Beacon Bar & Grill - Grants Pass, OR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NW_history_buff
N 42° 27.761 W 123° 19.439
10T E 473363 N 4701200
Quick Description: This eating establishment was once an airport terminal for for a local airport, long gone.
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 1/14/2015 9:46:59 AM
Waymark Code: WMN7QP
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 3

Long Description:
A geocache, Old Airport, brought my wife and I to the Beacon Bar & Grill and I immediately had a feeling there was something special about this building. After reading the geocache description, my hunch was correct. This restaurant was once an airport terminal for a local airstrip that existed until 1959. The geocache description describes the history of this building and location and reads:

This is the site of the first “official” airport in Grants Pass. The airport was here from 1919 until 1959. The building you see near here was the airport administration building and housed flight operations. That was actually the “second life” for this building. I believe it was first built as a Richfield Beacon service station. There were a string of them all along the highway which would become Highway 99. Just west of the cache there was a tall metal tower with a beacon light on top and the word “Richfield” down its side. In 1940 the “Richfield” sign was removed from the tower and it was given to the city. (I don’t know when it was taken down).

The runway for the airport began just above what is today Midland Avenue and ran up what is now Washington Boulevard to a spot above the restaurant (“third life of this building”). The original requirements for acquiring property for the airport were that it would provide an area “800 feet by 3000 feet and smooth enough to drive an automobile 25 to 30 miles per hour. That would suffice.” (Quoted from Daily Courier, October 20, 1984) The original runway was gravel and only 2000 feet long, but later lengthened to almost 3000.

This was not the first place airplanes landed in Grants Pass. On July 11, 1913 the first landing took place near what is now Grants Pass High School. However it was not a very successful demonstration of the new technology of aviation. The pilot could not get the plane airborne again and up to an altitude that would clear the buildings. It actually got off the ground three times but never higher than 30 feet. There are various reports as to the problems. Some say he blamed the “light, still air” in the valley” others say he blamed “down drafts.” He made a statement that airplanes would never be able to fly in the Rogue Valley because of the conditions. Some of the spectators believed the real problem was his engine was not running right. (Daily Courier July 10, 11, 1913). I believe the first successful landing and takeoff from Grants Pass happened in 1915. The plane landed and took off from an area along the railroad tracks approximately were the downtown Safeway sits today.

Based off old topography maps of the city, it was determined that Vine Street was once Hwy 99 and passed right by this former terminal/restaurant for many years until Interstate-5 was built in the early 1960s and bypassed all of downtown Grants Pass. Look at the topo map below from 1954 as proof of the landing strip/airport that was once here:

If you go to the back of the restaurant you can see remnants of the original facade of the airport building. There is also a porthole on the north side of the building which I thought was neat. I'm trying to find any old pictures of this building from its prior lives and if/when I do I'll post them here.

State: Oregon

Nearest City: Grants Pass

Type: Americana - Motel, diner, roadside attraction, etc.

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