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Medford is a city in, and county seat of, Jackson County, Oregon, United States. As of July 1, 2017, the city had a total population of 81,780 and a metropolitan area population of 217,479, making the Medford MSA the fourth largest metro area in Oregon. The city was named in 1883 by David Loring, civil engineer and right-of-way agent for the Oregon and California Railroad, after Medford, Massachusetts, which was near Loring’s home town of Concord, Massachusetts. Medford is near the middle ford of Bear Creek.
In 1883, a group of railroad surveyors headed by S. L. Dolson and David Loring arrived in Rock Point, near present-day Gold Hill. They were charged with finding the best route through the Rogue Valley for the Oregon and California Railroad. Citizens of neighboring Jacksonville hoped that it would pass between their town and Hanley Butte, near the present day Claire Hanley Arboretum. Such a move would have all but guaranteed prosperous growth for Jacksonville, but Dolson decided instead to stake the railroad closer to Bear Creek. The response from Jacksonville was mixed, but the decision was final. By November 1883, a depot site had been chosen and a surveying team led by Charles J. Howard was hard at work platting the new town. They completed their work in early December 1883, laying out 82 blocks for development.
James Sullivan Howard, a merchant and surveyor, claimed to have built the town's first building in January 1884, though blacksmith Emil Piel was advertising for business at the "central depot" in the middle of December 1883. Others point out the farms of town founders Iradell Judson Phipps and Charles Wesley Broback, which were present before the town was platted. Regardless, on February 6, 1884 (less than a month after it was built), J. S. Howard's store became Medford's first post office, with Howard serving as postmaster. The establishment of the post office led to the incorporation of Medford as a town by the Oregon Legislative Assembly on February 24, 1885, and again as a city in 1905. Howard held the position of postmaster for Medford's first ten years, and again held the post upon his death on November 13, 1919.
The beginning of the 20th century was a transitional period for the area. Medford built a new steel bridge over Bear Creek to replace an earlier one which washed away three years before. Without a bridge, those wanting to cross had to ford the stream, typically using a horse-drawn wagon; the first automobile did not arrive in Medford until 1903. Pharmacist George H. Haskins had opened a drugstore just after the town was platted, and in 1903 he allowed the Medford Library Association to open a small library in that store. Five years later the library moved to Medford's new city hall, in another four years, Andrew Carnegie's donation allowed a dedicated library to be built. Construction on the Medford Carnegie Library was completed in 1912.
In 1927, Medford took the title of county seat of Jackson County away from nearby Jacksonville.
In 1967, Interstate 5 was completed immediately adjacent to downtown Medford to replace the Oregon Pacific Highway. It has been blamed for the decline of small businesses in downtown Medford since its completion, but nevertheless remains an important route for commuters wishing to travel across the city. In fact, a study completed in 1999 found that 45% of vehicles entering I-5 from north Medford heading south exited in south Medford, just three miles (5 km) away.
The high volume of traffic on Interstate 5 led to the completion of a new north Medford interchange in 2006. The project, which cost about $36 million, improved traffic flow between I-5 and Crater Lake Highway. Further traffic problems identified in south Medford prompted the construction of another new interchange, costing $72 million. The project began in 2006 and was completed in 2010.
Since the 1990s, Medford has dedicated an appreciable amount of resources to urban renewal in an attempt to revitalize the downtown area. Several old buildings have been restored, including the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater and the Prohibition era Cooley-Neff Warehouse, now operating as Pallet Wine Company, an urban winery. Streets have been realigned, new sidewalks, traffic signals, and bicycle lanes were installed, and two new parking garages have been built. Downtown Medford also received a new library building to replace the historic Medford Carnegie Library and now boasts satellite campuses for both Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University.
Economic problems in 2008 and 2009 put a hold on The Commons project, a collaboration between the city of Medford and Lithia Motors. The project, one of the largest undertaken in downtown in recent years, aims to provide more parking, recreation, and commerce to the area. Before the work stopped, the Greyhound Bus depot was moved and $850,000 was spent replacing water lines. The Commons is anchored by the new corporate headquarters of Lithia Motors, Inc. (NYSE: LAD). Included in The Commons are two public park blocks slated to be informal public gathering areas as well as an area for special events such as the farmer's market. Ground breaking for the project was April 22, 2011, with a Phase 1 completion date of 2012.
