Peter Britt Gardens
Peter Britt came to Jacksonville not long after gold was discovered in Rich Gulch in 1851. After trying his hand at prospecting, he redirected his efforts toward painting and photography. The latter became his specialty, and for nearly 50 years he photographed the people, places, and events of southern Oregon (Britt was the first person to photograph Crater Lake). He also incorporated new photographic techniques and equipment in his studio as they developed. You’ll find his ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, stereographs, and tintypes on display at the Jacksonville Museum.
The Swiss-born Britt was also an accomplished horticulturalist and among the first vintners in southern Oregon. In addition to experimenting with several varieties of fruit and nut trees to see which grew best in the Rogue River Valley, he kept the first weather data records of the region. Another testimonial to his love of plants is the giant redwood tree on the western edge of the Britt Gardens (S. 1st St. and W. Pine St.), which he planted 130 years ago to commemorate the birth of his first child, Emil.
His house was a beautifully detailed Gothic revival home that was built in 1860 and then enlarged in the 1880s. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fires in 1957 and 1960 and can now be remembered only through photographs. Some of the remaining plantings are part of the original gardens, and many others were lovingly cultivated in 1976 by Robert Lovinger, a landscape architecture professor from the University of Oregon.
The Peter Britt Music Festival was held on the grounds of the estate from 1962 until 1978, when the new Britt Pavilion was built just south of Britt’s house.
A 0.5-mile hike begins 15 yards uphill from the Emil Britt redwood tree. A fairly level path follows the abandoned irrigation ditch that used to divert water from Jackson Creek to the Britt property. Soon you will notice Jackson Creek below the trail, as well as several overgrown sections of a nearly forgotten logging railroad bed. This is a particularly nice walk in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom and the mosses and ferns are green.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel