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Claire Hanley Arboretum

By December 31, 2023Beet 2024 01 January

This article originally appeared in the Garden Beet, March, 1998. Knowing that major changes are now in the works for the beautiful Claire Hanley Arboretum, we thought you might enjoy learning some of the history of that area. Today, when you see the pink ribbons in the Arboretum, think about the meaningful beginning of those beautiful trees.

In the mid-1950’s, a group of farmers* approached the Jackson County Court with a request for a new site for the Southern Oregon Research Center. Prior to this, research grounds were at two locations; 47 acres on Colver Road, and a smaller site on Highway 99 where the Jackson County Animal Shelter now stands. These sites were eventually relinquished, to be used by other county services. This request came in happy synchronism with the Hanley sisters’ (Martha, Claire, and Mary) decision to sell a portion of their land, with the intention that it be used for agricultural research. The County Court said “Yes” to the farmers, the Hanley sisters said “Yes” to the Court, and the sale of 81.2 acres, for a cost of $50,000, was finalized in the fall of 1957.

Leveling the terrain in preparation for horticultural trial grounds began in the spring of 1958, and a full slate of research orchards, vegetable and field crops were planted in the wake of the bulldozer wheels. The official move to the new site occurred in the fall of 1958. The original structures were the Research Station, the student residence, and one greenhouse, all still standing.

Claire Hanley was the most avid of the gardening Hanley sisters, and, although she was the first of the sisters to die, she did live long enough to see her dream of an Arboretum become reality. In 1958 she was President of the Southwestern Oregon Organization of Garden Clubs, and it was at her urging that the Arboretum was created. Funding for the project was provided by the Garden Club Organization, and many of the trees donated were planted as memorials, of family or friends, by members of that organization.

The actual labor of planning the landscaping and planting the trees however was done by John McLoughlin. John was then the Ornamental Horticultural Agent for the Extension Service. The trees were acquired and planted in 1961 and 1962.

Some shrubs and trees have been added to the original Arboretum landscape. Many of these are living memorials of loved ones. Some were planted because of their rarity or singular beauty, a few in hands-on learning experiences for Master Gardeners.

*   Special thanks to John Yungen, Professor Emeritus of the OSU Research Center, and Maureen Smith, from the Jackson County Historical Society, for providing this information.

Claudia Law MG96

Editor’s note: In 2023 dollars, $50,000 in 1957 is now worth about $520,000.