The story of Trinity Garden goes back for millennia, deep into the Pleistocene Epoch, when climates were much different, very wet and very cold; when glaciers moved and water flowed; when granodiorite boulders of size moved from the slopes of the Mount Ashland batholith to remain buried, just peeking above surrounding sediments until very recently.
Mastodons, ground sloths, ice age bison, western horse, tapir, camels, antelope, American lion, dire wolf, sabre-toothed cat, and giant bears may have visited the future Trinity Garden site. These large mammals vanished 10,000 years ago with the appearance of humans; replaced by modern fauna.
Until the arrival of Europeans in the middle of the 1800s, the Shasta tribe had a sizeable habitation site near the present Ashland City Plaza. These people may have moved through the pine oak savannas of the valley floor on or near the garden while hunting, gathering, or traveling toward the Siskiyou trail leading over the Siskiyou Mountains to the Klamath River.
In 1827, Peter Skeene Ogden’s Hudson’s Bay Company Brigade passed through the general area from the south, and in 1829, Alexander McLeod’s Brigade came from the north to pass south over the Siskiyou Summit. Subsequent H.B.C. parties used the route during the 1830s and early 1840s. In 1841, the Emmons party of U.S. Exploring Expedition under the command of Commander Wilkes passed south.
In 1852, Abel Helman built a small lumber mill on the banks of the stream we now know as Ashland Creek. The creek eventually provided waterpower for a number of other mills that led to the establishment of the small village of Ashland Mills and eventually to the City of Ashland.
As Ashland grew, streets were laid out and buildings built. Trinity Episcopal Church was constructed on Second Street between Main and C streets in 1894-95. There were three houses between the church and C Street. In 1955 Lithia Way was constructed as a one-way street north to alleviate traffic congestion caused by US 99 traffic that passed through downtown on Main Street. Road construction resulted in one or perhaps both houses nearest to C Street to be moved to B Street. This left the Beach-Goode (aka Morgan) house, built about the same time as the church, standing between the church and a bare piece of property created by the curve of Lithia Way and the elimination of C Street.
Trinity Garden will not be the first formal garden north of the church. There were probably flower and kitchen gardens associated with the three turn-of-the-last-century homes between Trinity Church and C Street. After the Morgan House was moved, a huge snowball bush in the yard was cut down and torn out by church members who felt it was somehow in the way.
The vacant property north of the Morgan House remained in private hands until the mid 1980s when the good people of Trinity heard that the property might be sold and might, heaven forefend, end up as a Mexican fast food emporium or worse. Needless to say, the vestry under the direction of the then Rector Jerry Lamb, purchased the property with the eventual hope that the church eventually would acquire the Morgan- Beach-Goode home to use for the benefit of the church. The Reverend Lamb made the original agreement with Mrs. Morgan in the 1970′s or early 80′s that as long as she was living in the house it was hers. She moved to the nursing home in early 1994 and then it was ours…but it did take quite a few more years before we managed to get the house off the property!
The Morgan property included the house and an adjacent building used by Morgan Refrigeration, the family business. A popular pie-shaped barbershop was located in the building facing Lithia Way until 1999 when barber Dan Evans retired. In the interim, Trinity took possession of the outbuilding, did some remodeling, and rented the space a to chocolatier, who also sold coffee. The building was subsequently remodeled further, repainted, and generally spiffed up by a local building designer who has a long-term lease on the place.
When Mrs. Morgan finally vacated her house and moved out, the church decided to sell the building at a very low price to anyone who would move it to another site rather than destroy it. After several negotiations, the house was eventually sold to a local builder for one dollar, moved to a new site on Laurel Street, remodeled and given new life. Trinity was faced with making a decision about what to do with the open space. Early on a fall morning in 2000, parishioners and passers-by witnessed a ghostly apparition as a house moved slowly off its birthplace and floated off in the fog down C Street.
Ideas for the use of the now vacant lot included expansion space for new church facilities, a parking lot, or a garden. After considerable discussion, the church decided to use the site for a parish garden. The parish established the Trinity Garden Committee to plan for and guide the project to completion. We wanted sacred ground and a columbarium for ourselves, and a labyrinth as a gift to the community.
