local chefs pride themselves on creating delicious, locally-sourced cuisine. Hungry visitors can satisfy their cravings with a variety of options—from savory BBQ to sushi, and from Thai, Italian, Mexican and classic American fare to fine dining, as well as three charming coffee houses.

Wine enthusiasts have struck the motherlode in Jacksonville. Over eighty vineyards and fifty tasting rooms serve the Rogue and Applegate Valleys’ impressive reputation for delicious wine and diverse varietals. Four are in town, and several lie within a scenic twenty-minute drive. As our city motto states, Jacksonville is truly the heart of Southern Oregon wine country.

The widely popular Britt Festival, named for Peter Britt, pioneer photographer and botanist, kicks off the summer and runs through September. The Britt Festival Orchestra and top-shelf musical entertainment arrive from all over the country to grace the amphitheater stage. All season long, folks come to the tree-encircled hill to spread a blanket, kick back, and enjoy their favorite artists.

Autumn provides a splendid backdrop for a visit, with leaves turning spice shades, and summer sun easing back for cooler days–perfect for hiking the woodlands or a drive through the verdant Applegate Valley. Fall brings haunted history tours to lend a chill as guides tell of strange but true early happenings. Climb aboard the Haunted Trolley for a dark and spooky roll through town at night.

After Thanksgiving, a month-long Victorian Christmas celebration commences, when families come together and the jolly old town transforms into a cozy Victorian village. With buildings draped in white lights and greenery, Christmas may be the pinnacle of small-town Jacksonville’s warmth. The season begins with a community tree lighting and carol singing, then Father Christmas arrives in the festively lit trolley. The following weekend, streets are lined with visitors from all over to watch the Victorian Christmas parade, with Father Christmas as the finale.

Jacksonville, Oregon is definitely a 24 karat nugget of small-town America. Visit www.jacksonvilleoregon.org to start making plans today.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/columnist living the good life in Southern Oregon. Reach her at peggydover@gmail.com

You may also like