Our Story Begins
Although we officially opened our doors on September 1st in 2010 with an epic Oktoberfest party celebrating the 150th anniversary of Jacksonville, OR, the seeds for the Rogue Valley’s first Bavarian eatery were planted decades earlier.
Schoolhaus Brewhaus is the centerpiece of the Bigham Knoll campus, located in the Old School. An historic landmark often referred to as the “gem on the hill,” it has been restored and repurposed by our family as a thank you to the Southern Oregon community we call home. I loved the Old School from the moment our family moved to Jacksonville from Southern California.
We were looking for a small town to raise our children in an atmosphere supportive of family, faith, love, and good, hard work. A tour of Jacksonville Elementary School with photos of the Old School on the walls, and Jacksonville’s annual old-fashioned Christmas parade were all I needed to see – it was love at first sight. We relocated our family, our business, and employees shortly thereafter. At that time, the Old School was occupied by the Light Valley Waldorf School, and Hilary became a student in the very space where she would return 23 years later as Frau Kemmling, founder of the Schoolhaus Brewhaus.
Hilary always loved to cook. And she was good at it! Long before she attended culinary school she regularly prepared feasts for guests at our dinner parties. Every summer she happily served up plates of pancakes to the hungry teenagers working for Mel, who thinned our acreage at our home in the hills above town. A perfect view of the Old School in the distance reinforced my vision that the Campus was our family’s destiny.
In April of 1983, when Jacksonville Elementary School moved down the hill to their modern, new facility on Hueners Lane, the Bigham Knoll campus was abandoned as a public-school site for the first time in 116 years. It sat empty for many years, before it was occupied by the Light Valley Waldorf School, and later by Cascade Christian High School. I patiently kept my eye on the property for a few decades. When it went on the market in 2007, we scooped it up with our fingers crossed that the requested zoning changes would allow us to relocate our businesses to the campus. The move would allow us to begin renovations to honor the Campus’ original purpose as a community center for learning and celebrating.
The Meal That Changed Everything
A Thanksgiving trip to Munich became the catalyst for our next adventure. We happened upon the Zum Wildschütz restaurant in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and proceeded to have the best meal of our lives. Astounded by the experience, I visited the kitchen to pay my compliments to award-winning Bavarian Chef Dieter Platte, and with a handshake, walked out with a three-month internship secured for Hilary, who had recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
The rest, as they say is history.
Despite Jacksonville’s Germanic heritage – most notably Peter Britt who was Swiss-German – there was no authentic German cuisine to be found for hundreds of miles. Clearly, the Rogue Valley was long overdue for fine Bavarian fare! Hilary returned from Germany with hundreds of authentic recipes and secret sauces passed along from Chef Dieter. While we made plans for converting the basement cafeteria into the Brewhaus, Mel, resourceful Iowa farm-boy that is he, rescued the original bricks from the demolition piles of two of Medford’s less fortunate school buildings (Jackson and Roosevelt), allowing for the restaurant’s design in the Old School basement, using “period” bricks. Meanwhile, Hilary and I spent hours in the Southern Oregon Historical Society archives researching Jacksonville’s Germanic heritage, and scouring the Valley for artifacts from local 549C district schools to be displayed in the newly restored Campus.
We are Family
Today, it’s a family affair. Our grandsons can be found bussing tables, helping in the kitchen, and pulling weeds around the property. Fresh produce is harvested from the gardens. The train park, playground, and mini-golf help kids have fun while parents relax. The spacious ball fields provide family fun all year long. Thanks to our hard-working Bigham Knoll staff and extended family, community events, and celebrations keep the “gem on the hill” bustling with activity. Our vision of keeping a valuable historic landmark alive has become a reality, and our dedication to offer a beautiful, relaxing place for families to spend quality time together is fulfilled.
Gemütlichkeit – a German word evoking a space or state of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer.
We invite you to join us – for an authentic Bavarian meal, for a bier, an afternoon of mini-golf, an evening out with good friends, a stroll on the grounds, or for your next family celebration – Schoolhaus Brewhaus is where you belong.
There’s Room for Everyone at Schoolhaus Brewhaus
~Mel & Brooke Ashland, Hilary Kemmling & Matt Patten, Proprietors
525 Bigham Knoll Drive
Jacksonville, OR 97530
Closed: January 13 and 14 for repairs
For more information or to make a reservation
please call: 541-899-1000