A piece of Medford history came crumbling down Friday when crews began the demolition of the Sam Jennings building, known locally as “The Alamo.”
When demolition is complete, Ledford Construction will begin building a parking lot, and the owner of the property, Lithia Motors, will add a few touches here and there to commemorate the former landmark at the corner of Riverside Avenue and East Fourth Street.
“The Lithia people are very conscientious about the downtown history,” said Jeff Venables, project manager for Ledford Construction Co. of Medford.
A 50-foot-long replica of one of the walls with the name Sam Jennings Co. will be built along one of the sidewalks.
“It’s going to be a beautiful parking lot,” Venables said.
Lithia Real Estate Inc. wants to use the parking lot, with about 50 spaces for adjacent businesses, and it plans to build sidewalks, light poles and landscaping to match improvements made by the city around nearby Pear Blossom Park.
Venables said storm runoff from the parking lot will flow into a subterranean vault that will filter the water before it enters the city storm drains.
On Friday, an excavator removed the roof and interior of the building, and it will demolish the walls that bear the Sam Jennings’ name Monday, so local residents can get their last glimpse of a piece of Medford history before it’s reduced to rubble.
Venables said the excavator will carefully pull down the walls to make sure debris doesn’t topple into the surrounding streets.
Lithia Motors bought the 0.57-acre lot for $1.2 million Feb. 8.
The Sam Jennings Co. occupied the building since 1927, and Dan Reisinger, whose family owned the truck and heavy equipment repair shop, said he found it difficult to believe the building is finally coming down.
“It’s been there a long time,” he said. “When I was a kid, if somebody wanted to know where something was, you’d always say, ‘It’s near the Sam Jennings building.’ Funny how times have changed.”
Reisinger said he continues to operate the trucking portion of the business from his home near the Greensprings.
Over the past five years, the Sams Jennings building has run afoul of city code enforcement, once getting slapped with a $250 citation after Medford officials warned the owner to remove parts stored on a nearby parking lot.
The city began receiving complaints in 2013 when the city built Pear Blossom Park, and Mayor Gary Wheeler acknowledged he was one of the local residents who complained about the property.
The building has been called the Alamo for many years, a reference to its mission-style facade and a long-ago Texas connection to the business.
Reisinger said it’s possible that some portions of the building date back to the 1800s.
“The building on Fourth Street is an entirely different building,” he said. “All I know is that it’s pretty darn old.”
Reisinger said it will be strange to pass by the intersection and not see the building where he spent much of his youth.
“If they find any gold in there, I want it,” he said.
Sam Jennings started the business in 1923 at another location near Main Street and moved the business in either the late 1920s or early ’30s to its current site. When the existing building was completed in 1927, it was owned by Scotty and Mac Matheny, who started Medford Auto Wrecking Co. In 1936, F.E. Samson Feed moved into part of the building.
Most of the children of Sam Jennings have worked at the store, which first sold tires, batteries and other auto parts, but then began servicing big trucks.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.