The Holmes Park House

By Dennis Powers  

By the late 1920’s the Medford brothers, Harry and David Rosenberg, developed one of the first specialty item mail-order operations that included the “Fruit of the Month” club and became one of the nation’s largest ones. Harry with his wife, Eleanor, decided to build a much larger home in 1939. They purchased 20 acres on what’s now South Modoc Road and near their Bear Creek Orchards.

The couple hired the African-American architect, Paul R. Williams, who designed homes for the rich and famous in Southern California. Williams was orphaned at age four and spent the rest of his life overcoming obstacles. Designing from luxury hotels and public schools to churches, commercial buildings, and Hollywood mansions, he was best known for his residential projects. Frank Sinatra hired Williams to design a Beverly Hills bachelor pad and Lucille Ball for her ranch-style Palm Springs retreat. Others included Tyrone Power, Johnny Weismuller, Lon Chaney, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn—to name a few.  

Although not licensed to practice in Oregon, Paul Williams quickly established a collaboration with the respected local architects Frank Clark and Robert J. Keeney. In 1939-1940, Williams designed for Harry and Eleanor a California Georgian style home, and the 5,500 square-foot mansion had five bedrooms with 6½ bathrooms. 

With rooms showcasing views of the surrounding hills, swimming pool, and mountains, it included a curved driveway and a grand entry, featuring an elegant curved staircase. A gated, curved, paver driveway past manicured gardens and oaks led to an impressive frontcourt entrance with a portico of pediment and columns; a swimming pool (one of the first here) with more landscaping was located in back with prominent mountain views.

Eleanor died in 1948 and Harry in 1959. Their son, John, sold the house on 1.6 acres in 1963. The remaining 18-plus acres was donated to the City of Medford as Holmes Park by John in 1973–which led to the creation of Holmes Park. 

The Holmes Park Hospice House story started when a tiny resale boutique (Hospice Unique Boutique) opened on Ashland Street in Ashland in 2009. From the start, there was a shared vision that one day the Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice (“SOFH”) would have a hospice house in Southern Oregon.  

Medical, governmental, and community leaders joined together, as SOFH searched for a park-like property between the two major hospitals in Medford, Rogue Regional and Providence Medford Medical Center. The colonial revival-style mansion was purchased in April 2016 for $1.3 million from Jay Beckstead, a Medford pathologist, and his wife, Paula, who had owned the property for 18 years.

Embarking on a $4 million fund drive, SOFH worked to raise the moneys to transform the estate by mid-2018 into hospice care. A compatible new wing added eight private rooms, each with a patio or small balcony, plus quiet sitting rooms and kitchenettes. Many of the ground-floor rooms have wide doors that open to the outside with a glass-wall sunroom. Today, the Holmes House has been remade into Holmes Park House, a 12-bed, standalone-residential care facility dedicated to hospice and comfort care. The grassroots, volunteer-driven nonprofit SOFH provides round-the-clock care to people who are terminally ill as well as private spaces for families to say goodbye.

With the 5,723-square-foot addition, the home also includes places for families to spend time and even nights, as if they were at a home. The organization estimates that 180 patients will be served by the facility each year, with an average stay of around 14 days. Six of the beds are subsidized through a combination of funding from Medicaid and CareOregon, charity care, and the nonprofit’s Hospice Unique Boutique. Patients or their families will pay to use the other six.  

Hospice care is provided by employees from Asante, Providence, and other local hospitals trained in hospice care, all supported by volunteers who are trained in a culture of mindful caregiving. The resident support volunteers have undergone more than 30 hours of training to prepare for caring for families.  

In 2017, Williams was awarded the prestigious American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, posthumously, for his more than three thousand projects. Frank Lloyd Wright also received AIA’s Gold Medal. The first licensed African-American architect west of the Mississippi, who fractured cultural barriers over his 50-year career, is now helping us think differently about environments for end-of-life care programs. And with a strong thanks to everyone with the Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice who have made this possible.  

 

 

Sources: Kaylee Tornay, “Renovated hospice house nearing fundraising deadline,” Mail Tribune, April 13, 2018, at Holmes House; Janet Eastman, “Harry & David mansion by famed architect becomes hospice facility,” The Oregonian, May 31, 2017, at Paul Franklin; John Darling, “Holmes Mansion converts to hospice,” Mail Tribune, May 16, 2016, at Hospice Purchase; Ethel Ann Ackerman, “Notes: A brief history of the Family,” September 18, 2017, Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice.