To preserve, protect and advocate on behalf of Lake Oswego’s built heritage.
Advocacy is the most challenging aspect of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society’s mission. We firmly believe that if we don’t advocate on behalf of threatened landmark properties we are not doing our job as a non-profit dedicated to preservation.
Since our founding in 2011, we have testified at every public hearing regarding proposed major alterations or delisting of properties on the City of Lake Oswego’s Landmark Designation List and National Register.
Not every historic building can be saved. We serve as one of the City-approved resources for documenting historic buildings slated for demolition.
Oregon Supreme Court
We took our advocacy for the Carmen House all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court and won, setting a precedent for the protection of historically designated sites in future preservation cases.
We worked to protect and enhance language in the City’s comprehensive plan regarding historic resources.
Land Use Testimony
The Society has testified on behalf of every threatened landmark since our founding in 2011. In this timeframe, public hearings have been held regarding proposed major alterations or delisting of five of our 43 landmark homes and one non-residential landmark:
Landmark: Carman House
August 4, 2016 Oregon Supreme Court Decision
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Lake Oswego Preservation Society v. City of Lake Oswego, that only the original owner at the time of the historic designation has the right to object. Subsequent owners, who acquire the historic property, cannot opt out of the designation.
This ruling protects the oldest house in Lake Oswego, the 1855 Carman House, as well as 3,200 other historic resources across Oregon, from delisting under the state statute commonly known as the “owner consent law.” Oregon is the only state in the union to have an owner consent law.
The Society has worked for five years to save the Carman House, but we wouldn’t have this favorable outcome without our legal representatives, Jeff Kleinman and Dan Kearns, donors who contributed to our legal defense fund, our partner in preservation, Restore Oregon, and the ten organizations and municipalities who supported our case as Friends of the Court.
Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development
Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
Architectural Heritage Center
National Trust for Historic Preservation
City of Portland
City of Pendleton
November 10, 2015 Oregon Supreme Court Oral Arguments
The Oregon Supreme Court heard oral arguments on November 10, 2015; they are under no time constraints to issue an opinion. As of May 2016, we are still awaiting a Supreme Court decision. This is the first time in Oregon’s history that this high court has heard a historic preservation issue.
April 23, 2105 Oregon Supreme Court Petition Accepted
The Oregon Supreme Court accepted our petition for judicial review the appellate court’s decision. Since this high court only accepts about six percent of the cases they are requested to review, acceptance of this case was a milestone.
March 25, 2015 Amicus Curiae, Friend of the Court, Petition
The Court of Appeals opinion re: Lake Oswego Preservation Society v. City of Lake Oswego threatens historic preservation across Oregon in conflict with Statewide Planning Goal 5. Because of the statewide negative ramifications of this decision, Restore Oregon and Architectural Heritage Center have filed a Friend of the Court petition in support of a Supreme Court review.
March 11, 2015 Petition for Judicial Review
Based on a possible interpretation of the Court of Appeals opinion re: the Carman House that may have statewide ramifications, our attorney has filed a petition to request that the Oregon Supreme Court provide clarification of ORS 197.772, the “owner consent” law.
February 4, 2015 Oregon Court of Appeals Opinion
We are deeply disappointed by the Court of Appeals interpretation of the state statute, which reverses the Land Use Board of Appeals decision in our favor and puts the Carman House, a dwelling important both to Lake Oswego’s and Oregon’s history, at risk. The Lake Oswego Preservation Society has spent the last four years trying to save this historic resource.
Statewide planning Goal 5 mandates the protection of historic resources. Citizen’s objections to historic designations caused the legislature to adopt ORS 197.772 as a “fix” in 1995. It is a poorly written statute that failed to address many issues that have since been raised. Historic resources are one of the few, and perhaps only, resources in the state subject to “owner consent.”
The Court’s interpretation still requires a double objection for delisting: 1) the owner at the time of the designation and 2) the current owner who seeks delisting. There may be a small number of instances in Oregon where a double objection exists. The Court’s opinion does not open the door to wholesale delisting of historic properties in the state.
The Society has won two out of the four Carman House hearings; we just won them, so far, in the wrong sequence! Requesting a review by the Oregon State Supreme Court is under consideration.
August 5, 2014 LUBA Ruling
Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals examined the legislative history of ORS 197.772 and issued an opinion in our favor. Only the original objecting owner has the right to delist under the state statute; it does not extend this right to subsequent owners.
December 17, 2013 Lake Oswego City Council Hearing
As we all realize, this is an issue that involves both heartstrings and purse strings. I believe that the City ought to preserve the 1855 Carman House for the public good and let me tell you why:
- It remains the oldest house in our community today.
- It’s one of a scarce number of such houses in Oregon. Research conducted by Restore Oregon shows that demolition of these Willamette Valley structures has resulted in losses that bring us down to just 5% the homes and homesteads that were standing in 1865.
- It’s the only house we still have that dates back to the federal Donation Land Claim Act passed in 1850 as a means to lure settlors to the Oregon Territory.
- Of the 43 homes on the City’s Landmark List, this is, historically, the most significant to the community.
- Waters Carman was a pioneer who contributed greatly to the early development of the area.
- The house was one of the earliest homes built in Oswego.
At the same time, I’m sensitive and sympathetic to the owners’ right to realize some economic value from their property. Knowing that the public hearing process is inherently adversarial, I contacted the owners, through their attorney, months ago. I offered to sit down around a table and talk about scenarios that include retention of the house and to discuss benefits of which they may not be aware. My hope all along has been to find a solution that works for both sides. I’m still very interested in having that conversation.
On August 7, 1979 an article was published in the Oregonian entitled, “Homestead Stays; Family Goes.” It states, “Dick Wilmot has obtained approval for the 51-unit Pony Hill condominium project on his land adjacent to the Mountain Park development, but he is planning to donate the wood-frame house and about one-half acre to an appropriate historical or governmental body for preservation.” Richard Wilmot clearly understood and appreciated the historic significance of the Carman House to the community. Tonight I am asking you to grant the opportunity to honor his wish.
