Remnants of Britt barn uncovered

JACKSONVILLE — Remains of Peter Britt's barn were uncovered during construction work that is revising First Street and the Britt Festivals entrance. The barn was located between the street and the festival's pavilion.

Photographs showed the barn, but archaeologist Chelsea Rose said she and others were surprised to find remains when work began in that area in early February.

"The significance is just finding it. It contributes to several years' worth of research we have been working with on the Britt Gardens," said Rose. "We have been putting some of the pieces in place."

Rose speculates that the barn or its remains may have been collapsed in place when the Britt Festivals began during the 1960s. Several feet of fill dirt were placed atop the site. Photos show the barn during the 19th century, and it was still standing in the 1940s.

A layer of sheet metal, chicken wire, wood and remnants of plaster were found. Other items uncovered include an early 20th-century washing machine, turn-of-the-century dishes and parts of a wood stove. In-ground bricks may have been part of a foundation or chimney.

The items have been taken to Southern Oregon University, where they will be analyzed in the anthropology lab by Rose and students.

About 20 feet of the barn was exposed, and it has been re-covered to allow construction to continue. The area is closed to the public as work continues.

"Parts are still buried deep under the ground for future archaeologists," said Rose.

Observations suggest the barn was not used for livestock, unusual for that period, said Rose. One reference said it was used as a granary, and Rose and her students will look for evidence of that when they analyze the artifacts.

Britt was known as an innovator of agriculture in the Rogue Valley and was doing a lot of experiments on what would grow and how best to grow it.

"We are hoping there will be something on some of the processes and innovations that he made," said Rose. "The (barn) site was maintained after his death by his children."

The city of Jacksonville, the construction team and archaeologists collaborated to save the find without delaying the work.

Britt Festivals and the city have undertaken several projects to improve access in the area. Changes will include a sidewalk on First Street, new parking for band buses and handicapped drivers, new ramps and stairways, and permanent restrooms in the lower Britt Garden.

"When people enter into the Britt grounds, they will walk over the remains of part of the barn that is preserved in the space at the entrance walkway," Rose said.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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