Ashland History

First settled in 1852 as a milling center, Ashland was incorporated in 1874. The town became known for education and culture; Skidmore Academy, founded in 1872, grew to become Southern Oregon University. The railroad arrived in 1884; by 1891 the town had a library, City Band, and Opera House. When Ashland joined the Chautauqua circuit in 1893, its reputation as a resort and educational center grew. Once a bustling railroad hub, the town declined when the main line was diverted through Klamath Falls in 1927. Ashland revitalized and became a magnet for cultural tourism in 1935 with the establishment of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which today is the largest regional repertory theater in the United States, offering 11 classical and contemporary plays in three theaters from February through October. Southern Oregon University, part of the state’s regional comprehensive higher education system, provides library, computing, and community outreach resources to serve the region and complements the many artistic, musical, and theatrical opportunities available here.