The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Medford's Natatorium

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Medford Mail Tribune, June 10, 1956

    In the fall of 1909 [construction started in the spring of 1910], ten teams of horses [and] more than a score of men, with scoops known as fresnos, began breaking ground at 120 North Riverside, Medford.
    By June 23rd, 1910, a $200,000 edifice had been created--the largest and finest building of its kind in Southern Oregon--Merrick's ballroom. [The building was originally known as the Natatorium; Fred E. Merrick's name would not be attached until the early 1920s.]
    Early this week, two workmen started to tear down this building, a job that may take until May 15.
    In the forty-five years, the building had changed from the social center of the county to a little-used structure, a building that like an old man lived in its past glory; lived with its memories of the great events, of the famous people who had come and gone.
    As John G. Crawford, one of the building owners, put it: "Merrick's ballroom has reached the end of its economic life."
    One of the principal features of the new structure when it opened in 1910 was its huge swimming pool. It was 50 by 100 feet and held 50,000 gallons of water. In the winter the pool was boarded over and used for a roller rink.
    Emerson Merrick, son of one of the original owners of the building, once rented bathing suits, bloomers and stockings to the ladies who came there to swim.
    He recalls that stockings rented for ten cents a pair and that no woman would think of entering the pool without her stockings.
    The history of the evolution of the bathing suit in Merrick's is a part of the nation's history as far as women's fashions in bathing suits go.
    Merrick remembers when the first woman entered the pool without stockings--bare-legged.
    Other ladies whispered, and Medford gossiped about her.
    And then there were the girls who had trouble swimming in the skirted suits, with big bloomers and stockings. They were weighted down in an outfit that the modern girl wouldn't be caught drowned in. Some of those brave lassies, Merrick remembers, used to surreptitiously unbutton the skirts after they were in the pool. Of course, it left them heavily clad in big bloomers, but they giggled about their daring.
    Then one day came the advent of the one-piece bathing suit, and a brave young lady donned one and appeared in Merrick's pool. Tongues clacked far into the night, but a new era in women's wear had come, and Merrick's had made a little more local history.
    The late F. E. Merrick, H. C. Kentner, W. H. Brown and Jess Enyart pooled their funds to buy three acres of ground and start the building. Emerson Merrick said the investment was $225,000 which, for that day and age, was a major investment.
    In 1911, a depression hit the area and the building owners one by one dropped their active interest. Some left the valley, and it became pretty much a Merrick enterprise.
    There were all types of social events held in the big ballroom--92 by 108 feet-- and the little ballroom--35 by 65 feet. There were dances to such famous orchestras as Paul Whiteman, Jan Garber, Jack Teagarden and Phil Harris.
    Famous singers warbled there--Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Luisa Tetrazzini, Nellie Melba--all were the toast of Medford and of Jackson County society generally.
    Peopled traveled for miles to the ballroom to hear the silver-tongued orator, William Jennings Bryan, who spoke there.
    The New York Symphony played there, and on the other extreme, Battling Nelson trained on the grounds and swam in the pool.
    In addition to the social, cultural and athletic events that drew people from all parts of Southern Oregon and California, the building once housed an ice cream parlor, bowling alleys, shooting galleries, movies and an athletic club. Lyceum shows were also held there.
    Although the heyday of the activity was gone, the building was still a popular place in 1928, and the late F. E. Merrick and his son, Emerson, sold one hundred acres of orchards in the Roxy Ann area to pay off the indebtedness of the structure.
    In 1930, former owners of the building settled out of court with the Merricks, and it became their sole operation. During the World War II years, the structure was leased to the army for its pool and other recreational activities. When the army gave it up, it was closed permanently and in recent years has been gathering dust.
    In 1952, Crawford, Col. Thomas A. Culbertson, Jr., and Otto Frohnmayer purchased the property under the name of the Riverside Investment Company.
    Crawford, president of the firm, in announcing of the dismantling of the building by Clifford E. Schleigh and G. R. Ford, said that definite plans for the future of the site have not been made.
    There are several things in the fire, and among these, according to reports, are (1) a motel and (2) a shopping center.
Rogue River Times, December 16, 1955, page 10    The site is now occupied by the Red Lion.

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    This building brings back many memories to me. It was located on Riverside Street just one block north of Main Street in Medford. In the 1920s we kids went swimming at the "Nat." It was a heated pool in the first floor part of the building. It was about 1924, when I was 12 or so, that I won a Red Cross swimming prize (white ribbon, third prize). I still have the ribbon. Several of us kids lined up alongside the pool in the diving position (I had never dived into a pool before), and I remember the belly flop I took. I swam sidestroke, never did learn any other way, and I was no speed demon.
    The upper story of the building was the Oriental Gardens, a ballroom dancing place. I remember the beautiful glass ball in the ceiling of the building. The lights were dimmed and a spotlight on the revolving glass ball was lit for the waltzes. Very romantic.
    The tourist campground in that area was the only camping place in Medford at that time. A very nice place, as it was on Bear Creek. No doubt a cheap place to stay. I remember friends of the folks lived there for a time.
    In the upper part of the building was also an old-time dance place. I remember going to that part to watch the "old folks" dance and listen to the "fiddles" playing.
    It seems as though we kids didn't go to the Oriental Gardens often, as we liked the Dreamland dance place better. This place was located across the street from the Roxy Theater and was on Main Street next to the Bear Creek bridge. We did go to the Oriental Gardens during the Dreamland intermission--didn't have to pay the entrance fee. Mother's friend Maude Disney was the hat check person we always greeted and chatted with when we went there.
Verna Forncrook Wilson, March 30, 1997

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    There is quite a colony of North Dakotans in this valley. . . . J. E. Watt and Fred Merrick are from Devils Lake. Mr. Merrick was formerly a partner of Bill Mogridge, whom the early timers of Valley City will remember.

Stephen A. Nye, "Nye Writes Letter of Interest Locally," Evening Times, Grand Forks, North Dakota, December 6, 1907, page 6

    If the plans of J. D. Heard and William S. Aiken do not miscarry, Medford will have an up-to-date natatorium built and ready for business on May 1, 1909. Plans are being drawn at the present time, and it is thought that work will be commenced on February 1.
    The main pool of the natatorium will be 150x50 feet in size. There will also be two smaller tanks, one for children and the other for ladies with escorts. The large tank will have a sloping bottom so that the depth can range from 4 to 12 feet. The building will be equipped with many athletic devices so that fancy diving and aerial stunts will be possible.
    The site for the tanks has not as yet been determined upon, but will be in the immediate future. The natatorium is to cost about $20,000.
    Mr. Heard is most enthusiastic over the outlook for the concern and will hasten all matters in connection with it so that it will be ready for opening by May 1.
Southern Oregonian, August 19, 1908, page 1

J. D. Heard Has Entered Partnership with W. A. Aitken.
    J. D. Heard has disposed of his interests in the Sterling Mining Company and will again take up his residence in Medford. Mr. Heard has entered into partnership with W. A. Aitken, the plumber, and they will erect a $10,000 natatorium east of the Bear Creek bridge, and they will commence work on the structure in February--provided the city water question is settled by that time.
    These gentlemen have purchased the four and a half-acre tract of land situated at the east end of the bridge, where now stands a brick residence, for the natatorium site. The purchase was made from J. W. Pratt, and the price paid was $6500.
    This is an ideal spot for the purpose for which it is to be used, and the gentlemen are fortunate in securing it. That brick dwelling never did look quite right there--but we couldn't think what ought to take its place.
Medford Mail, November 5, 1908, page 1    The Heard/Aiken natatorium effort may be unrelated to the one that actually came to pass.

Excavation Started at Foot of Fifth Street for Big Amusement Park and Natatorium.
    Four scraper teams of four horses each, with plow teams and the necessary complement of men, have started work on the excavation for the main building for the Medford natatorium and amusement park.
    The work was commenced at the foot of Sixth Street, just south of the Medford Creamery, and will be pushed as rapidly as possible. The plans include a swimming tank of generous proportions and amusements of various kinds which go toward making a public playground.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 6, 1910, page 14

Much Progress Being Made on Establishment Which Will
Add to the Gaiety of, Not Nations, but the City of Medford.
    While everybody knows that an amusement park and natatorium on the banks of Bear Creek is being rapidly pushed to completion by a number of Medford capitalists, few realize the magnitude of the enterprise.
    The personnel of the promoters is as follows:
    President, W. H. Brown.
    Vice-President, H. C. Kentner.
    Secretary and Treasurer, John S. Orth.
    Directors, F. E. Merrick, J. E. Enyart.
    All are men who have shown their faith in Medford by the investment of large sums of money.
    These men state that this amusement park, when completed, will be the equal of the Olympic Club of San Francisco and unexcelled by anything of its kind in the Northwest.
    The main building covers 70,000 square feet, giving it nearly an acre of floor space. The main plunge is 50x100 feet, while the ladies' plunge bath is 30x40 feet.
    Twenty modern tub baths will be installed, and the building will contain bowling alleys for both ladies and gentlemen, an elegantly equipped billiard hall, a parlor facing plunge 40x80 for the exclusive use of ladies; boxball alleys, moving picture department, dance hall and skating rink 120x172, a private dance hall 40x100 and a roof garden, which will be made a delightful retreat where on warm afternoons and evenings people may rest, refresh themselves with ices and listen to music.
    One of the chief features of this big building is the auditorium which will have a seating capacity of 2200, while the park, with its beautiful trees, flower beds and automobile drive, will be a most attractive spot in which to rest.
    Fronting on the pavement of Riverside Avenue there will be three store rooms, to be rented for cafe purposes, sporting goods, etc.
    There will be a resident superintendent and swimming teachers, and the management will maintain their own music for dancing, skating and out-of-door fetes.
    Architect Clark drew the plans for the building and the construction work is under the supervision of contractor Stuart, who by keeping two shifts of 40 men constantly employed hopes to have the park ready for the public by July 1.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 15, 1910, page 15

Pays $10,000 To Enlarge Ground and Provide General Entrance to Park on South Side.

    The Medford Natatorium & Amusement Company has purchased the brick house of Carrie J. Johnson on Riverside Avenue, paying $10,000. This will allow the company to make the general entrance to the park on the south instead of on the north side of the house.
    Work is rapidly progressing on the new Natatorium, and it is believed that by July 1 it will be ready to throw open to the public. A huge heating plant and two cars of lumber arrived Tuesday for the company.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 25, 1910, page 8

Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1911

    Small boys are today enjoying the first swim in the new tank at the Natatorium, and almost a score of youngsters were photographed making the high dive.
    Rapid progress is being made in rushing the building to a completion, and within a few days the management will be ready to entertain the public. The natatorium is one of the largest in the West, and with the many added attractions it promises to be a resort unequaled by any town of the size of Medford.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 3, 1910, page 1

While It Was Not Planned To Open Plunge Until Other Attractions Were Ready,
Directors Decide To Open, As Tank Is Necessity.

