Odd Fellows' legacy

LouAnn David can easily tell you when construction began on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Building, a cornerstone of the Plaza. She just has to walk outside of her store, FlowerTyme, and look at the plaque on the wall: 1879.

Or she could step into the street, a once muddy turnaround for wagons, and glance up to the top of the two-story building and see another ornate marker.

Back then, town founder Abel Helman and other members of the fraternal organization IOOF banded together to create a place to socialize and sell goods. The Black Sheep Pub now occupies the second-level hall where the Odd Fellows used to meet.

On the ground floor today are Mix Sweet Shop, FlowerTyme, Noah's River Adventures and Greenleaf Restaurant. Munchies Restaurant and Bakery operated in the subterranean level for decades until it recently closed.

The building at 49-59 N. Main St. stands out on the Plaza because of its Italianate elements, an architectural style popular in the 19th century.

Walls leading up to the corbels are made of local clay bricks, another innovation in a town with wooden structures. Because a fire in the blacksmith shop in 1879 burned most of the Plaza's structures, the new building's backers insisted on fire-resistant materials to ensure that it endured.

In 1978, a century later, the building earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the 29 years FlowerTyme has been in the building, David has survived bad economies, fleeting gift trends and the destructive 1997 flood. Water poured underneath her front door, drained through the old fir floor and filled the building's basement where Munchies served pies until recently.

The flood left 6 inches of silt in FlowerTyme, but David considers herself lucky. "We were one of the first ones back in business," she says.

A year after she and her then-husband, Kirk, moved to Ashland in 1981, they set up a florist shop in a glass kiosk across the street in Appleberry Mall, now Claycomb's Plaza Mall. On a slow January in 1984, they looked across the street and saw activity at the Banbury Cross gift shop. After many years, the owners were moving out.

The Davids signed a lease and started to restore the historic building. LouAnn David, 58, remembers removing low, false ceilings to showcase the space's full height. They also peeled up the linoleum that was laid on top of the wood floor and removed sheetrock covering the brick walls.

Over time, they also tore down some of the interior walls that had been added by others and they built an office loft and storage space. In 1988, she removed the "h" from the original spelling of her business name, FlowerThyme, because she said it confused customers. Writer and former landlord Lance Pugh referred to those trying to pronounce it as imitating "a thick Barcelona lisp."

She has seen a photograph from the late 1800s with a sign on the shop that reads "Fantasy Goods for Men and Women." She also has a photo of herself — with 1980s long hair and skirt — outside her store the day it opened. She had fresh flowers for sale and that hasn't changed.

Her Oregon-made best sellers for the past 20 years have been brass doorbell surrounds shaped like dragonflies and hearts from Paul Strauch Studios and Doug Harland's cement castings of suns and moons.

The shop is filled with home décor items, fashion accessories, silk flowers and garden items. "Things," she says, "that make people feel good or want to give as gifts." She says a head massager called the Tingler that she introduced in Ashland in 1999 made shoppers squeal.

Like the building FlowerTyme occupies, her business' longevity has become something returning tourists look forward to seeing when they visit.

"We have as many loyal tourists as we do a local clientele," she says.

The difference between the two, she says: "Locals are more environmentally conscious, and if you ask them if they want a bag, they will say, 'no.'"

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.

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