Historic Mon Desir Restaurant is gone but not forgotten

One of Oregon’s treasures and an official historical structure was destroyed last week in a fiery blaze being classified as arson.

On Monday, Jan. 11 at 4:14 a.m., Jackson County Fire District #3 and the Central Point Police Department were dispatched to a reported structure fire at the vacant Mon Desir Restaurant, 4615 Hamrick Road, in Central Point.

Fire District #3 Assistant Fire Marshal Don Hickman said the first units were on the scene within five minutes. At that time, fire was coming out of the burgundy-colored awning in front of one of the dining rooms.  Hickman said it went to two alarms with  departments from Medford, Jacksonville and Fire District 5 in Talent responding.

Mon Desir, like so many very old structures, has been remodeled and/or had additions and as Hickman said, they were “chasing fire in hidden pockets.” At daylight they brought in heavy equipment from near-by Knife River
to meticulously demolish sections where there was hidden fire. The structural integrity of the 9,000 sq. ft. building was severely compromise, said Hickman, and entering the structure could have placed firemen in great danger. On the other hand, the fire department did not want the area of origin damaged, so there was careful coordination between District 3 and the Knife River equipment operator.

A total of seven investigators from  District # 3, Oregon State Fire Marshall and Central Point Police were  on the scene to determine the origin and cause.

On Wednesday, Sgt. Josh Moulin of Central Point Police released a statement saying the preliminary investigation determined the fire was human caused. The investigation was turned over to CPPD and is being classified as arson.

Any information that may aid the investigation should be given to the CPPD. A reward is being offered from Crime Stoppers of Southern Oregon for information. The information can be provided, even if anonymously, to the Central Point Police at 541-664-5578 or to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-850-0580.

Mon Desir was built by Conro Fiero for his beloved bride, Gracie, in 1910. He was a most successful orchardist at that time. Known as Woodland Acres, their home sat on some 140 acres.   

Stan and the late Tommie Smith purchased Mon Desir in the mid 1960s from Julie Tummers, who with her husband, had owned it for nearly 20 years. There were two bars in Mon Desir; one in the bar and one in the dining area that was added by Smith.

According to The Smith Family Heritage Cookbook, the beautiful white oak bar many remembered at Mon Desir was built by the Weeks Company (later became Weeks & Orr Furniture and is no longer in existence) in Medford in 1898. It was built for “Nonnie’s” (Bessie Smith Johnston) father for his saloon at the corner of Oregon and California Streets in Jacksonville.

After purchasing Mon Desir, Stan built on a banquet room and in the 1960s found an old bar in Gold Hill.
According to the cookbook, “The little white bar caused much comment from guests who felt they had stepped into the past when attending banquets in the dining room,” said Nonnie.

Ray Offenbacher, an uncle of Stan’s,  said the bar was the very same bar he had known as a boy back at the turn of the century.

Smiths owned Mon Desir for 13 years. It received a number of honors including one from  “Holiday Magazine” wherein they were noted as one of the top 250 places to dine in all of North America.

Smith’s sold Mon Desir in 1979 to Russ Walters who operated it through the 1980s. It closed as a restaurant in 2002 and was most recently purchased to be part of a development. The downturn in the economy has thus far prevented that development.

And now the 100-year-old Mon Desir that fed so many, hosted innumerable dignitaries, weddings, rehearsal dinners and special parties is but a memory. While gone, those memories are not forgotten.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent


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