    This afternoon the Natatorium company opens its plunge to the public, and those who have not been down to the grounds will have the surprise of their life when they see the tremendous scope of the enterprise.
    The directors really did not plan to open any part of the building or grounds until the whole thing was completed. But a swimming rink seemed almost a public necessity now, so the plunge will be opened today, but the billiard rooms, bowling and shooting alleys, picture shows, Turkish and vapor baths, etc., will probably not be ready for another month. There will also be a dance each night for the rest of the week.
    The Miller Carnival Company will also open their engagement tonight on the Natatorium grounds. They have six big shows, four great outside free acts and a balloon ascension at 7 o'clock.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 14, 1910, page 1

Natatorium Pool Hall
A postcard mailed January 1912.

    The Natatorium is steadily increasing in popularity, this being especially noticeable among the ladies, and the attendance of so many of the fair sex is particularly gratifying to the management, as it shows that the efforts made to provide a clean place of amusement are appreciated.
    For the coming week there will be two ladies' days--Tuesday and Thursday; from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday will be exclusively for the ladies, no gentlemen being allowed in the plunge. But Tuesday afternoon the pool will be given over to ladies and their escorts, not more than one gentleman being allowed with each lady, and he must be a bona fide escort. This feature is very popular at Venice, Long Beach and other California resorts, and will no doubt meet with equal favor here.
    On Wednesday and Saturday evenings there will be the usual dances, beginning at 9 o'clock.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 24, 1910, page 2

    One of the largest natatoriums in the United States is about completed. It will cost $60,000, and its composite features are complete in every detail. The swimming pool, 50x100 feet, required more than ten carloads of cement, and will keep a small part of the people cool for awhile. Twenty carloads of lumber are used in this huge building, and a whole carload of sash and doors are necessary to give light, access and egress. The dancing pavilion takes a solid car of maple lumber for floors alone.
"Medford and Its Era of Big Building," Medford Mail Tribune, September 17, 1910, page B1

Advertisement, Medford Mail Tribune, September 22, 1910, page 8

Natatorium 1911-1-1MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, January 1, 1911

Natatorium, Sunday Oregonian, March 5, 1911
Sunday Oregonian, March 5, 1911

    The admissions to the new Natatorium offer a good index to the growth of the city. Paid dance admissions during January were 4003, during February 4869, during March 4890. Paid skating admissions were January 7140, February 7235, March 8832. Paid general admissions during January were 5911, February 6283, March 7234. This does not include ladies or minors or deadheads.
"Prosperity Alluringly Beckons," Medford Mail Tribune, April 10, 1911, page 4

Contestants Must Hold Aloft Open Umbrella and Cigar Must Be Alight at Finish
    While the other committees on sports have been making arrangements for the 4th, the committee on swimming has not been idle.
    Dr. E. R. Seely, J. Walter Dudley and W. H. Brown, who have charge of this branch of entertainment, have evolved a novel program to be pulled off at the Natatorium. There will be a free-for-all in two heats and a final five entries to each heat. An obstacle race that will furnish much amusement for the spectators will also take place. The contestants in this event will swim the length of the tank holding aloft an open umbrella and smoking a cigar. At the end of the race the cigar must still be lighted.
    The special feature will be a race of 100 yards in which Jack Oberdorf will swim the entire distance against Geo. Coffee, Art Coffee and "Gordon" Keyes, three of the fastest boys in Medford. Each of the latter will swim one lap relaying one another.
    The races will start promptly at 7:30 on the evening of the 3rd, and admission will be absolutely free.
Medford Sun, June 27, 1911, page 5

    The management of the Natatorium is extending to out-of-town people an invitation to bring their lunches and eat in the park adjoining the building on the Fourth of July.
    There is abundant shade and water, benches will be provided, and if possible tables will be built for the occasion.
    No charge will be made for the privilege, and all are heartily welcome.
    There will be many attractions in the building to furnish amusement for all who care to indulge.
Medford Sun, June 29, 1911, page 3

Circa 1912.

    It's an ill wind that blows nobody good. During the last week, with the thermometer doing its duty, the crowds have found the Natatorium an oasis of delight.
    The plunge has claimed many, but probably the coolest place of all is the billiard parlor and bowling alley downstairs.
    There is no dampness in the basement, but perfect ventilation and the concrete walls hold the temperature evenly at 58 degrees no matter how hot the day.
    Ladies as well as gentlemen find it a most agreeable place to while away the hottest part of the day, and every courtesy is extended to all.
    The management is continuing the regular Saturday night dances which, with the many other attractions, makes the Natatorium one of the most popular amusement places in town.
Medford Sun, July 9, 1911, page 3

Circa 1910.

Public Is Invited To Inspect Water Supply and See Whether It Is
Cleanly or Not--Gutter Carries Off Dirty Water.
    In view of the fact that some people do not understand the system of sanitation at the Natatorium, this explanation is offered that they be enlightened.
    In the first place, the water used is from the main line of the city water system--the best in Oregon.
    The water is heated in the boiler room with live steam as it passes through the heating tank. Then, by a series of four inlets at the bottom of the plunge it is circulated into the big tank. The overflow gutter around the edge of the plunge connects with the sewer and carries off the surface water continually. A large vent in the lower end of the tank drains the lower strata and is also used to empty the tank.
    At all times when people are swimming the water is circulated, and fresh water is poured in according to the number of bathers up to the rate of 40,000 gallons per hour.
    Every night the tank is drained and thoroughly cleaned and refilled with fresh water.
    The bathing suits are washed in the Natatorium laundry department. Each suit is turned inside out and rinsed first in fresh water. Soap suds and hot water are then used, after which the suits are rinsed in two changes of water.
    They are next put into the extractor and all the water is forced out, after which they are thoroughly dried with steam heat.
    People interested are welcome to inspect the system and will be gladly shown the inside workings of a perfect bath house.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 23, 1911, page B1

