'Everything happened there'

TALENT — When historic preservation consultant George Kramer was asked by the city to propose the old Talent Community Center building for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, he didn't need any encouragement.

"Few buildings if any are as deserving of this than the Talent Community Center," said the Ashland resident. "Virtually any public function that has occurred in Talent over the years happened there. It has been the elementary school, City Hall, police station, fire hall, meeting hall, library, election polling place. During World War II, they showed movies there. The local Lions Club met there.

"The list goes on and on," he added. "It was the largest assemblage place in Talent. Everything happened there."

Completed in 1899, the building at 206 Main St. began as the Talent Elementary School, then morphed into the Talent Town Hall, Talent City Hall and, finally, the Talent Community Center. The city, which incorporated in 1910, bought the building in 1911.

The city hired Kramer to make the proposal, which he will present to Oregon's State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation during its meeting Thursday and Friday in Weston. Other properties being considered for listing include those in Roseburg, Cottage Grove, Clatskanie, Depoe Bay, Portland, Weston and Enterprise.

"As far as I know, this is the oldest wood-frame public building that has continually been used for public gatherings in Southern Oregon," Kramer said of the building that's been in continued public use for 111 years. Several historic wood-frame schools in the region have survived, but many have been sold to the private sector, he added.

"Talent has taken good care of this building," he said. "The City Council still meets there. The Planning Commission still meets there. It is a wonderful survivor, a true landmark of Southern Oregon."

In his written report to the committee, Kramer noted that Talent residents voted unanimously in July 1899 to approve a $2,000 bond to build a new school. The local school board awarded the $1,400 construction contract to Roberts & Orr in Medford.

The result was the single-story structure with a bell tower in the heart of downtown Talent, he wrote. He described it as a "rare, nearly unaltered example of the vernacular style" used during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Although the Talent Elementary School building has been subject to various modifications and additions in the 111 years since it first opened as Talent's third elementary school, the building retains a very high degree of integrity in design, location, use of materials and workmanship," he wrote.

Nominations from the advisory committee, whose nine members all have expertise in some aspect of historic preservation, will go to the U.S. National Park Service, which maintains the register under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect the nation's historic and archeological sites.

A decision on the proposal is not expected until next spring.

The only building in Talent now on the National Register of Historic Places is Hanscom Hall at 201 Talent Ave. Built in 1906, it is also known as the old Talent Cafe.

Paul Fattig is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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