Kanipe Park on the Road to Restoration

One of Southern Oregon’s best kept secrets is being discovered after a decade of concentrated restoration efforts by a local group of volunteers. Located near the Southern Oregon community of Oakland, Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park is a 1,100-acre park that was donated to the County after the passing of life-long resident Mildred Kanipe. Although most of the property is open space, the Kanipe Farmstead complex and a historic one-room school were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 to make way for their restoration and reuse as centerpieces of the park.

Historic photo of Kanipe House  (Photo courtesy Kanipe Family Album)

Historic photo of Kanipe House
(Photo courtesy Kanipe Family Album)


Midred Kanipe
(Photo courtesy Lois Eagleton)

School 1

English Settlement School in 2009
(Photo courtesy Friends of Mildred Kanipe Park)

School 2

The c.1910
English Settlement School
has been the focus of recent
restoration efforts at Kanipe Park
(Photo courtesy Friends of Mildred Kanipe Park)

School 3

English Settlement School today
(Photo courtesy Friends of Mildred Kanipe Park)


Interior of the Kanipe House
(Photo courtesy Liz Carter)


The Kanipe House as it appears today. Restoration could begin in the near future if grant dollars are secured (Photo courtesy Liz Carter)


Kanipe Farmstead: Who Needs a Bathroom Anyway?

Mildred Kanipe was born on the property in 1907, in the same house that her mother was born in 1876. The Kanipe family arrived to this property in 1872, obtaining the land and a small house believed to be built before 1865. Although the center of family life on the property, the rudimentary house was lived in for around a hundred and thirty years with no bathroom! Electricity and water were not brought into the home until it was about 100 years old, and then only to the kitchen and dining area. Heating and cooking were always done with wood. According to the property’s nomination to the National Register, this continuity of historic functionality resulted in the house retaining its “high degree of historical integrity.”

Mildred Kanipe is remembered as a very colorful character. She was strong-willed and those who remember her either liked her or didn’t. As a pretty young woman she was often referred to as “The Belle of Oakland” but she was strong–“able to toss bales of hay with the best of them”–and she carried a gun, a rifle, or a pistol. She never married, running her large ranch by herself, often with the help of a high school boy or two. She learned ranching from helping her father as she grew up. She purchased her first land, 167 acres, in 1933, when she was twenty six years old with money she earned doing chores for neighboring ranchers and training horses. Mildred’s father passed away in 1940 leaving her 290 acres, which included the house, farmstead buildings, and the school. Then, in 1949, Mildred purchased the neighboring Underwood Ranch, adding 633 acres to her farmstead and connecting the two parcels she already owned, making the total acreage almost 1,100 acres. It is said that Mildred earned the money to buy this by running a Grade A dairy by herself, caring for the cows, keeping the barn clean, milking twice a day, and hauling the milk to Cottage Grove daily. During this time she was also running the ranch, raising horses, sheep, cattle, and rabbits, maintaining hay fields, and harvesting hay.

Mildred loved horses and every year rode in the local rodeo parade sporting a new outfit of clothes–apparently her annual purchase. One of the specifications in her will when, in 1983, she left her ranch to the people of Douglas County was “equestrian trails will be permitted.”

Mildred had hoped to be able to live on her farmstead until she passed away, wishing to spend her whole life there. Unfortunately, deteriorating health required her to go to a nursing home in the end. She is buried near the house she loved, “on my right side, with my feet facing the road.” Mildred was an Oregonian who never stopped doing things her way.

Restoration of the Farmstead

Mildred Kanipe’s house today is in sad need of serious repairs and restoration. In 2011, the dairy barn was demolished and if work doesn’t happen soon, the house could be lost too.

Over the course of the past two years, the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Park have prioritized the restoration of the English Settlement School, a one-room schoolhouse just south of the farmstead that Mildred attended as a child. With support from the Kinsman Foundation, C. Giles Hunt Charitable Trust, and the State Historic Preservation Office, the deteriorating c.1910 building was recently placed on a new foundation, stabilized, painted, historically accurate new windows installed, and will soon get a new roof and door restoration.

Once the school restoration is complete, attention will turn to saving the historic Kanipe House. Due to the poor condition of the building, restoration will be complex and expensive, but within reach of the dedicated volunteers who have taken the park under their wings. Assuming grant funds can be obtained to save the house, the Douglas County Museum will donate the original furnishings from the house to be incorporated into the reuse of the property. Will electricity and a bathroom will be part of the restoration? That’s still to be determined.

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