    T. A. Waterman has leased the bowling alleys and billiard halls of the Natatorium building. They have been remodeled and reopened today under the new management.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, October 27, 1911, page 2

January 29, 1912 Oregonian

Burning of Old Theater Quickens Move--Improvements Will Cost $25,000
    It was announced upon reliable authority last night that the Natatorium company would at once take steps toward the completion of their plans to make that building into an up-to-date theater, as outlined in the plans drawn a year ago by architect George Butz. The improvements will cost between $20,000 and $25,000, and owing to the arrangements of the Natatorium can be quickly made. Definite action will be taken today or the first of next week by the owners and bids called for.
    The burning of the old theater cleared the way for this action, which has been contemplated for a number of months, partially through the need of a new theater and partially through the adaptability of the Natatorium for such purposes. If the change is made it will be figured to have remodeling completed by the first of the year and all bookings for 1913 handled.
    A foundation for a theater was laid near the site of the one that burned Friday, and from time to time rumors have been circulated regarding the erection of a modern structure on the corner of Fir and Main, and the corner of Sixth and Grape streets. Conditions have never been ripe for the bringing of these plans to a conclusion.
Medford Sun, October 12, 1912, page 1

Odd Fellows at the Natatorium, May 25, 1913 Sunday Oregonian
Odd Fellows at the Natatorium, May 25, 1913 Sunday Oregonian

Nose and Jaw Broken When Floating Barrel Is Struck--
Physicians Fear Complications Will Result
    Hamilton Lewis, age 12 years, sustained a compound fracture of the nose, lower jaw, and breaking of the frontal bone of the head, as the result of a dive headfirst down the water slide at the Natatorium swimming tank Saturday night, and it is feared by the attending physicians, Drs. Porter and Barber, that a fracture of the skull may develop along with meningitis complications, lessening the chances for life.
    The young lad plunged down the slide head first, striking a barrel floating in the water. The force of the impact drove the nasal bone into the face, and crushing the frontal bone. The bones of the face were also broken. Under this pain the injured lad bore up with heroism seldom seen, talking of the accident to swimmers. Just before he struck he called for help. The boy was taken immediately to the office of Dr. Barber, who assisted by Dr. Porter performed an operation. They stated last night that the boy had a fighting chance for life, but feared that meningitis complications would set in.
    The accident occurred about 7:30 o'clock, when only a half dozen people were in the tank.
Medford Sun, August 10, 1913, page 1

    The Natatorium has placed a bar on the use of the hitching racks near the building, tacking up a notice to this effect Monday. It is claimed that owners of teams, despite all barriers, have driven across the tennis court, and dragged off a $25 logging chain to boot.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, November 11, 1913, page 2

Dancers Who Defy Rule Are Ordered Off Floor of Hall.
    MEDFORD, Or., Dec. 15.--(Special.)--The management of the public dance halls here placed a ban on "ragging" Saturday night. Manager Merrick made a seven minutes' talk, sounding the finale. A couple began to "rag" as soon as he left the floor. They were ejected from the floor, but not the hall. It is claimed that the Medford version of generally accredited undecorous steps keeps dancers away.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, December 16, 1913, page 2

    F. E. Merrick left this morning for Devils Lake, North Dakota, to look after his property interests there and the harvesting of his grain crop on his large ranch. He will be gone about two months.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, August 25, 1917, page 2

    Since the auto camp ground for tourists was opened recently at the rear of the Natatorium along the bank of Bear Creek, not a day has passed without from one to half a dozen tourist parties stopping there.
"Local Briefs," Medford Mail Tribune, May 31, 1919, page 2

Phillip Anderson, Age 15, Victim of Tragedy--Foot Slips, Strikes Head on Concrete Walk--
Nephew of A. E. Reames--Fall Causes Broken Neck.

    Phillip Anderson, 15-year-old son of Mrs. Ira R. Anderson, and nephew of attorney A. E. Reames, died this morning at 11 o'clock at the Sacred Heart Hospital from injuries received when he fell from the balcony at the Natatorium yesterday to the concrete siding, 10 feet beneath. Young Anderson, who is an expert swimmer and has been a daily visitor at the Nat. during the summer, was preparing to make a dive from the balcony railing when his foot slipped and instead of clearing the short walk around the edge of the pool he struck it, the body rolling into the water. The fall caused little excitement at the time, no one thinking Anderson was fatally injured, but examination showed he had suffered a broken wrist and two broken vertebrae in the neck. From the first doctors Barber and Thayer gave little hope of recovery, the wonder being the young man lived as long as he did. He was at once taken to the Sacred Heart Hospital and everything possible done, but he never regained consciousness and sank gradually until the end.
    Attorney A. E. Reames was telephoned for and is expected to arrive from Portland on the afternoon train. Mrs. Anderson and her two sons, Tom and Phillips, have been living on South Central, Mr. Anderson being dead. The funeral announcement will be made later.
    A particularly pathetic feature of the tragedy was the fact that Mrs. Anderson had planned to take her two sons to a military academy tomorrow, all plans having been made for the departure of the family.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 9, 1920, page 1

    That the old-time "jazz" is on the wane in Medford as well as in the eastern cities is shown by the increasing popularity of the latest modern dance music at the Natatorium dancing parties each week. The rattle and bag of cowbells and brazen blare of tin horns is conspicuous by its absence in the Imperial Orchestra, having been replaced with the delightful harmony of piano, banjo, violin, saxophones, marimbaphone, bells, drums and traps. That this modern interpretation of dance music as it should be played is appreciated by Medford music lovers is shown by the many favorable comments heard on every side.