As long as the Carman House still stands, the options for a solution that balance development with preservation exist. On the other hand, there is only one chance to make the decision to demolish this historic structure and that decision is made, not only for the community today, but for our children and all who come after us. Please uphold the decision of the Historic Resources Advisory Board and deny LU13-0012 so we’ll have enough time to work together to craft a win-win solution.
Landmark: Carman House
September 11, 2013 Historic Resources Advisory Board Hearing
Waters Carman was a witness who signed A. A. Durham’s Donation Land Claim. This was the legal document that essentially founded Oswego. The house in which Carman lived is the last physical link to our pioneer roots. Severing this connection would be a tremendous blow to the history of our community.
Of the established Donation Land Claims that make up present-day Lake Oswego, all of these were lost prior to Lake Oswego adopting a land use goal balancing development and preservation:
- The Durham House
- The Barnes House
- The Tryon House
- The Prosser House
- The Franklin House
- The Collard House
- The Bullock House
- The Brown House
- The Walling House
The only Donation Land Claim era structure left in Lake Oswego is the Carman House and to destroy this risks destroying the sense of who we are and where we came from. Herbert Muschamp said it better than I: “A building does not have to be an important work of architecture to become a first-rate landmark. Landmarks are fashioned by those who encounter them after they are built. The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city’s memory.” It is shortsighted, at best, to sacrifice the greater good of the community and the place this property holds in the community’s memory, for the economic benefit of a few individuals.
Richard “Dick” Wilmot in an August 7, 1979 Oregonian article entitled “Homestead Stays; Family Goes” said that he “is planning on donating the wood-frame house and about one-half an acre to an appropriate historical or governmental body for preservation.” This statement seems at odds with his “objection” to the historic designation. Wilmot clearly recognized the historic importance of the house and the land and wished to preserve it so why would he truly object?
Another point has even more bearing on this hearing. In the October 12, 1999 minutes of the Lake Oswego City Council, it states: “Councilor Rohde explained that in 1990 the state legislature empowered the [Historic Resources Advisory] Board to inventory properties, to declare them historic, and to regulate modifications to the historic homes. In 1995, the legislature allowed any property owner to opt out of an historic designation.” Actually, on September 1, 1996 Oregon’s Statewide Planning Goal 5 was revised to include an “owner consent provision” which enabled owners of historic places to have them removed from a plan’s inventory if it was included without the owners consent.”
Given that Lake Oswego historic property owners were advised of their opportunity to opt out following the legislative action in 1996 and Richard Wilmot did not take advantage of this opportunity, how can this designation now be characterized as “imposed?”
Also, Richard Wilmot, at the time, did not appeal the City Council decision designating the 1.25-acre parcel and the Carman House a City of Lake Oswego Landmark and granting development of Carman Ridge. In fact, the Council decision limiting designation to the Carman House and the surrounding area is one of the preferences suggested by Wilmot and Gregg. Should the applicant now be allowed to claim the designation was imposed? Wilmot had appealed the farmstead designation, but this legal process was rendered unnecessary by the fire that destroyed the barn. The Carman House landmark designation was not only accepted without objection or appeal, which is tantamount to consent, but it was even done at Wilmot’s suggestion.
We also want to point out that the property owner, per the application, is the Mary Cadwell Wilmot Trust. The Trust was not the owner at the time of the original or the subsequent historic designation so the applicant’s assertion that the owner objected is inaccurate.
Based upon the record before you and the fact that the historic designation was probably not “imposed” on this property, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society requests that the Historic Resources Advisory Board deny LU13-0012. The Carman House should be retained as a City of Lake Oswego Landmark now andfor the generations of Lake Oswego citizens and Oregonians who will come after us.As Lake Oswego historian Mary Goodall implored during the Pfeifer Pony Farm hearing, “Please don’t let our history slip away.”
Landmark: Carman House
Historic Resources Advisory Board Hearing testimony prepared prior to the applicant changing the criteria for delisting
The Carman House is a unique and fragile community resource that pre-dates Oregon’s statehood and Abe Lincoln’s presidency. This 158-year-old house is the only remaining residence from this era in the Lake Oswego. To lose this resource would sever forever one of the last physical links to Lake Oswego’s pioneer past. Territorial era houses are not only scarce in Clackamas County, but also statewide. The Historic Preservation League of Oregon (now Restore Oregon) conducted a survey that documented how few remain; a webpage with a link to this document is included as Attachment I.
As background, the Carman family’s prominence and influence on the development of the community dates back to the founding of Oswego. In the first U.S. census of Oswego (now Lake Oswego), Waters Carman was living in the household of his friends and employers, A. A. and Miranda Durham, who are credited with founding the town. Carman signed, as a witness, the Durham’s Donation Land Claim or DLC so his signature is on the document that essentially founded Lake Oswego. DLC’s were the federal government’s way of enticing settlors by giving away free land.
On September 13, 1853, Waters Carman married Lucretia Allyn Gurney in the Durham’s home. Oregon’s Father Wilbur conducted the ceremony and it was the first wedding to take place in Oswego. News of the marriage was reported as far away as an Alta, California newspaper. The newlyweds settled on their own DLC. Charles W. Bryant, another Oswego area pioneer, helped build the home whose fate will be decided tonight. The house was most likely built of wood from the sawmill on Sucker Creek that Carman built for Durham. This sawmill was the first commercial enterprise started by Oswego pioneers. Mary Goodall in her 1958 book Oregon’s Iron Dream states, “the house was an outstanding structure of the times. It took a year for the basement to be dug by hand, and all the stones laid in the same careful manner.”
Carman’s civic involvement included serving as chair of the Clackamas County School District No. 13 in 1875. Carman donated the land for one of the first schools in the Oswego area, the Springbrook School, which he also helped build. He was a member and an officer of Oswego Grange No. 175 as were two of his daughters, Mary and Etta (Henrietta). Mary Goodall states: “The Carman family became pioneers of importance in building the community.” Fifty-two years later, Stephen Dow Beckham, noted historian and Professor Emeritus of History at Lewis & Clark College, stated in a 2010 Lake Oswego Review article: “Few homes in Oregon have been occupied by the same family for more than 150 years. The Carman-Wilmot house is a place of special distinction.” Among historians, there is a continuity of consensus regarding the importance of the family and this house.
