With railroad access to distant markets, the orchard industry flourished. Hundreds of thousands of apple and pear trees were planted in the early 1900s, and commercial fruit became the Rogue Valley's major export.
Promoters widely advertised the Rogue Valley as an agricultural Mecca, and Medford became one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. By 1910, there was such a housing shortage that a tent city grew up on the edge of town.
Medford's burgeoning population and an infusion of capital from wealthy easterners transformed the modest town into a sophisticated metropolis. Between 1909 and 1911, many of Medford's most impressive buildings, including Sacred Heart Hospital on the city's developing east side, were erected. By 1912, Medford supported a high school, three elementary schools, a city park, a new passenger depot, and a Carnegie library. A roller-skating rink, indoor swimming pool, several movie theaters, and an opera house provided entertainment. Over 21 miles of wooden pipe brought mountain water to the city. Residents had electricity and telephone service. Hundreds of automobiles rumbled over 18 miles of paved streets. Fruit warehouses and packing sheds were built near the train yard, and Medford became the shipping and commercial center of the county. The economy was strong,
Medford's four banks prospered, and life was good until the Orchard Boom went bust.
By the mid-teens, Medford's population sharply declined as a local recession engulfed the area. Down but not out, the resourceful community maintained a progressive spirit and rescued its shattered economy.
Despite the economic setbacks that came with the end of the Orchard Boom, Medfordites found ways to move ahead. Slow and steady growth revived Medford's economy, and in 1927 the community celebrated its recovery with a "Jubilee of Visions Realized." By then several irrigation districts provided water which, along with the formation of cooperatives, helped stabilize the orchard industry. In 1922, a fairgrounds with five exhibition buildings and tracks for auto, motorcycle, and horse racing opened on Medford's south side. A dirt landing strip inside the racetrack was part of the first public airport in Oregon. In 1926, this airport became the first and only airmail stop in Oregon, ranking Medford as an early commercial aviation leader. The next year, Medford became the county seat, making it a governmental as well as an economic and transportation center.
Medford slid into the Great Depression along with the rest of the country in the 1930s. Unemployment rose, renewed growth halted, and one of its four banks failed. During this desperate time, a heated
political revolt resulted in stolen ballots from the new county courthouse and a constable's murder. Yet Medford kept its face to the future. In 1930, the city dedicated a new state-of-the-art airport designed for larger passenger aircraft, and beginning in 1936 building owners used "New Deal" money to modernize. As smooth stucco and tile covered outmoded brick and stone ornamentation, progressive Medford enthusiastically adopted the streamlined architecture style of the era.