"Local Briefs," Medford Mail Tribune, August 20, 1920, page 2

    Auto tourist business over the weekend at the two local auto camp grounds was quite heavy. The Merrick Motor Inn had 76 cars of people last night and 72 more cars of them last night, making 444 persons altogether stopping there on these two nights. The city auto camp had 43 cars and 135 people on Saturday night and 37 cars and 121 people last night.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, July 23, 1923, page 2

    At the Merrick Motor Inn last night there were 250 persons and 75 cars. The city auto camp had 166 persons and 51 cars.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, August 25, 1923, page 2

    In addition to transacting a mass of routine business, the most important action taken by the city council last night, in session from 7:30 until long after 11, was the decision to have the city no longer operate the city auto camp, but to lease it to the management of the Merrick Motor Inn for two years, at $600 annually, with the privilege of the lessor having first crack at renewal at the end of that time; the city to retain general supervision over the leased camp.
    Details of the lease will be threshed out later and be ready by the first council meeting in January, when the transaction will be completed. It is understood that the inn management among the big improvements which it will make on its own plant by early spring will make from $1200 to $1500 worth of improvements on the leased camp.
    This combining of the two auto camps it is predicted will further add to Medford's fine reputation for the care of auto tourists which was made by the Merrick Motor Inn during the past season. Hundreds of such tourists from all sections of the United States enthusiastically and voluntarily proclaimed last summer and fall that the inn gave more and better accommodations at prices charged than standard auto camps in other states. The only fault with the inn was that it lacked room during the rush part of the season to accommodate the herds of tourists.
    By the leasing of the city auto camp this fault will be remedied, for the two camps which practically adjoin each other on opposite sides of Bear Creek will be operated as one and connected by a bridge across the creek just north of the Bear Creek bridge with the entrance to the new bridge from the city auto camp under the Bear Creek bridge.
    One big reason which influenced the council to make the lease is that its members and the mayor think that the two camps combined under private management will be better for tourists and the city, and will obviate the necessity of the city spending thousands of dollars to make the city auto camp a standard one.
    It was never the intention of the city administrations, past and present, to operate the auto camp for gain, but mostly as an accommodation and necessity to the motor traveling public, and to be operated on as near a paying basis as possible. It was thought that the Merrick Motor Inn with its superior attractions could better cater to the public, especially if it had the additional ground and facilities of the city camp.
    Since it was established, the city has expended on the municipal camp between $8000 and $9000, including cost of land and improvements. During the past season up to the last of September the receipts to the city from the camp, at fifty cents a day per car, were $800, and since September the camp had proved a losing proposition.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 19, 1923, page 1   The city camp doesn't appear on the 1927 Sanborn maps, below. The bridge apparently was never built.

Merrick's circa 1924

    The rapid rise of Bear Creek caused that usually quiet stream to overflow its banks after midnight and reach the dignity of a raging river, which flooded the east side of the Merrick auto camp and the city auto camp.
    Considerable damage was caused at the Merrick camp, as the flood washed away several of the tourist cabins and undermined others in the first row and one-half along the river. Several of the cabins are overturned by the flood, but did not float away. In this flood among the cabins stands the auto of a man who was living in a cabin. Two men residing in one of the cabins were awakened sometime after midnight to find their structure flooded and had to wade out quickly, with what personal effects could easily be seized, to safety on higher land.
    The main portion of the Merrick camp, however, was not touched by the swollen stream.
"Flood Does Much Damage to Auto Camp in Medford," Ashland Daily Tidings, December 31, 1924, page 1

    A capacity business has been enjoyed all summer at the Medford "motor inn," according to Fred E. Merrick, proprietor of the tourist camp, who is registered with Mrs. Merrick at the Portland Hotel. Medford, according to Mr. Merrick, has become a tourist center, serving travelers going north to and coming from the Crater Lake National Park. The "inn" is probably unique in having many conveniences usually enjoyed only in hotels. A feature of the camp is a swimming pool. Mr. Merrick noted with pleasure the result of the election, which will establish the seat of Jackson County at Medford. Mr. Merrick has been in Portland several days for a minor operation.--Portland Oregonian.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, November 9, 1926, page 2

Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1927

    The comfort of the tourist has not been overlooked in Medford and southern Oregon, and when the weary autoist swoops down from the lofty Siskiyou Mountains into the Rogue River Valley he finds accommodations unexcelled anywhere. As he passes through Phoenix, four miles from Medford, he can tarry for the night at the Ever Shady Auto Park, one of the beauty spots of the Pacific Highway through southern Oregon. Next is Merrick's Motor Inn, situated in the very heart of this city on Bear Creek. This camp is known the country over for its excellent accommodations and offers well-furnished cabins, cooking facilities, laundry equipment as well as diversified entertainment such as swimming, dancing and bowling.
    Phipps Auto Park on the Pacific Highway at Jackson Street also offers unusual accommodations for tourists. This camp is complete in every detail, offering even free car washing facilities.
    As the tourist leaves Medford, he may stop at Camp Withus if he so desires. This camp is near the great Owen-Oregon Lumber Company's new million-dollar lumber mill. There are also splendid camp grounds and oil stations all along the Pacific Highway. Before reaching Grants Pass he may enjoy a rest in the cool shade of Riviera Park, fifteen miles from Medford, or a stay at beautiful Weasku Inn and camp at Rogue River. Weasku Inn is located near the Savage Rapids Dam on famous Rogue River and is in the very heart of the well-known fishing waters of that stream.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 2, 1927, page 1