All houses over 150 years old have been modified to some extent; this doesn’t mean that their historic significance has been negated. At the time the house was awarded landmark status, the structure had already undergone the19th century through the mid-20th century modifications that we see today. Richard Wilmot, the owner at that time, recognized the importance of the house to the community. He may also have had in mind that the Carman family had received the land for free from the government and had made a living on it for over a century. Perhaps both reasons helped prompt Wilmot to state in a contemporary newspaper article (Attachment II) that his intent was to leave the property “to a governmental or historical entity.” If only this Carman descendant’s altruistic wishes had been honored, we wouldn’t be here tonight.
Being cognizant of Richard Wilmot’s intent for the house, on July 31st I called the contact phone number listed on the application. This number, as it turns out, was for the Trust’s attorney, Chris Koback. I asked Mr. Koback to extend an invitation to the owner to meet prior to this hearing to explore possible scenarios that would include retention of the house as a part of the family legacy and to discuss options to demolition. The owner did not reply to our request. Also, the Society is not aware of and has not been invited to attend any meetings initiated by the applicant regarding a preservation plan for the house.
The Lake Oswego Preservation Society’s efforts to preserve this historic resource did not begin with this application. In 2012, we nominated the Carman House for consideration as one of the Most Endangered Places in Oregon. The application required extensive research and supporting documentation. The narrative summary of this nomination is included as Attachment III.
I’d also like to mention that the Lake Oswego Preservation Society held the first annual Lake Oswego historic preservation high school essay contest this year. Students could choose any building in Lake Oswego as long as it wasn’t on the National Register of Historic Places. Madison Cho-Richmond chose to write about preserving the Carman House (Attachment IV). Madison states: “For my whole life, I’ve called it “that house.” I don’t know how many times I’ve rode past the big white building on my bike, or ran by it to catch the bus. It was not entirely noticed, nor did it go unnoticed; the Carman House, in my mind, was simply there. It wasn’t until this past spring, when the Lake Oswego Preservation Society held an essay contest that I decided to learn more about it. Researching the Carman House opened up a whole world of historical preservation for me, and I learned the benefits of sustaining older structures, like the Carman House. Now, the Carman House stands out to me, and as a Lake Oswegan, I feel like its history is part of my history, too.” Clearly recognition of the importance of this house as a community resource spans generations.
It’s instructive to compare the 64 photos submitted by the applicant (Exhibit E-4) with the photos of the property listing. Some of the applicant’s photos appear to show a home with deferred maintenance bordering on neglect. Conversely, the Redfin photos show a charming historic home. Clearly photos can portray a particular viewpoint. The following photos basically convey the condition of the rooms as I saw them during an estate sale in 2012. Note: Photos submitted with the testimony.
My understanding is that HRAB’s responsibility is to apply the current code to see if the application meets the criteria. We agree with staff that the Carman House, per LOC 50.06.009.5.ii (1) (2) and (3), has historical, architectural, and environmental significance for the following reasons:
- Its association with Waters Carman and the early development of Oswego. It contributes to the continuity of the community because it is a tangible link to our formative period. It’s the last remaining structure hand-built by Oswego pioneers. It is far more historic and integral to Lake Oswego’s history than the Luscher farmhouse, which has been preserved for the community.
- It’s oldest landmark property in Lake Grove, an area of the city with few historic resources.
- It’s the last house in the city that pre-dates Oregon’s statehood in 1859.
- As the only landmark in Lake Oswego associated with the 1850 Donation Land Claim Act, it is also linked with the settlement of the Oregon Territory.
- Architecturally it is a classic and rare example of Gothic Revival Vernacular Farmhouse.
- Environmentally it has proven to be far more sustainable to reuse an existing building than to demolish a structure that winds up in a landfill. Replacement buildings have a greater carbon footprint because many new construction materials are not locally sourced.
Based on these strong associations with local history and statewide development, and because it is a rare architectural example and an environmentally sound choice, we agree with staff that the benefits of retaining the Carman House outweigh the benefits to the community of building another housing development.
Tonight we are faced with a request to delist this historic property to clear the way for demolition of the structure and a new housing development. The applicant is proposing a landmark designation on a 100-square-foot piece of the property that is devoid of historic structures. This land, per the applicant’s proposal, would be used to create a monument honoring the Carman family. To destroy the oldest historic house in Lake Oswego and replace it with a plaque and a bench does not meet the letter or the spirit of the City’s historic preservation code.
There are only 43 homes on the City’s Landmark Designation List; the Carman House is the oldest remaining one and it’s an irreplaceable community resource. We agree with staff’s application of the code, conclusions, and recommendation for denial.
The Society requests that the Historic Resources Advisory Board deny LU13-0012. The Carman House should be retained in situ now andfor the generations of Lake Oswego citizens who will come after us. As Lake Oswego historian Mary Goodall implored during the Pfeifer Pony Farm hearing, “Please don’t let our history slip away.”
Note: Please contact us if you would like to see the extensive attachments to this testimony.
Note: The following two updates are not land use testimony, but they do represent our advocacy on behalf of the Carman House.
March 2012 Oregon’s Most Endangered Places Nomination
The Society nominated the Carman House, the oldest remaining house in Lake Oswego, dating from the mid-1850s to Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list. It is also one of the few extant territorial (pre-statehood) homes in Oregon. The Historic Preservation League of Oregon did not select the Carman House as one of its most endangered places.
October 2011 The Historic Carman House Letter to the Editor
According to the real estate listing “This gorgeous piece of property with an old Farmhouse (as is) is ready for development or imagination for a private home on 1.25. R-5 zoning allows many options.” The one option it may not allow for is the preservation of what is possibly the oldest and one of the most historic homes in Lake Oswego.
The Carman House was built in the mid-1850s, prior to Oregon becoming a state. Few homes from the territorial period survive in Lake Oswego or even statewide. Carman built it with the help of fellow pioneer, C. W. Bryant. The house was constructed for Carman and his bride, Lucretia Allyn Gurney, the first couple to be married in Oswego. Historian Mary Goodall described it as “an outstanding structure of the times.”
Carman was a millwright and is credited with building the first wooden dam on the lake and the first school.
