HISTORIC VACATION HOUSE

In the Historic Railroad District of Ashland, Oregon

Beau Soleil nestles in a quiet neighborhood, both rich in history, on energetic, historic Fourth Street, once the main thoroughfare leading up into town from the busy Railroad station that dominated the Railroad Addition after the Golden Spike was driven in Ashland in December of 1887. By 1890, “A” Street, the main artery of the Railroad District, had become a separate commercial district with lodging houses, saloons, restaurants, stores and warehouses, all anchoring the original Railroad Addition and enlivening the area for new, affordable housing for railroad brakemen, firemen, and conductors, as well as local craftsmen such as barbers and carpenters. 

In and after the Great Depression, renters and any owners with stable or subsidized incomes, such as retirees, began to occupy Railroad Addition housing, and many dwellings were converted to multi-family use. From the early days, Fourth Street also offered travelers a choice of hotels and boarding houses when they came to settle down and build community; or to visit for the healthful springs of lithia water, baths in the hot springs, lectures or shows in the Chautauqua tent, anything near the grist mill and what soon became Lithia Park, or making their way to Jacksonville, hoping for spent gold in rivers and mines, or going anywhere that promised trade, adventure, or freedom.

In 1900, during a period of increased building excitement in the Railroad Addition after 1898, William and Ella Burns built their Vernacular style home on a double lot at 143 Fourth Street. Its principle rooms, built before the introduction of modern wallboard, were constructed of rough wood lath and plaster. Also hidden by later paneling, some windows and doors were given period, wide interior casings of decorative molding and corner pieces. An old deed in the possession of the Clements family, from whom the old Ella Burns property was purchased by the current owner, indicates that in the 1920s, perhaps reflecting years of lean expansion affected by World War I or the coming Depression, Ella Burns was ceded the Fourth Street property for the price of $1.

Today Beau Soleil Vacation House stands behind the historic building known as the (William and) Ella Burns house in Ashland’s Historic Railroad District. The cottage itself, now known as Beau Soleil Vacation House, sits in the footprint of a two-story, funkily elegant, mid-twentieth century Vernacular structure, a “mother-in- law”-type house, that the present owner and her family called “the pink house” because of the color of its siding. Built around 1948, this little house was situated on one of what were becoming the colorful neighborhood alleys that now crisscross the Railroad District. In 1948, the little “pink house” was built as part of what seems to have been a long-held Clements family enclave covering the double lots of both the Ella Burns property and the property directly behind it that faces Third Street.

The current owner of Beau Soleil purchased the Ella Burns house and the accompanying old cottage from Mr. Mel Clements in 1989. Now remodeled, the two-story cottage now called “Beau Soleil” was given a new foundation, walls, and roof and a new architectural design by the current owner in 1999. Beau Soleil Vacation House opened to tourists in 2000. Though the old cottage was untouched by the major ice-storm- related flooding of Bear Creek in 1997 that had caused a new design of Lithia Park, Beau Soleil needed to be completely remodeled after it suffered interior flooding caused by broken pipes in the upstairs bathroom during another fierce ice-and- snow storm in south-western Oregon in December 2013. The prolonged 2013 storm caused major damage to many buildings in the Rogue Valley and the area was declared a disaster-area by the governor. The cottage and the town, fully recovered from the effects of bad storms, look forward, like their historical predecessors, to the arrival of visitors!

Beau Soleil: “Beautiful Sun”

A small magnolia tree—an Oregon adoptee and the official flower of the present owner’s home state, Louisiana—was found to be growing on the property when it was purchased in 1989. This magnolia, now a large tree, inspires the harmony of old and new expressed by the now twice remodeled vacation house and its home on the Ella Burns property. 

Beau Soleil (“beautiful sun”) suggests other historical borderlands as well. According to Michael Doucet of the band BeauSoleil                      (a popular Cajun-music group from Lafayette, Louisiana), Cajun folklore holds that the words “beau soleil” were a secret greeting used by French-speaking Acadians from the early years of their colonization. As France and Britain continued their long struggle for the North American continent in the French and Indian Wars (1663-1763), subversive French colonists in the Acadian lands along the current border of eastern Canada and North America had long been a source of trouble to their new rulers in Great Britain. In the final French and Indian War (1754-1763), the rebellious Acadians still steadfastly refused to take an oath of allegiance to Britain’s kings and queens, their unrecognized sovereigns, though Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) had essentially settled the question of domain in the treaty of 1713 (Utrecht). 

In 1755 about 6000 of these recalcitrant French-speaking British subjects were finally deported from Acadia—what is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and parts of Quebec and Maine—by colonial troops under General George Washington. Before the warring countries signed the treaty of Paris that ended the war in 1763, the deported Acadians endured much hardship in exile in American colonies farther south. At the end of the French-and- English wars in America, some Acadians returned to Acadia, but others wandered south and westward to Louisiana, a former French colony. There, mainly in lands near the city of Nouvelle Orléans, these new colonists established a uniquely American and many faceted Louisianian culture. Many of their descendants, known as Cajuns, still live in southeast Louisiana, not far from Beau Soleil’s owner’s home territory. These southern “Acadians” speak a distinctive French super-dialect, now a protected language in Louisiana.