Medford is located approximately 27 miles (43 km) north of the northern California border at 42.3°N. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.74 square miles (66.67 km2), of which, 25.73 square miles (66.64 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water. The Pacific Ocean is about 75 miles (121 km) west of the city, and is the nearest coast. The nearest river is the Rogue River (8 mi or 13 km), and the nearest lake is Agate Lake (13 mi or 21 km).
Nearby cities include Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Ashland, Roseburg, Redding (California), and Crescent City (California). Medford is 229 miles (369 km) from Salem, the capital of Oregon.
The nearest interstate highway is I-5, which runs northwest-southeast through the center of the city. The nearest junctions with other interstate highways are with I-84 in Portland (273 mi or 439 km) and I-80 in Sacramento (309 mi or 497 km). Medford also serves as a junction for Oregon Routes 99, 238, 62, and nearby 140 (6 mi or 9.7 km).
Medford is also situated in the remains of ancient volcanic flow areas as demonstrated by the Upper and Lower Table Rock lava formations and nearby Mount McLoughlin and Crater Lake, which is the remains of Mount Mazama. In the late spring/early summer the snow on the slopes of Mount McLoughlin melt away into a formation called the "angel wings," which Native American tribes interpreted as an osprey, an indicator of the beginning of salmon run.
Medford sits in a rain shadow between the Cascade Range and Siskiyou Mountains called the Rogue Valley. As such, most of the rain associated with the Pacific Northwest and Oregon in particular skips Medford, making it drier and sunnier than the Willamette Valley. Medford’s climate is considerably warmer, both in summer and winter, than its latitude would suggest, with a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa). Summers are akin to Eastern Oregon, and winters resemble the coast. Here, summer sees an average of 57 afternoons over 90 °F or 32.2 °C and eleven afternoons over 100 °F or 37.8 °C. In August 1981, the high temperature reached over 110 °F or 43.3 °C for four consecutive days, with two days reaching 114 °F or 45.6 °C. Freezing temperatures occur on 69 mornings during an average year, and in some years there may be a day or two where the high stays at or below freezing; the average window for freezing temperatures is October 23 through April 23. The city is located in USDA hardiness zone 8. Medford also experiences temperature inversions in the winter which during its lumber mill days produced fog so thick that visibility could be reduced to less than five feet. These inversions can last for weeks; some suggest this is because the metropolitan area has one of the lowest average wind speeds of all American metropolitan areas. The heavy fog returns nearly every winter with the inversions lowering air quality for several months without relief.
Medford residents do experience snowfall during the winter months; however, due to the weather shadow effect it only averages 3.6 inches or 0.09 metres and melts fairly quickly. In the past, the city has seen seasonal snowfall totals reach 31 inches or 0.79 metres in 1955–1956. That season was also the wettest "rain year" with a total of 33.41 inches (848.6 mm); this immediately followed the driest "rain year" since records started in 1911 from July 1954 to June 1955 when only 9.28 inches (235.7 mm) was recorded. By far the wettest month has been December 1964 with 12.72 inches (323.1 mm); no other month has had more than 10 inches or 254 millimetres. The wettest day on record has been December 2, 1962 with 3.30 inches (83.8 mm).
The lowest recorded temperature in Medford was −10 °F (−23.3 °C) on December 13, 1919, and the highest recorded temperature was 115 °F (46 °C) on July 20, 1946.
Medford has a council-manager style of government. The governing body of Medford consists of an elected mayor and eight city council members, two from each of four wards. The council hires a professional city manager to run the day-to-day operations of the city including the hiring of city staff.
The mayor and council members are not paid, but are reimbursed for expenses.