This historic house has been in our community for over 160 years, the span of five generations. It is one of only 43 homes designated by the City as a landmark; it is a scarce and irreplaceable part of our past. A public hearing is required to alter or demolish a city landmark. Hopefully this safeguard will protect the property as intended.
Carman Drive should not be the only tribute to this pioneer family. Preservation of the home would allow their legacy to continue and would add a new owner’s legacy of stewardship. Care of the Carman House, as well as Lake Oswego’s built heritage, is an individual and a community responsibility. Let us not allow this irreplaceable resource to be lost.
Landmark: Jantzen Estate
Development Review Commission Hearing
August 5, 2013
The Jantzen Estate is the only property in Lake Oswego to have garnered three separate listings on the National Register of Historic Places:
- Charles Ertz designed house
- Richard Sundeleaf designed bridge
- Richard Sundeleaf designed boathouse
The estate is also a designated City of Lake Oswego landmark. Based on these national and local designations, it is the most significant single historic residential property in the City and an important community asset. We appreciate the care taken by the architect and the homeowner to propose new structures that closely match the existing structures and to base the Guard Tower on Sundeleaf’s original design.
The addition of the cabana building is well matched to the existing structures and we have no objections to it.
Because the Guard Tower is based on architect Richard Sundeleaf’s original drawings and will be built of materials that match the existing historic structures, we have no objections to it.
We also have no objections to the driveway widening with the exception of the proposed wall material. The fact that vegetation may cover or screen a stamped concrete wall does not alter the fact that this material is incompatible with and untrue to the historic indigenous basalt used historically on the island. Also, the existing historic walls are of basalt, not basalt veneer. Our recommendation is that all new walls be constructed completely of basalt that matches as closely as possible the other historic walls on the property. If the retaining wall, for structural reasons, needs to be of concrete a basalt veneer on this wall would be acceptable.
Famed landscape architect Tommy Thompson, who later helped develop California’s Palm Desert, designed the original landscaping for the island. The landscape is what connects the three historic structures and provides their context much like the setting for a jewel. In our view, the landscape is a critical component of the architectural significance of the original structures. The landscape is even more critical because the estate is on an island so all sides are in public view.
Introducing a permanent moving vehicle into the historic landscape is very different from adding new stationary structures that are designed in keeping with the existing historic structures and use a matching material palette. The fact that a rail car may look old-fashioned doesn’t mean that it belongs in or that it is appropriate for a historic site. A moving mechanical conveyance, and the rail track that traverses the landscape, would never have existed historically. We agree with the opinion of the Historic Resources Advisory Board that this proposed alteration violates city code, which states: “Structures shall be recognized as products of their own time. Alterations that have no historical basis… shall be avoided.” We also agree with the State Historic Preservation Office that the tram “overwhelms the historic setting and the existing buildings.”
To our knowledge, there isn’t another landmark home on the lake dating from this period that has a similar tram or has been allowed to add a tram like the one being proposed. Code also requires that alterations shall be “visually compatible with the scale and traditional architectural character of the historic building.” Perhaps a small vehicle that does not depend on rails and that could be housed in a garage or shed when not in use would be a more appropriate solution.
Based on City code, we ask you to deny the proposed tram and to require that all new walls be constructed of basalt to match the existing historic walls on the property.
Landmark: Jantzen Estate
Development Review Commission Hearing
September 16, 2013
It’s not often that a land use hearing regarding a landmark property makes front-page news in the Lake Oswego Review as it did on August 8th following the initial hearing for LU12-0023. The continuation of the hearing was also reported in the September 12th issue of the Review. This press coverage signifies the importance the Jantzen Estate to our community. It’s Lake Oswego’s crown jewel and, as with any precious gemstone, the setting is what displays it to the best advantage. An over 9-foot tall tram, and the tracks on which it runs, are not appropriate to and they would detract from this historic setting.
The appendix to the September 6th staff report includes photos of historic funiculars. Undoubtedly, funiculars existed at the time the Jantzen Estate was constructed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a tram would be appropriate to the island. The time period is correct, but the place is not. Lake Oswego, and Jantzen Island specifically, is not Los Angeles, Monte Carlo, Budapest, Istanbul, Mt. Vesuvius or any of the other places included in this appendix. Many of the examples are for public transport, but it appears that all of the conveyances depicted, public and private, cover a greater distance and a steeper incline than what is dictated by the topography of the island. The proposed tram is a solution that’s too big for the problem.
There is no other home built in the 1930s on Oswego Lake that originally had a tram. We would question an interpretation of the “Time Period Consistency” requirement of Lake Oswego code to mean that alterations should be consistent with what might be done elsewhere in the world. It only makes sense that our code should support an “historical basis” appropriate to Lake Oswego.
The Society agrees with the opinion of the Historic Resources Advisory Board that this proposed alteration violates city code in that it would harm the historic appearance of the landmark island under Chapter 50.06.009(7)e(iv)2 – Time Period Consistency- “Structures shall be recognized as products of their own time. Alterations that have no historical basis…shall be avoided.” and (9) Signs, Lighting- “Signs lighting, and other appurtenances, such as walls, fences, awnings and landscaping shall be visually compatible with the scale and traditional architectural character of the historic building.” Based on code and Lake Oswego’s historic context, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society requests that the Development Review Commission deny the applicant’s proposed tram.
Landmark: Duncan House
Development Review Commission Hearing
June 17, 2013
The Lake Oswego Preservation Society is grateful to the TVA architects and the homeowners for their willingness to meet with us and we applaud the changes made thus far to the proposed design in response to the Historic Resource Advisory Board’s (HRAB) input.
The Duncan House, which is the historically correct name for what is commonly referred to as the Lake Grove Angler’s Club, is now poised in a delicate balance between the past and the future. For 81 years the Duncan House, with it’s original exterior largely intact, has contributed to the historic fabric of our community. It is one of only seven homes on Oswego Lake designated as a City landmark so, out of the hundreds of homes on the lake, it is an incredibly scarce resource. These seven homes are landmarks because, as our City’s website states, “These historic properties are considered the best examples of Lake Oswego’s past.”