Merrick's 1927 Bear Creek flood
    In the neighborhood of $20,000 was the loss figured by the Merrick auto camp, which lost two rows of camp houses numbering approximately 38, 15 of which had only recently been constructed for next summer's business. A number of the houses were swept for long distances down the creek, and others are scattered all along its banks. The houses even in normal weather are situated fairly close to the stream, which in summer time is not much more than a brook. In order to prevent flood damage, the majority of the houses had been fastened securely to trees, but the fastenings were unavailing in the terrific force of the water, which in addition flooded a large number of other camp houses.
"Valley and City Swept by Freshets," Medford Mail Tribune, February 21, 1927, page 1

    The annual "swim week" of the American Red Cross commences at the Natatorium June 6th.
    Perry Davis, swimming instructor of the University of Oregon, will have full charge of the swimming and life-saving work.
    More interest is being manifested in the meet this year than at any time before. Up to last night 69 non-swimmers had been registered. Those desiring to take the work, please register before Monday. If not convenient, they may register on Monday morning at the Natatorium.
    It is the intention of the Red Cross to continue this work until every man, woman and child can swim. Mr. Merrick has placed the Natatorium at the disposal of the Red Cross and is cooperating in every way to further the success of "swim week."
Medford Mail Tribune, June 3, 1927, page B8

    Because a very busy season makes it impossible to rent the Natatorium swimming pool for special parties, Fire Chief Elliott will be unable to give his annual swimming party this year to the younger boys of the city, although he had planned on so doing. Chief Elliott, however, will probably hold a swim party next year. He believes these events have a lasting effect in keeping boys from becoming careless with fire, as a lecture on fire prevention has been given with each of the last two parties.
Medford Mail Tribune,
July 28, 1927, page 3

    The matter of the drainage of Bear Creek and keeping the channel open north of the Bear Creek bridge, as was recently done by the city south of that bridge, as a further flood protection and which has been tentatively under consideration by the city officials for some time past, was brought to a head last night when attorney Gus Newbury presented a petition, signed by forty east and west side residents, to the city council in person protesting against a fence that has been built by the Merrick auto camp management on its property extending out to the present channel, as a flood menace and unsightly obstruction.
    Mr. Newbury, in this remarks on the matter, declared that the fence would tend to deflect the present creek channel in case of another flood like that of last February and cause an overflow on east side property adjoining the creek. The petitioners pleaded that the council cause this obstruction to be removed and take such other steps necessary to keep the channel open and unobstructed.
    After a formal discussion of the matter, during which it developed that the situation north of the bridge presented a number of legal tangles and some other channel obstructions, including the fact that the auto camp management was probably within its legal rights in maintaining the fence on its own property, it was thought that the matter could amicably be straightened out by a conference between Mr. Merrick and the city administration so as to enable the city to take steps which would be generally satisfactory.
    Unless an amicable solution can be reached, the city will probably declare Bear Creek a public drainage sewer, which would enable it to go ahead and clear, straighten and widen the channel as a public necessity in flood protection.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 21, 1927, page 3

    The installation of the $1500 chlorinator and filtering system in the Natatorium on North Riverside was completed yesterday by Emerson Dolliyer, representative of the Wallace and Tiernan Company of Seattle, Wash., who has been in the city since Monday. This installation, according to the Seattle man, will keep the water in the local pool free from germs and guard against any transmission of disease through the public use of the pool.
    The filter will also assist in rendering the water of a crystal clearness that will prove an attractive feature for the many local swimmers. "The city of Medford can be proud of the installation of this equipment in the Natatorium's swimming pool, which is not only a great sanitary improvement, but has made this pool one of the finest of its kind in the entire state," he said before the Lions Club today.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 23, 1928, page 2

Germs Not Safe in Nat Plunge, Avers Emerson Merrick
    Ralph Waldo Emerson Merrick of the Natatorium of the Natatorium plunge announces to the public that anyone can come down and take a bath at his place without fear or being bitten by quarrelsome germs.
    He has installed a mechanism called a chlorinator, which injects chlorine into the water under scientific conditions which kills the microbe and at the same time is beneficial to the human system.
    With his new system going full blast, Merrick urges all Bear Creekers interested to drop around and take their annual spring bath. He claims he charges only a moderate fee and in addition to soap, etc., throws in the use of files and rasps free of cost to any who may have skipped a year or two in their washing-all-over program.
Medford News, May 24, 1928, page 3

Natatorium ad, 1928-8-14MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, August 14, 1928