The current mayor of Medford is Gary Hale Wheeler. He was first elected mayor in November 2004 with 16,653 of 28,195 votes (59%), reelected in 2008 with 21,651 of 22,211 votes (97.5%), reelected again in 2012 with about 97 percent of the votes, and reelected again in 2016 with about 56 percent of the votes for a term ending in December 2020.
Wheeler is an optometrist with an office in Medford. Prior to his election, he spent thirteen years on the Medford Urban Renewal Agency Board and served in the US Army where he also practiced optometry.
Medford municipal code divides the city into four wards, each represented by two city council members. Every biennium, one member from each ward is elected to serve a four-year term, creating an overlap where half of the eight-member council remains in office while the other half must campaign for reelection.
The city manager position is held by Brian Sjothun, the former Medford Parks and Recreation Director.
Medford's economy is driven primarily by the health care industry. The two major medical centers in the city, Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and Providence Medford Medical Center, employ over 2,000 people. As Medford is also a retirement destination, assisted living and senior services have become an important part of the economy.
In the past, Medford's economy was fueled by agriculture (pears, peaches, viticulture grapes) and timber products. The largest direct marketer of fruits and food gifts in the United States, Harry and David Operations Corp., is based in Medford. It is the largest employer in Southern Oregon, with 1,700 year round and about 6,700 seasonal employees in the Medford area. Lithia Motors, a Fortune 500 company and the 4th largest auto retailer in the U.S., has been headquartered in Medford since 1970 and was started in Ashland in 1946, named for a nearby springs.
Other companies located in the city include Benchmark Maps, Falcon Northwest, Pacific International Enterprises, and Tucker Sno-Cat. Medford and the surrounding area is home to the expanding Oregon wine industry, which includes the Rogue Valley AVA.
The city's historic downtown has undergone an economic recovery in recent years, using a combination of public funds and private investment. The revitalization effort led to the renovation of underutilized downtown properties and to the construction of a new Lithia Motors headquarters building in the district, completed in 2012. Hospitality company The Neuman Hotel Group, based in nearby Ashland, OR, took over management and ownership of a large downtown motel, The Red Lion, in 2014, that had fallen into disrepair. Neuman Hotel Group renovated the property and renamed it Inn At the Commons.
The Census Bureau estimate for 2016 calculated an 8.9% growth in Medford since 2010 with 81,636 people in 29,751 households. Through 2015, the Census Bureau estimates that there were 7,427 veterans and 7.3% foreign-born persons. Among persons aged 25 or more, 86.4% had a high school degree or higher and 23.7% had a bachelor's degree or higher. Of people 16 or older, 61% of people held employment, and the median income was $41,931 (in 2015 dollars).
As of the census of 2010, there were 74,907 people, 30,079 households, and 19,072 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,911.3 inhabitants per square mile (1,124.1/km2). There were 32,430 housing units at an average density of 1,260.4 per square mile (486.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.0% White, 0.9% African American, 1.2% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, 6.0% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.8% of the population.
There were 30,079 households of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.6% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.98.
The median age in the city was 37.9 years. 24.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.4% were from 25 to 44; 25.3% were from 45 to 64; and 16.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.
The oldest park in Medford, Alba Park is located at the intersection of Holly and Main in downtown Medford was deeded to the city by the railroad company in 1888. Known as Library Park after the 1911 construction of the Medford Carnegie Library, it was later renamed for Medford's sister city, Alba, Italy. The park contains a gazebo, a statue of a boy with two dogs surrounded by a fountain pool, and a Japanese gun from World War II.
The annual Pear Blossom Run ends across the street from Alba Park at the Medford city hall, with an all-day fair conducted in the park itself.
Medford is the birthplace of Bear Creek Corporation, known around the world for its fruit-laden gift baskets, especially locally grown pears. Tours of the plant are open to the public.
At nearly 100 acres (0.40 km2), this south Medford park is the second largest in the city (Prescott Park is the largest at 1,740 acres). Bear Creek Park is bordered on the west by Bear Creek and the Bear Creek Greenway. On the park grounds are four tennis courts, a skatepark, a dog park, an amphitheater, a large playground, a BMX track, and a community garden.
