16 Oct President Jon Cartu Writes – The historic Gilchrist Mall is in peril;
The historic Gilchrist Mall is in peril. The Mall is Gilchristâs most architecturally and historically significant structure. It is listed in the state of Oregonâs database of historic sites. The Gilchrist Mall is the townâs heart. It is where a post office, grocery store, library and other businesses are located. It is the structure that ties the town together and makes it a town. The Gilchrist Mall is a part of Oregonâs historic legacy that might soon be lost.
There has been a plan recently advanced by the Crescent Fire Department to buy the Gilchrist Mall then tear out its central section. The plan reduces the areaâs tax base and decreases the amount of retail space available to north Klamath County at the very moment when, following the imminent completion of the Crescent Sewer Project, resulting growth will immediately increase the areaâs need for space zoned for commercial activities.
The Gilchrist Mall was designed by Hollis Johnston of the firm Hollis Johnston & Koch. Johnston graduated from the University Of Oregon School Of Architecture. He was a member of its class of 1919. He designed the Gilchrist Mall, as well as the entire town, in the Norwegian Modern Style. The Gilchrist Mall is the first mall built east of the Cascades.
The Gilchrist Mall was a new idea at the time of its construction. Housed under the roof of the shopping center were a grocery store, post office, barbershop, beauty shop, drugstore, liquor store, bowling alley, library and a private club for employees of the Gilchrist Timber Company as well as its subsidiary operations and concessionaires. Contained within the club were a bar, lounge area, dance floor, pool table and a meeting room. On the mallâs upper floor was a space that was made available to the townâs churches. The businesses were operated as concessions.
The Gilchrist Mall remains unchanged in appearance and layout from when it was completed in 1939.
The Gilchrist Mall continues to serve as intended when it was constructed. Its current tenants include a grocery store, post office, liquor store, radio station, library, computer repair service, the Gilchrist Museum, an auto dealer and a mobile notary.
The only surviving regulation two-lane bowling alley west of the Mississippi is one of the Gilchrist Mallâs many unique features.
There is currently a shortage of retail businesses in north Klamath County. This shortage will grow more acute with the completion of the Crescent Sewer System and with steady increase in visitor traffic to the north end of Klamath County. Further complicating this situation is the limited number of areas in the north end of the county that are zoned for commercial activities. The Gilchrist Mall is one of the few existing facilities in the countyâs north end that has the potential to quickly accommodate new retail businesses.
â John Driscoll lives in Gilchrist.