The Duncan House is also only one of only two landmark homes located in the Lakeview Villas plat. Lakeview Villas is important because it was the first post iron-era plat and the first plat on the lake. As such, it heralded the town’s transition from an industrial center to a residential-recreational paradise of architect-designed homes in park-like settings. The Duncan House, designed by Edward J. Green for the family of prominent businessman J. H. Duncan, typifies this pivotal transition in Lake Oswego’s history and, as such, is a valuable community resource. It is also the only Edward J. Green designed house that has been identified in Lake Oswego.
The Cultural Resources Inventory, on which landmark status is based, identified nine decorative, distinguishing architectural features of the Duncan House:
- Trapazoidal wood lintels
- Bull’s eye window
- Polygonal window bay
- Leaded glass
- Coursed stone balustrade
- Gabled dormers
- Central and endwall chimneys
- Colonnade connecting house with garage
Of these nine features, the proposed design destroys or alters five which is over half of the distinguishing original features defining the home’s distinct architectural character. Changing over half of these features is too great a percentage for a protected landmark property.
Instead of asking if these changes diminish the historical and architectural significance of the house, the question we would ask instead is, “How can these extensive alterations NOT diminish the historical and architectural significance of this landmark?” As the code states: “Distinguishing original qualities defining a structure’s character shall not be destroyed (50.02.13.5.d(1).” “Shall” in the dictionary we consulted means “will have to,” in other words it’s not optional.
There is a balance in this process between retention and loss ranging from:
- Preserving the house as-is. A site visit afforded the opportunity to see the interior and the entire exterior of the house. Although the house appears to be is in good condition inside and out, and the staff report supports this assertion, the Society is not taking a “frozen in time” position in regard to this application.
- Allowing reasonable alterations to adapt the house to contemporary “needs” while preserving distinguishing features and qualities of the property. Indeed the Duncan House has already undergone what a February 9,2006 Lake Oswego Review article characterizes as “some interior re-arranging” resulting in three bedrooms and four bathrooms in the main house plus another bedroom and bathroom in a detached guest house, and a separate bathroom for those swimming or boating on the lake.
- Extensive alterations that are not necessary and not reasonable. These alterations negatively impact the property’s distinguishing features and qualities as delineated in the Cultural Resources Inventory (CRI), which make this house a landmark.
We support the second option—a middle ground position—which allows reasonable alterations while providing appropriate preservation. Based on our position, the following is what, in the Society’s view, should be allowed and what we are asking DRC to allow:
Second Garage: Although some might consider the addition of a second garage as “unreasonable,” HRAB has acquiesced and the Society supports this decision.
Master Suite: Although the creation of a master bedroom suite out of the original music room on the main floor destroys original windows and turns the window openings into doorways, HRAB has acquiesced to this request and the Society supports their decision.
Based on our position, the following could be allowed with conditions:
Enlarged Kitchen/Family Room: The proposed kitchen/family room plan destroys the lakeside colonnade connecting the current kitchen with the garage. This colonnade is singled out in the Cultural Resources Inventory as an identifying feature of the house. The Society’s view is that this oversteps the concept of “reasonableness.” We request a modified kitchen/family room design that will retain this distinctive colonnade.
As staff has requested, detailed drawings of all facades that might be destroyed should be submitted so there is a record of this landmark prior to these major alterations.
Based on our position, the Society is asking DRC to deny the alteration or removal of the following architectural historic features. A photo of each of these has been provided.
Deny moving the bull’s eye window. It should be retained in its current location so the historic integrity of this distinctive architectural feature is not destroyed. Again, the code states: “Distinguishing original qualities defining a structure’s character shall not be destroyed (50.02.13.5.d(1).”
Deny removal of leaded glass doors and windows and retain original hardware. Again, the code states: “Distinguishing original qualities defining a structure’s character shall not be destroyed (50.02.13.5.d(1).” These architecturally distinctive features, which are singled out in the Cultural Resources Inventory, make this landmark house unique. These original windows and the hardware appear to be in good condition and do not need to be restored or replaced.
Other than a lighted match, nothing will ruin the charm of an old house faster than ripping out the original windows. We also want to mention that there are many new technologies for making old windows as energy efficient as new windows so energy efficiency is not a valid argument for window replacement.
Deny removal or replacement of coursed stone balustrade and existing patio. Again, the code states: “Distinguishing original qualities defining a structure’s character shall not be destroyed (50.02.13.5.d(1).” Original indigenous, basalt rockwork typifies Lake Oswego landscaping of this era. Removal of this noted historic feature would completely alter the lake view of this community resource as would replacing it with an extensive new patio running the entire length of the house and enclosing access to the basement. Replacement of an historic feature with a new larger one of a different design, but the same material is not the same as retaining the historic feature.
The proposed patio would also violate 50.02.13.5.d(8) which states that “new additions or alterations to structures should be done in such a manner that if such additions or alterations were to be removed in the future the essential form and integrity of the original structure could be restored.” Once the proposed patio is built, eventual removal would not result in maintaining the integrity of the original structure. The original carved wood railings, doorway, brickwork, stairwell window, and the stairs would have been irreversibly destroyed.
Deny removal of the lakeside colonnade that connects the house with garage. Again, the code states: “Distinguishing original qualities defining a structure’s character shall not be destroyed (50.02.13.5.d(1).” This architecturally distinctive feature, which is singled out in the Cultural Resources Inventory, makes the house unique as a landmark and unique to Lake Oswego.
Deny removal or replacement of original gabled dormers. Again, the code states: “Distinguishing original qualities defining a structure’s character shall not be destroyed (50.02.13.5.d(1).” There is an outstanding question about weather the roof will be removed for the proposed remodel. If so, it appears that all of the dormers would be reconstructed and recreating historical elements is not the same as retaining them. Repetition of original design elements on new additions, although preferable, is also not tantamount to preserving the historic features of the house. If any dormer replacement is allowed, the replacements should match the size and style of the original dormers.
The City Code also states that “Removal or alteration of historic materials or distinctive architectural features should be avoided when possible (50.02.13.5.d(1).” Throughout this application there appears to be an underlying assumption that “when possible” means something more like “when convenient” and that avoiding “removal or alteration of historic materials” can be disregarded if these materials are replicated or moved to a new location. This interpretation has far-reaching negative impacts for preserving a historic, community resource such as the Duncan House.