Since 1925, the property hosting Bear Creek Park has been used for several purposes. The first section was purchased from a resident of Medford named Mollie Keene. The town used it for incinerating garbage until 1939. After that, it spent 20 years as a girl scout day camp before seeing private ownership again for a few years. Concerns about pollution in the Bear Creek received media attention in 1963 and the city purchased more property. In 1988, a playground designed by Robert Leathers of New York was built.
The Commons is a public park built in the city's historic downtown district adjacent to the Lithia Motors headquarters building. It has been used as a venue for community activities. It was completed in 2012.
The cemetery, established in 1890, lies on 20 acres (8.1 ha) just north of Bear Creek Park. It includes the grave of J. S. Howard and other former residents of Medford. The Parks and Recreation Department offers free tours of the cemetery.
The Claire Hanley Arboretum was first planted in 1962 by Claire and Mary Hanley, two sisters raised on the historic Michael Hanley Farmstead along present-day Oregon Route 238. It is part of a larger agriculture research center belonging to the Oregon State University. Located on the grounds are species of the dogwood cornus mas, the dove tree, and the Sorrel tree.
The Medford Carnegie Library is a two-story library building located in downtown Medford. It was erected in 1911 thanks to a gift from Andrew Carnegie, but was vacated in 2004 after a new library building was constructed near the Rogue Community College extension campus, also in downtown Medford. Currently, there are plans to use the building for class reunions, public meetings, and for annexing some city offices from the neighboring City Hall building.
One of Medford's most prominent landmarks, Roxy Ann Peak is a 30-million-year-old mountain located on the east side of the city. Its summit is 3,576 feet (1,090 m) above sea level. It was named for Roxy Ann Bowen, an early settler who lived in its foothills.
A significant area of Roxy Ann Peak (including the summit) is enclosed in Medford's largest park, a 1,740-acre (2.72 sq mi; 7.0 km2) protected area called Prescott Park. The land was set aside in the 1930s and named in honor of George J. Prescott, a police officer killed in the line of duty in 1933.
The most commonly used trail on Roxy Ann Peak, part of Prescott Park, climbs about 950 feet (290 m) from the beginning of the footpath at the second gate to a height of about 3,547 feet (1,081 m). The trail is about 3.4 miles (5.5 km) one-way, and provides a panoramic view of the Rogue Valley.
Finished in 1997 at the intersection of E. Main St and Central Ave in downtown Medford, Vogel Plaza has quickly become a center of activity for many local events. One such event is the annual Art in Bloom festival, which is held around Mother's Day each year. During the two-day festival, over 10,000 people attend and more than 75 artists showcase their work while surrounded by live entertainment, workshops, food, and children's activities.
Medford is served by Medford School District 549C and has two main high schools and an alternative high school: South Medford High School, North Medford High School, and Central Medford High School, respectively. In addition to the two public high schools, Medford has several private high schools. Two of the largest are St. Mary's School and Cascade Christian High School. In addition, there are 14 public elementary schools and two public middle schools, (Hedrick and McLoughlin). Medford 549C has over 13,000 students enrolled as of 2012.
Crossroads School is a private, alternative high school operating in Medford along with three others operated or affiliated with a church; Cascade Christian High School, St. Mary's High School, and Rogue Valley Adventist School. Grace Christian and Sacred Heart School are private elementary and middle schools in Medford.
In 1997, Grants Pass-based Rogue Community College (RCC) completed construction on a seven-building campus spanning five blocks in downtown Medford. Nearby Ashland-based Southern Oregon University collaborated with Rogue in 2007 on the construction of an eighth building which will offer third- and fourth-year courses to students. Pacific Bible College, formerly named Dove Bible Institute, was founded in Medford in 1989.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation publication "Crime in the United States" provides unranked statistical data from law enforcement agencies across the United States. The table to the right are statistics reported for the city of Medford for the years 2004 through 2007.
