Jane Sherar had a garden. It was carved from a rock ledge overlooking the Deschutes River in Central Oregon. She and her husband ran a hotel that at the time – the late 1800s – was the largest structure between San Francisco and Seattle. The hotel called the Sherar House was built where a bridge crossed the Deschutes River on the Old Dalles Military Highway. The Dalles was a bustling town along the Columbia River at the time, and shipments to the gold fields kept people on the road heading into Eastern Oregon.
Descendents told me about Jane's garden and I had photographs of little bridges leading from the third story of the hotel right out to that ledge garden high above the river in the rimrocks. In my book, I had her plant vegetables but also a sweet grape arbor. It just seemed like the perfect place. Watering wouldn’t have been easy with the garden high above the river, but they had hotel employees – many employed from the nearby Indian reservation – who likely carried heavy buckets of water across those little bridges out to the garden to feed those thirsty plants.
Before I finished writing the book, A Sweetness to the Soul, where the garden is mentioned, I received a phone call from a man who said as a boy he’d stayed at the Sherar House hotel one summer. His father was an engineer and worked on the fish ladder there. The man told me that his brother, father, mom and this now elderly man had the run of the hotel.
“Do you remember the ledge garden?” I asked him.
“Oh yes. I slept on the third floor and the bridge went from my room out to that ledge where the railroad goes now.”
“I don’t suppose you’d have any idea what they planted there?”
“For certain they had sweet grapes. Some of the old vine still stood.”
The hotel burned not long after they’d spent their summer there, but I will always remember the delight of discovering that something I’d written in fiction had a basis in fact… I just hadn’t known that when I wrote it. It’s a garden to remember. Photos show the hotel, but sadly, not the garden. You can see photos of the garden at this link:
What gardens have you visited that are worth mentioning?