The Society has reached different conclusions than those found in the staff report. Again, we ask DRC, how can altering or destroying 55% of the historic architectural features NOT diminish the historical and architectural significance of this landmark? How can the master bedroom suite, the full-length patio that encapsulates the original basement entrance, and the new kitchen/family room additions be removed in the future and the original design restored? We maintain that reasonable updates can be accomplished while minimizing the alteration or destruction of historic features that make this house a landmark property.
The fate of a unique and scarce community resource is in your hands and the historic fabric of our community may be forever altered by your decision. Because there is only one opportunity to make this decision, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society requests that the hearing be continued. A continuance will give every DRC member the opportunity, with permission, to visit the site and walk the grounds. In person, you’ll be able to see clearly both the street and the lake facades of the house and the details of the historic architectural features. We then ask you to return a decision in accordance with the Society’s recommendations. Such a decision would meet both the spirit and the letter of Chapter 50.06 of City Code, which allows for reasonable alterations while protecting the distinctive features of Lake Oswego’s historic, landmark properties for now and for generations to come.
I would like to close with a quote from Jane Powell, “A house comes with responsibilities, and a historic house comes with more responsibilities. We are only the caretakers of these houses, which were here before we owned them and which will be here after we are gone. They contain the wood from the old-growth forests, they are monuments to the skill of those who labored to build them, they represent our cultural heritage.”
Landmark Duncan House (Lake Grove Angler’s Club)
Development Review Commission Hearing
July 1, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to make the requested Duncan House site visit. The opportunity to see the distinguishing historic features of the home first-hand made us realize the truly extensive nature of the proposed alterations. Now that you’ve seen the house, we again pose the question: How can destroying or altering five of these nine features not diminish the historic and architectural significance of this landmark—one of the required criteria of the code? We ask DRC to retain the nine distinguishing features as a condition of approval.
In the previous hearing, there was a question about whether the roof needs to be removed for the proposed remodel. The reply was, if I recall correctly, “It’s not our intent.” We would be much more comfortable with an assurance that the roof will not be removed in the remodel and we ask DRC to make this a condition of approval.
At the last hearing, there was also mention of a possible health hazard concerning the original leaded glass windows in the house. The implication was that this would be cause for removing these distinguishing features. I contacted the Oregon Leadline and spoke with Jeff Strang, an Environmental Health Specialist with the Multnomah County Health Department. He confirmed, what I found in my online research.
The population most at risk for lead poisoning is children, not adults, and the major sources are:
- Dust from lead paint
- Pottery and Jewelry
- Workplaces and Hobbies
- Water Pipes and Solder
- Home Remedies & Cosmetics
Clearly, leaded glass windows are not on this list. Mr. Strang confirmed that lead is still in use in home construction today, primarily for roof flashings, and that living in a house with leaded glass windows is not a hazard to the occupants. Abrasion of the lead, which might create lead dust, would be the only possible hazard so removing the leaded windows may pose a greater health risk than maintaining them in place. We ask DRC to make retention of the original leaded windows and doors, as well as the other eight distinguishing features, a condition of approval.
The applicant has proposed a myriad of changes to this landmark. They have recognized and conceded on some issues and, understandably, consider these concessions an indication of their cooperation. Unfortunately, what remains in the application before you is still an extensive number of inappropriate changes to this protected landmark property. We are not being uncooperative by opposing some of the numerous remaining alterations; we are simply trying to protect this designated community landmark by seeking to apply the criteria as outlined in the code.
In the applicant’s narrative, they refer to this project as building a “new house.” This is essentially what will happen to this historic house if the application is approved as submitted or if approved with the staff-recommended conditions. Again, we ask DRC to retain the nine distinguishing features as a condition of approval.
I am the owner of one of the 43 landmark homes in Lake Oswego. I did not buy a landmark house; I actually went though the process of listing my 1925 bungalow so it would be afforded the protection of Chapter 58. I did so with the expectation that, after I’m gone, the code would be enforced and that anyone seeking to make character-altering modifications would find their application denied. This is my expectation for every City of Lake Oswego landmark property.
If we’re going to protect landmark properties from inappropriate alterations and retain distinguishing historic features in accordance with Chapter 58, why don’t we, as the Nike ads say, just do it?
Landmark: Black House
Development Review Commission Hearing
March 19, 2012
The Black House is the only residence in Lake Oswego designed by Richard Sundeleaf that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also unique in that it is the only Sundeleaf-designed house that has merited the distinction and protection of being on City of Lake Oswego’s Landmark Designation List in addition to being on the National Register. The Black House, one such house out of 17,000 housing units in the city, is a rare, and unique historic resource.
The State Historic Preservation Office, also known as “SHPO,” is the entity that is responsible for overseeing National Register properties in Oregon. SHPO has recommended against the proposed major alterations. In my testimony I’m going to address the two major concerns expressed by SHPO in the letter submitted as Exhibit G-200.
Today I spoke with Julie Osborne, the SHPO Preservation Specialist, who wrote the letter. SHPO receive hundreds of requests to write letters relating to National Register properties and they selectively comment on very few. In the last two years SHPO has only commented on two projects. The proposed major alterations to the Black House were deemed important enough that Ms. Osborne provided written testimony recommending against the proposed major alterations.
Ms. Osborne has a Masters in Historic Preservation and 20 years of experience in the field of preservation and she has dealt extensively with National Register properties. Ms. Osborne’s supervisor, who also has a Masters in Historic Preservation, reviewed the Black House plans and, together, they agreed on the recommendation against the proposed major alterations.
The opinion of the Preservation Specialist is that “… the proposed addition may compromise the building’s historic integrity to the point that it may jeopardize its National Register status (emphasis added).” In spite of this expert opinion, the staff report concludes exactly the opposite. Staff finds that: “… the proposed alteration does not diminish the historical or architectural significance of the residence.”
