A Bit of Ashland History: Whittle Garage (aka Standing Stone Brewing Co.)
To coincide with the tapping of our latest specialty beer, Whittle Wit, we thought we’d give some background on our historic building and the story behind the name. Here’s a bit of history about Standing Stone’s abode, the old Whittle Garage, as told by local writer Nancy Bringhurst when Standing Stone first opened in 1997:
Floyd Whittle built his one-story, fire resistant, reinforced concrete structure and concrete floors to last. If he thought about how his building would be used in the future, surely a micro-brewery restaurant would not have entered his mind. After all, that was 1925, eight years before the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition. And the Amarotico brothers, responsible for converting the Whittle Garage Building into the classy Standing Stone Brewing Co, surely have trouble believing that Whittle built that garage for $6,000. It took a half million dollars for them to renovate the garage before it was suitable for public assembly in 1997.
By the time Whittle arrived in 1909, Ashland, founded in 1850, had already developed a substantial industrial base. Whittle formed a moving and storage operation, and in 1925 built a new industrial building in the commercial area. The plan he chose was an adaptation of the Falsefront form used extensively in the towns of Oregon since 1850. The extended facade gave the appearance that a one-story building was larger and more formidable than it was; it also hid the simple gables and sloped roofs from the public view. During the early years of the 20th century, the automobile became the main source of personal travel. New buildings were needed to accommodate the growing businesses needed to service the cars, while existing buildings were simply modified.
Upon completion, Whittle leased the garage to Sim Morris and Sons, owner of Morris’s Oak Street Garage. Over the 20 years they occupied the space, Morris’s garage and machine shop business expanded to include other services related to automobile repair. Eventually, they found their niche in the manufacture of welded steel tanks. No one is certain how the building was used subsequent to the Morris’s relocation, but there is speculation that Lithia Motors may have used a portion of the building for repairs and storage. Regardless, the garage remained essentially unchanged for almost 30 years, until August 13, 1953, when a fire at the Busch Motors Building spread and damaged the Whittle building.
Whittle hired E.H. Nicholson and Charles Delsman, owners of the Pioneer Glass and Cabinet Shop, to repair and replace the windows, to tear down the rear wing ruined by the fire, and to build a wooden deck for storage. Nicholson and Delsman, in need of additional space, then rented the newly repaired garage and moved their shop in November. When Nicholson died the following September, James Delsman joined his brother Charles to run the company. In 1977, they purchased the property from the Whittle estate, and ran the operation there until their retirement in 1994.
In March, 1996, the ownership was transferred to the Amarotico brothers. From the beginning, they recognized the importance of retaining the original integrity and industrial character of the building. All renovation was designed with the intent to appear as though the brewery/restaurant was simply tucked into the open original space. Most of the flooring is still exposed concrete, though now it is sealed with clear polymer. The original or similar raw concrete and brick walls remain exposed, and the original open truss system is still apparent. Requirements to meet seismic, sanitation and the ADA (American Disability Act) codes were installed so as not to detract from the original interior. The wooden storage deck, demolished in the early l980s, has been rebuilt and now serves as a large outdoor dining area.
The building was officially registered with the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. According to George Kramer, an historic preservation consultant and the preparer of the nomination’s The Whittle Garage Building, completed in 1925, remains Ashland’s best surviving example of the simple utilitarian Falsefront form as it was employed in southern Oregon during the 1920s. Substantially unaltered from its historic exterior appearance, the Whittle Garage Building retains exceptional integrity in appearance, workmanship, setting, and use of materials. Floyd Whittle should be pleased.