The city is the home of Southern Oregon University (SOU) and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). These are important to Ashland's economy, which also depends on restaurants, galleries, and retail stores that cater to playgoers and other visitors. Lithia Park along Ashland Creek, historic buildings, and a paved intercity bike trail provide additional tourist attractions.
Ashland, originally called Ashland Mills, was named after Ashland County, Ohio, the original home of founder Abel Helman, and secondarily for Ashland, Kentucky, where other founders had family connections. Ashland has a mayor-council government assisted by citizen committees. Historically, its liberal politics have differed, often sharply, with much of the rest of southwest Oregon.
Lithia Park is the largest and most central park of Ashland, Oregon. It consists of 93 acres of forested canyonland around Ashland Creek, stretching from the downtown plaza up toward its headwaters near Mount Ashland. Its name originates from lithium oxide (Li2O) or "lithia," which is found in the stream water pumped to the park.
The park has two large greens, a bandshell for public musical performances, two duck ponds, a large playground, tennis courts, community buildings and, in winter, an ice skating rink. It also offers picnic areas and miles of hiking trails. View or purchase prints of 47 fall images of Lithia Parkhere. Or click on any image.
The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 22, 1982.
The area which now comprises the entrance to Lithia Park was the site of Abel Helman and Eber Emery's flour mill, the first building in what is now the city of Ashland—established in 1852. By the time the town (then called Ashland Mills) had grown up around the area, the old mill had become an eyesore, dirty with livestock and the mill all but abandoned.