The pear belle Hélène tempts patrons at Porters.
Those stovepipe-like contraptions sitting around Medford—artfully adorned throughout the summer to resemble a horse, a bumblebee, and a motorcyclist, among other things— hark back to the town's early days as the fruit basket of Oregon. They're smudge pots—old-fashioned heaters that were once used to ward off frost in the orchards that have placed Medford among the prime pear producers in the United States.
The pear industry has thrived here for about 120 years thanks in great part to Harry and David Rosenberg, two brothers who pioneered their own mail-order fruit company back in the 1930s and turned it into one of the world's top gift-basket retailers. Today, you can watch as workers gingerly handpack pears, apples, and dip-ready giant strawberries.
Reminders of Medford's earlier days also show up at Porters, inside a restored 1910 railway station. Feast on tried-and-true entrées such as fish-and-chips or innovations like meat loaf in a tangy chipotle barbecue sauce while eyeing vintage rail posters, antique toy trains, and photos of the station during its heyday.
The city's answer to suburban shopping malls is the historic Main Street Market building, home to a medley of quirky shops including Simply Posh (check out their great handbag selection) and Dancing Beads. At the popular lunch spot Deli Down, the walls are lined with autographed photos of Bill Cosby, the Indigo Girls, and other performers who've appeared at the renowned Britt Festivals in nearby Jacksonville.
Pick up bargain reads for as little as a quarter at the Friends of the Medford Library Book Shop, then head over to Mellelo Coffee Roasters for a soul-warming latte.
The Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, a renovated performing arts center named for the famous dancer—and former Medford resident—presents an energetic mix of live entertainment, from the musical Cats to concerts by multiple Grammy Award–winner Bobby McFerrin. It's the perfect complement for a town that celebrates its past with a touch of artistic grace while still remaining ripe for the picking.
Photography by Rick Wetherbee
This article was first published in May 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Area code is 541 unless noted. Pick up AAA's Oregon & Washington TourBook and map. Or contact the Medford Visitors and Convention Bureau, 779-4847, (800) 469-6307, www.visitmedford.org.
TO DO AND SEE
Harry and David's Country Village 1314 Center Dr., 864-2277, www.harryanddavid.com.
Deli Down 406 E. Main St., 772-4520.
Porters 147 N. Front St., 857-1910, www.porterstrainstation.com.
Red Lion Hotel 200 N. Riverside, 779-5811, (800) 733-5466.