As with any city that experiences rapid growth, Medford has seen a recent surge in gang activity and organized crime in the past decade. Methamphetamine use is a problem in Medford and southern Oregon and is believed to play a role in numerous property crimes, including identity theft.
The Medford Police Department has 103 sworn police officers supported by a staff of 33 civilian employees and 30 volunteers.
The official newspaper of Medford and Jackson County is the Mail Tribune, which is owned by GateHouse Media. It began circulation in 1909 after a merger between the Medford-based Mail and the Ashland-based Tribune. As of 2004, an average of 37,000 copies of the Mail Tribune are in circulation each day.
In addition to having several athletes who were famous natives or residents of the city, Medford played host to several professional sports teams since 1948. It was the home city for several professional baseball teams, most notably the Medford A's, later known as the Southern Oregon Timberjacks, of the Northwest League. They were a short-season single-A minor league baseball affiliate of the Oakland Athletics who played at historic Miles Field from 1979 to 1999 before relocating to Vancouver, British Columbia. There is currently talk about bringing an expansion franchise to Medford, but there is no suitable stadium to host such a team at the moment.
Medford also hosted a professional indoor football team from the National Indoor Football League known as the Southern Oregon Heat in 2001. It played in the Compton Arena at the Jackson County Expo Park.
Medford's Lava Lanes bowling alley previously hosted the PBA's Medford Open every January, which aired on ESPN, the last Open took place in 2009.
Medford is the home of a Junior A hockey team, the Southern Oregon Spartans, who plays their home games at The RRRink in south Medford.
The city of Medford is responsible for over 322 kilometers (200 mi) of roads within its boundaries.
Medford is home to Oregon's 3rd busiest airport, the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (airport code MFR). 757,971 people used this regional airport in 2015, which has served over 11 million passengers between 1978 and 2008. Medford airport has two asphalt runways which handle about sixty daily flights from five airlines. Medford's Airlines are Alaska Airlines (operated by Horizon Air), United Express, Delta Connection And Allegiant Airlines.
With expansion of the airport terminal underway, the facilities are quickly being upgraded.
The greater Medford metro area has been served by Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) since 1975. The bus system operates eight routes from Monday to Saturday, four of which travel to nearby cities Central Point, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Talent, Ashland, and White City. All routes connect at the Front Street Transfer Station, which since October 2008 has contained Medford's Greyhound Bus depot.
There are no passenger trains that route through Medford. Amtrak trains serve nearby Klamath Falls. People in Medford can board the Southwest POINT Klamath Shuttle Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach (an intercity bus route) at the RVTD Front Street Transfer Station for a two and a half hour ride and guaranteed connection with Amtrak's Coast Starlight train at the Klamath Falls Amtrak Passenger Rail Station.
The nearest maritime port is the Port of Coos Bay, which is 167 miles (269 km) away.
The nearby Rogue River is monitored for flooding at the Gold Ray Dam, a decommissioned hydroelectric dam built in 1906 near Gold Hill. The National Weather Service identifies 3.6 meters (12 feet) as the flood level. At this depth, navigability between the Pacific Ocean and the Rogue Valley is limited. Even a small "handysize" freighter is unable to make the trip, and any ship hauling cargo to Medford would have to have a much smaller draw. Therefore, Medford does not have a nearby maritime port.
In the 1944 movie Double Indemnity, the fictional character Mr. Jackson said: "I'm a Medford man – Medford, Oregon. Up in Medford, we take our time making up our minds."
Shortly after the sister city program was established in 1960, Medford was paired up with Alba, Piedmont, Italy. The cities are 9,175 kilometers (5,701 mi) apart and were paired based on 1960 similarities in population, geography, and climate.
Every other year, both Alba and Medford take turns exchanging students. During March and April of one year, students from Medford's high schools will visit Alba and stay with host families. Likewise, Alba students will visit Medford every other year. Sixty-seven Medford students applied for the 2007 trip to Italy, but only 24 were selected.
It was former mayor of Medford John W. Snider who selected Alba during his 1957–1962 term, making a satellite phone call to Alba's former mayor Osvaldo Cagnasso.
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