Summer of 2001 the site was smoothed, weeded, and sown with grass and commercial wildflower seed. Late summer and fall, grass and wildflowers covered the site. A 40-foot circle representing the labyrinth was mowed into the grass to give parishioners and passers-by a sense of what the space might eventually look like. In the mean time, a designer was hired, plans drawn, and presented to the Ashland Historic Commission and City Planning Department, which were approved with modifications. Soon after, the church discovered that we did not have the funds to build the garden as planned.
We then hired our current landscape architect, Greg Covey, to redesign a garden within our means. The Trinity Garden Committee guided Greg in his efforts to satisfy the wants and desires of the parish and the wants and desires of the City Planning and Historic Commissions to develop a beautiful garden that reflects the historic nature of Trinity Church in a dignified and esthetic way. As a result of our planning, we now have a garden that is a credit to the parish and a gift to the community as a “quiet” garden for prayer, meditation and introspection, or just a place to relax –read a book, rest, enjoy the setting. Trinity Garden is a restful gift to our neighbors and townsfolk who are invited to visit often.
Trinity Garden, Columbarium, and Sacred Ground was finished in the late fall of 2004. The garden consists of a large Chartres style labyrinth, designed and painted by the internationally known Robert Ferré on colored concrete. The three separate Columbaria units consist of 145 individual niches for the repose of the ashes of parish members and their families. Sacred ground for the scattering or burial of parishioners’ ashes is located in a fenced area between the columbarium units and the church. Low benches, a trellis, and a fountain are additional garden amenities. The trellis with seating beneath serves as a visual connection to the church building itself.
Plantings were chosen for drought tolerance, low maintenance, beauty, and spiritual significance. Twelve dwarf holly trees back the fountain, six Ginkgos surround the labyrinth, a pair of silk-handkerchief trees (Davidia) guard one main entrance, a pair of tupelos the other. A red oak, and big-toothed maples add fall color. Two white flowered Japanese snowbell trees (Styrax japonica) are in the sacred ground, and a white climbing rose will eventually cover the trellis. Other major plantings include strawberry trees, rockroses, and lavender.
Symbols of Christian significance are subtle, consisting of three large boulders in the water features that represent the Trinity, twelve holly trees that represent the Apostles, and the Chartres Labyrinth. We hope that people of all spiritual persuasions, or none, will feel comfortable in the Garden.
Fall of 2004 Trinity Garden joined the Quiet Garden Trust, an international network of gardens for introspection, meditation, and prayer, to broaden our ministry beyond Ashland. The Trust is headquartered in England and many members from throughout the world are of the Anglican tradition.
The Right Reverend Johncy Itty, Bishop of the Diocese of Oregon, consecrated Trinity Garden, Columbarium, and Sacred Ground the summer of 2004. Events that have occurred include a blessing of the animals in celebration of St Francis, a Halloween watch, Walking with Mary, and a community wide Winter Solstice celebration. Individuals walk the labyrinth at all hours of the day and night, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the downtown place.
On warm days, people also rest or read on the benches within, or on the city benches along the sidewalk. This sylvan space on the busy corner of Second Street and Lithia Way in downtown Ashland is a gateway to the historic district.
The garden was designed by Covey Landscape Architecture, constructed by The Downey Company, landscaped by Solid Ground, and is maintained by Alpine Meadows, all of Ashland. Trinity Garden, Columbarium, and Sacred Ground is licensed by the Oregon State Mortuary and Cemetery Board.
Trinity Garden was made possible by a special gift from Marcia Van Dyke. A gift from Sue Harmon made the water feature possible. Many in the parish family gave generously for plantings or benches as memorials. The dedicated Trinity Garden Committee worked tirelessly to make this dream come true.
The construction and maintenance of Trinity Garden represents a significant portion of our parish resources. We invite you to support this community asset through a tax free donation. Please mark your gift: Trinity Garden and mail it to 44 N. 2nd St., Ashland, OR 97520. You will receive both our gratitude and a receipt.