Suit by Enyart for Interest and Rental Share in Natatorium
Recalls Promotion and Operation of Amusement Center.
    Names and an institution that figured prominently in the "1910 boom" in this city trod forth today in the suit of J. E. Enyart, former local banker, against F. E. Merrick (deceased), Mrs. Grace D. Brown, widow of W. H. Brown, and H. C. Kentner, former Medford merchant prince, who, with Enyart, promoted and constructed the Natatorium.
    Enyart seeks one-fourth property interest and one-fourth of all rentals. The amount involved is in excess of $30,000. The suit was filed in 1927, and the litigation dates back to 1910.
    Enyart claims in his complaint that with the formation of the Natatorium and Amusement Company, which was incorporated at $50,000, he invested $20,000, besides other monies.
Negotiated Loans
    The complaint recites that in the early days of the Natatorium, $15,000 was borrowed from Col. Gordon Voorhies, with 495 shares of capital stock as security for the note. A few years later, another $15,000 was borrowed from the Wells, Fargo Bank of San Francisco. Enyart asserts that he negotiated the loans, and appears to have been "the financial man" of the enterprise.
    He now seeks a settlement, "without prejudice for an accounting," which includes the sale of land owned by the Natatorium company, now occupied by the building used by the Scherer Motor Company. Three tracts of land belonging to the company were sold.
Deaths Tangle Skein
    In the answer to the complaint the defendants assert that Enyart has been "guilty of laches," which in non-legal language means that he slept on his rights, and that they are hampered in presenting a strong defense, by reason of deaths among those actively identified with the project. F. E. Merrick passed away about a year ago, Clarence L. Reames, former prominent attorney of southern Oregon and the Northwest, passed in 1928, and W. H. Brown was called in 1915. H. C. Kentner is now in the East.
    The defense sets forth that shortly after the building of the Natatorium lean years beset it, and it was a financial failure. The Merricks operated it at a loss for a number of years.
    In 1921 the tourist travel over the Pacific Highway was at its flood, and the Merricks evolved the plant into a motor inn and auto camp that became nationally known.
Made Profitable
    They paid off, it is asserted, about half of a $160,000 indebtedness, and invested other sums in improvements. By their efforts, the defense contends, the plant was made fairly profitable, and allege that Enyart manifested no interest in its welfare until within the last five years.
    The Natatorium is one of the landmarks of the city, and at the time of its dedication was rated as one of the finest places of its kind on the Pacific coast. In its earlier stages it presented vaudeville and stock company performances. It catered to the dancing, swimming and roller skating public and also boasts a bowling alley.
    The suit is in equity and is being heard before Circuit Judge H. D. Norton. Enyart is represented by attorney A. E. Reames, the defense by attorneys George M. Roberts and Porter J. Neff.

Medford Mail Tribune, December 16, 1930, page 6

F. E. Merrick, April 15, 1912 Medford Mail Tribune
F. E. Merrick, April 15, 1912 Medford Mail Tribune

Hearing of Enyart Plea for Fourth Interest in Properly Reveals Early Financing.
    The hearing in equity of the suit of J. E. Enyart against Mrs. Stella J. Merrick, widow of F. E. Merrick, Mrs. Grace D. Brown, widow of W. H. Brown, and H. C. Kentner, founders of the Natatorium in this city, for a property interest and share of rentals and property sales, continued today in circuit court before Judge H. D. Norton. All concerned were active and well known during the "1910 boom" here.
    Enyart, former Medford banker, of recent years a resident of Los Angeles, seeks a one-fourth interest in the Natatorium property, and the action hinges largely about a $15,000 loan to the Natatorium by Col. Gordon Voorhies, with 495 shares of capital stock as security.
    The plaintiff introduced evidence to show that Enyart placed about $25,000 in the company, W. H. Brown about $17,000, H. C. Kentner about $10,000 and F. E. Merrick $1000. John S. Orth of this city was also an investor in the concern but sold out to the other four stockholders in 1911.
Note Taken Up
    F. E. Merrick took up the $15,000 note held by Colonel Voorhies, making two payments of $7500, and took possession of the 495 shares of capital stock. Enyart claims the stock was held in trusteeship, and the company as a whole, not Merrick, was the owner.
    Later, F. E. Merrick "dissolved the corporation" and retained possession of the property. Enyart holds that he received nothing in exchange for his investment.
    Mrs. Stella J. Merrick, widow of F. E. Merrick, was a witness at the morning session. She testified they sold their home on East Main Street in 1919 and moved into the Natatorium, where the Merrick family strove to place the property on a paying basis. She testified a residence had been established there, and that aside from a year's residence in Sutherlin, Ore., where F. E. Merrick was interested in an oil well, and a short trip to California in the winter, she had lived there continuously.
Sons Aided
    She testified that her son, Emerson, was active in the management and that another son, Walter, had been in charge when the institution was remodeled into a motor inn. Mrs. Merrick denied that Seely V. Hall had any interest except that he was employed on a salary for several months.
    A record of transactions and directors' meetings has been introduced in evidence.
    The defense will be largely based upon the allegation that Enyart was "guilty of laches" and was indifferent to its future until it loomed as a valuable property and that for many years the Merricks by their efforts continued the place and made improvements requiring considerable financial investments.

Medford Mail Tribune, December 17, 1930, page 6

One of Original Backers Identifies Documents As Evidence Suit for Property Share.
    It will apparently take the remainder of the week to hear testimony in the circuit court before Judge H. D. Norton, in the suit of J. E. Enyart against F. E. Merrick, et al., wherein he seeks a one-fourth property interest and one-fourth of land sales in the Natatorium Amusement Company of this city. The history of the "Nat" and its many financial transactions is being told from the witness stand.
    J. E. Enyart, one of the original backers of the institution, was on the stand this morning and identified notes, mortgages, checks and other legal documents issued in the early stages of the Natatorium, when W. H. Brown was president and John S. Orth was secretary. Orth sold out to the other directors in 1911. Enyart was cross-examined by the defense, who are endeavoring to show that the Merricks expended labor and cash to make the place a success.
New Phase Shown.
    The matter of "equitable trusteeship" cropped out today as one of the legal phases in the involved life of the Natatorium. Testimony and documents were introduced to show that F. E. Merrick had liquidated many of the financial obligations, including the payment of the $15,000 borrowed from Col. Gordon Voorhies, and a number of promissory notes.
    It was agreed between counsel that the deposition of Walter D. Merrick of Los Angeles would be taken, instead of having him appear in person.
    After he returned from Oregon Agricultural College, he was manager of the Natatorium in 1912-1913. The plaintiff holds that W. H. Brown was acting in this capacity when the Natatorium was transformed into a motor inn, taking advantage of the heavy Pacific Highway travel, to end the lean years.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 18, 1930, page 7

Medford Mail Tribune, May 19, 1931
Medford Mail Tribune, May 19, 1931. More about the Walkathon here.

    Emerson Merrick, manager of the Natatorium, was the principal witness yesterday and today in the suit of Jesse E. Enyart for an interest in, and an accounting of, the affairs of the project.
    Merrick's testimony was largely concerned with improvements made by the Merricks and expenditure of money. He read a long list of articles purchased and included everything from pins to Fords.
    Mrs. Grace Brown testified that her husband purchased a one-fourth interest in the Natatorium when it was launched and alleged that this interest was now nonexistent.
    The defense is based on the claim that when other investors retired the Merricks, by hard work and their own finances, after several years of effort increased the Natatorium earnings.

Medford Mail Tribune, May 26, 1931, page 5

    Col. Gordon Voorhies, who loaned the directors of the Natatorium company $15,000 and accepted the stock of the directors as security, was scheduled to take the witness stand this afternoon in the suit of Jesse Enyart and Mrs. Grace Brown for an interest in the Natatorium, and an accounting. Enyart claims he invested $25,000 in the project.
    Col. Voorhies is expected to give testimony of an historic nature and explain his loan, made when the local boom was on the wane.
    In the first hearing of the case last winter, evidence was introduced tending to show that the late F. E. Merrick repaid the $15,000 loan to Col. Voorhies and received the stock held as security. It was also shown that Merrick had assumed other obligations.
    The evidence introduced in the case yesterday and this morning was largely documentary and including an auditor's report on the finances of the Natatorium since its operation was in charge of the Merricks, dating back to 1912 and 1915. The report showed that in this period the Natatorium receipts totaled approximately $286,000 and that the expenditures approximated $156,000.
    A large sheaf of legal papers connected with the affairs of the Natatorium were also introduced as evidence.
    It is expected that the hearing of testimony in the action will be concluded today. The court will take the decision under advisement.
    Enyart is represented by attorney A. E. Reames and the defense by attorneys George M. Roberts and Porter J. Neff.

Medford Mail Tribune, May 27, 1931, page 3

    Mrs. F. E. Merrick, a longtime resident of this city, was the principal witness today at the hearing of the civil action of Jesse Enyart for a share in the Natatorium and an accounting of the concern's finances.
    Mrs. Merrick testified that from 1912 to 1919, the income of the establishment was less than the expenses and the Merricks had used their own funds in paying expenses, taxes, paving assessments and interest on outstanding notes. She testified that the labor necessary for operation had been done by the family.
    Under cross-examination, Mrs. Merrick was unable to state exact figures and answered to many question of attorney Evan Reames "I don't know" or "I don't remember."
    A number of checks, signed by Walter D. Merrick in payment for labor performed by others than the Merrick family, were introduced as evidence.
    The testimony was chiefly concerned with expenses and income and taxes and interest.
    It is expected that the testimony in the case will be concluded late today.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 28, 1931, page 7

Thousand Youths Sign Up to Learn to Swim
    The Red Cross Swim Campaign plans have been altered to meet the unprecedented registration of a thousand by securing two pools and two instructors.
    Robert Dodge, Jackson County Red Cross safety chairman, said:
    "We have been most fortunate in securing another swimming instructor, Miss Eleanor Coombe, formerly of Ashland. Merrick's in Medford have consented to open their pool for the two-week period so that we may handle the thousand registrants in the county. We had been quite concerned about the transportation for such a large number, but with Merrick's pool we can handle Medford, Phoenix, Jacksonville and surrounding territory there without a transportation problem and can take care of Ashland, Talent, Bellview and adjacent territory at Twin Plunges in Ashland."
    Dodge stated that Mrs. Norma Stearns and Mrs. Doris Stough of Ashland are in charge of registration and supervision of the campaign in that city. More volunteers are badly needed for this work, and any women or men who can help are asked to call Mrs. Stearns or Mrs. Stough as soon as possible.
    According to present plans, the Combat Swimming classes will be held in Medford. The Red Cross swimming instructor from San Francisco will teach the combat swimming for the 40 high school graduates who will be going into service late this summer. These classes will be held in the evening from seven to nine. This instructor will be in charge of the entire campaign in Medford at the Merrick pool. Schedule of classes will be announced later.
    Mrs. John Day, chairman of the Red Cross Staff Ass't. Corps, will be in charge of volunteers assisting at the Merrick pool in registration, checking and supervision. Call Red Cross office 4405 or 3137.
    All qualified life savers or waterfront lifeguards are asked to offer their help immediately at the Red Cross office.
    Since the Merrick pool has not been open to the general public for several years, no attempt can be made by the management to redecorate, but the pool itself and locker rooms will be put into proper condition through the fullest cooperation of the Merrick management.
Medford News, June 8, 1945, page 2

    The city fire department was called out on a general alarm at 3 a.m. today to extinguish a fire in a beer parlor in the Merrick building on North Riverside Avenue, owned by Jack Moad. The fire was caused by an electric wire from the volume control in a juke box.
    The fire, confined to one room, caused considerable damage, burning out all of the inside of the parlor. No one was in the building at the time.
    The department's two big trucks responded to the blaze, and firemen said if they had been called 10 minutes later, the whole building would probably have been lost.
    Several persons have called the fire department this morning to compliment them on their fine work in handling the fire, according to Fire Chief Roy Elliott, and while he said the calls were very much appreciated he requested that the public when calling for reasons other than reporting a fire use telephone number 3790. Number 3333 is for fire only.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 25, 1947, page 1

Last revised November 27, 2019