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JPR Feature
The Britt Grounds: New Life for Old Trees   
Tuesday June 7, 2005
By Dawna Curler

Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson

On warm summer nights, music lovers attend outdoor concerts at the Britt Festival held on a wooded hillside overlooking Jacksonville, Oregon. The venue, now a Jackson County park, is the former estate of pioneer photographer, Peter Britt.

Britt came to Jacksonville in 1852. After a brief stint mining and mule packing, he spent the next five decades photographing the people and places of Southern Oregon. Horticulture was one of Britt's greatest loves. He was among the first orchardists in the area and planted the earliest grape vineyards. Britt experimented with many botanical specimens. Around his house he developed exceptional ornamental gardens filled with rare and exotic plants including palm trees and an Abyssinian Banana. The house is now gone, but some of the trees and plants remain.

Between the 1860s and 1880s, Peter Britt planted apple and pear trees along the slope of his hillside. More than a hundred years later the old trees have begun to die of old age.  To preserve the genes and character of Britt's original orchard, modern-day horticulturalists grafted wood from the mature trees onto young, healthy rootstalk and planted the new trees amongst the old. Britt would be pleased to see botanical experiments continuing in his gardens and visitors still enjoying the grounds.

Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully.  I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org

Curler, Dawna. "Man of Culture, Man of Commerce, Peter Britt 1819-1905," Southern Oregon Heritage Today, Summer 2004, Vol. 6, No.3, pp. 8-13. Clason, Pat (had personal knowledge of the grafting project), notes and conversation with the author, March, 2005.

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