The applicant’s architect also, not surprisingly, disagrees with SHPO’s Preservation Specialist and claims that the historical significance will not be diminished. He further points out that Sundeleaf was hired to do drawings for an addition in 1984 and this somehow gives the applicants license to significantly alter the house in 2012. Facts that this argument omits are that between 1984 and 2012 the house became both a National Register property and a designated city Landmark. The reality is that the 1984 addition was never built so the drawings, the proposed size, and style of it have no bearing on the current hearing. The fact is that now, 28 years later; we are reviewing a completely new proposal by a different architect in light of the current city code.
If the 1984 addition had been built, the Black House would probably not have qualified for the National Register. The National Register Advisory Committee usually turns down buildings because of alterations that cause a loss of historic integrity. In the National Register nomination the house is deemed significant under Criterion C as a “well-preserved and excellent example of the early residential work of prominent local architect Richard W. Sundeleaf” and that it is “virtually intact as built in 1933.” For the same reasons, the 1984 addition would probably have also disqualified the house for the protection provided by city Landmark status.
Sundeleaf, in an Oregonian interview published on August 19, 1982, two years before the commission for the addition to the Black House, said, “People call me up and if they can pronounce ‘architect,’ I won’t say no. I’ve never turned down a job.” In the same interview he also said, “I always gave my clients exactly the kind of house they wanted.” Sundeleaf was at liberty to give free reign to the Black House owners in 1984 because it was not listed as a national or a local historic property.
Also, there seems to be confusion about the “compatibility” of the addition. In the staff report, phrases such as “repeating design elements,” “match of materials,” etc. are cited as evidence that the historic integrity of the Black House would be maintained. The applicant’s narrative, Exhibit F-1, states that the addition will “mimic the language of the existing home,” “new materials will match the existing,” etc. Mimicking, repeating, matching, or copying the architectural style of the house distorts history and is actually the opposite of what is intended. The design should be compatible, not identical. It should be smaller in scale, stepped back, and employ compatible, but different, materials to distinguish the addition from the original structure.
I agree with the opinion of the SHPO Preservation Specialist that the current proposed plan compromises the historic integrity of the building and I ask you to deny LU 12-0005.
The SHPO expert also asserts “… it appears that this addition could not (emphasis added) be removed because it is an extension of the existing house.” Again this is contradicted by the staff report that states: “… the addition could potentially be removed in the future without impacting the essential form or integrity of the structure.”
It’s not surprising that the opinion of the applicant’s architect opposes SHPO’s expert. Mr. Olson states: “If the new addition were to be removed at some point in the future, the original form could be reconstructed fairly easily as the addition is limited to one side of the home.” This is an interesting claim in light of the opposite opinion of the State’s expert quoted above. Ms. Osborne offers further guidance: “Often “hyphens” (hallways, breezeways, etc.) that connect the existing building with the addition are utilized so that the original exterior wall remains largely intact, and the addition is clearly demarcated.” The applicant is, in the opinion of the States’ Preservation Specialist, proposing a non-reversible major alteration (LOC 58.02.0135 (5) d.8). I agree with this opinion and I ask you to deny LU 12-0005.
I can understand why the applicant’s architect doesn’t agree with the expert’s opinion, but I can’t understand why the staff report contradicts the opinion of Ms. Osborne, the SHPO Preservation Specialist, who is educated, trained, and experienced in this field.
According to the 2010 census, there are 16,995 housing units in Lake Oswego, but there are only 43 homes on the Landmark list and 13 homes on the National Register, and as I’ve pointed out, only one by Richard Sundeleaf on both lists. Why single out this unique historic resource for major alterations that might, in the opinion of the State Historic Preservation Office, jeopardize its National Register status and diminish this well-preserved city landmark that has been a feature of the community for almost 80 years?
This is an era when we are beginning to recognize and celebrate the importance of Sundeleaf’s work, the architect that shaped Lake Oswego more than any other single individual. There was the recent dedication of City’s newest park, Sundeleaf Plaza, and there is an upcoming Sundeleaf home tour. It’s ironic that with the current focus on Sundeleaf’s contribution to the built fabric of the city that there would be support for major alterations that diminish the historical and architectural integrity of this landmark.
Excellent examples of our built heritage make Lake Oswego unique. Protection of our cultural heritage for today’s community and to educate future generations should be a priority, especially preserving an example as rare and unique as the Black House. The Black House has served, in its present condition, as a family residence since 1933, almost 80 years, and it is reasonable to expect it to continue to do so.
For the reasons outlined above, I ask you to deny LU 12-0005. If, in the end, you decide to sanction these major alterations, I would strongly recommend that the applicants work with the State Historic Preservation Office to devise an appropriately designed addition that would allow the Black House to retain its National Register status.
Landmark: Black House
Development Review Commission Hearing
April 16, 2012
The first pre-application conference for this project was held in June 2011. The public cannot attend pre-application conferences, there are no minutes of these meetings, and the most current HRAB meeting minutes posted on the city’s website are for the February 9, 2011 meeting over one year ago. I believe my testimony at the first hearing is accurate, and that approval of this application may diminish the historical significance of this landmark property. However, in preparing that testimony, I was not privy to the details of the 10-month long process.
Since the initial hearing, I have had the opportunity to meet with the homeowner and the architect. Fellow Lake Oswego Preservation Society officer, Erin O’Rourke-Meadors, also had a telephone conference with the applicant. Although we continue to agree with the opinion shared in the March 5, 2012 letter from Julie Osborne, Preservation Specialist at SHPO, we have concluded that city code and the process are at fault and that the applicants have sought to act in good faith in complying with city code.
The fact that Staff and HRAB disagree with the expert opinion of SHPO is a red flag that action is necessary to improve the process. The City of Lake Oswego is a Certified Local Government or CLG. One stated benefit is that “CLGs are able to tap into the expertise and resources of these agencies in order to help address their local preservation issues.” I don’t believe that there is a staff person, a DRC member, or an HRAB member that holds a degree in historic preservation, but as a CLG there is access to this expertise. Also as a CLG, training in historic preservation is available for city staff, DRC, and HRAB members. The city readily takes advantage of the grant monies provided by SHPO, perhaps the city should take advantage of the other benefits available to CLGs and recognize the responsibilities this status entails. Seeking training opportunities for landmark board and commissions members is in fact one of the performance standards for CLGs.
CLG performance standards also state: “The CLG must [emphasis added] seek the expertise necessary to make informed decisions about historic and prehistoric cultural resources.” It is recognized that both professional and lay people will serve on bodies such as DRC and HRAB so “At a minimum, the CLG must [emphasis added] make a reasonable effort to seat commissioners with a demonstrated positive interest in historic preservation” and that “The CLG must provide the SHPO with the opportunity to comment on qualification of candidates prior to their appointment.” Recent experience appears to demonstrate that these standards are not being honored.
I recognize that this is beyond the task at hand this evening, but the application process would benefit from:
- Designating a planning staff member who would be assigned to all historic properties
- Staff working more closely with SHPO to take advantage of the expertise they provide to CLGs
- Instituting training in historic preservation provided by SHPO for staff, DRC, and HRAB
- Taking additional steps to ensure that all DRC and HRAB members have the required “positive interest in historic preservation”
- Providing information, such as minutes of HRAB meetings, to the public in a timely manner
Lastly, in discussions outside these hearings, the applicant has offered to create detailed drawings of the east façade so that this documentation could be available for future architectural historians or even serve as a blueprint to return the house to its original state. It is requested that this offer be made a condition of your decision if you should approve LU12-0005.
Van Houten House
Landmark: Van Houten House
Development Review Commission Hearing
April 18, 2011
- My name is Marylou Colver
- I have a right to participate in this hearing for many reasons, the most significant are: My own home is on the City’s Landmark Designation List, I founded the Lake Oswego Historic Home Tour, I have personal knowledge of the house and its former owners because the Van Houten House was featured on the 2008 tour, and I’m the founder of the forming 501c3, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society.
- Before I address the criteria, I would like to state some relevant facts, beginning with timing. Staff informed the applicants that their house was a landmark on September 29, 2010. According to Exhibit E-11, the applicant placed the $55, 614 Hurd window order on October 6, one week after they were informed that the house is a landmark (emphasis added). I question the applicant’s assertion that they purchased the windows before they knew the house was historic.
- If the owners chose to make an almost $1.4 million investment in a 5,313 square foot house without even doing a simple Google search, their experienced realtors, Harnish Properties, and/or their experienced designer, Phil Chek, both based in Lake Oswego with combined experience of almost 50 years, might have done so. In fact, Phil Chek admitted during the HRAB pre-application conference that he saw the Van Houten House on the 2008 tour so its reasonable to assume that he knew it was historic. I question the applicant’s assertion that they and/or their agents conducted reasonable due diligence.
- So there is a better understanding of the property, let’s take a tour of the interior. Look for deteriorated windows and signs of deferred maintenance. Having personal knowledge of the house, I can attest that these photos are not the result of “staging” plus it’s hard to “stage” windows.
- Dining room.
- Breakfast nook.
- Family room.
- Upstairs bathroom.
- Master bedroom.
- Another bedroom. I see no evidence of deferred maintenance in this meticulously maintained house. I question the applicant’s claim that every one of the 39 original windows needs to be replaced and thus the repair costs in Exhibit F-2 may be unnecessarily inflated.
- What does this photo from Exhibit E-10 tell us? Can the decision to compromise a significant architectural example be based upon such little evidence as this? Were site visits made to determine the condition of all of the windows? It certainly doesn’t prove to me that every one of the 39 windows has deteriorated.
- Let’s look at facts about the house and its architecture. It has been bought and sold several times and the previous owners have been stewards of this property for 80 years.
- The Van Houten House has long been recognized for its architectural excellence. Stephen Dow Beckham, Professor of History at Lewis & Clark College, chose to include it as THE representative example of the Tudor Revival Style in the entire Pacific Northwest in his 1978 study. It has been a cultural resource for the community for over 20 years. It was also granted the higher distinction of being a City Landmark, which entitles this property to be preserved and protected under Chapter 58.
- The Van Houten House is much more significant than was realized during the 1988/1989 inventory. Roscoe Hemenway, a prominent architect, designed the house in 1931. Cook was the builder and the Van Houtens bought it from him soon after construction. It is Lake Oswego’s only landmark that’s a confirmed example of a Hemenway-designed Tudor Revival style house so it a one-of-a-kind community resource.
- “Classic Houses of Portland Oregon” features six houses designed by Hemenway.
- One of his Tudor style homes, the Gangware House, is comparable to the Van Houten House. The authors state that, “Even today, when a Hemenway house is sold, both realtors and prospective buyers find that the Hemenway name adds value.” There is a real economic benefit in retaining this house in its present condition. Major alterations, both window replacement and additions, would diminish the value of the applicant’s asset.
- I founded the Lake Oswego Historic Home tour to educate the community about the City’s historic, architectural, and cultural past. A sellout crowd of 300 hundred people paid $25 each to see this and other historic houses. There is an economic benefit to the community to retain the house in its current condition. My own house was also on the tour and I can attest to the fact that, before a homeowner opens the door to the press and to 300 people, one is motivated to fix everything that needs fixing.
- The home tour was a well-publicized event that had social and educational benefits beyond our immediate community. The title of this Oregonian article refers to the very windows that are the subject of tonight’s hearing. Janet Goetze begins, “The windows that spread light through the 1930s Tudor-style house were especially attractive to Betsey Blessing when her family moved in 24 years ago.” What could have happened to these cherished windows in the two years between the tour in 2008 and the sale of the house in 2010?
- The “Lake Oswego Review” quoted Betsey Blessing as saying “It’s such a soundproof house.” This is an amazing statement considering that there are 39 windows and that it is, according to the staff report, located on the corner of a major collector and a neighborhood collector.
- A wing was added to the rear of the house in the 1940s. The addition is about 70 years old and, we don’t know without more research, but Hemenway might have designed it also. The proposed alterations would affect every elevation of the house and would seriously compromise the historic integrity of the structure.
- Now I’d like to speak to the criteria. I agree with staff that the proposed alterations would diminish the historical and architectural significance of the landmark. I disagree with staff’s conclusion and I question whether it’s appropriate to use an ESEE as a criterion for this purpose. In spite of that concern, here are considerations, based on preservation, that were omitted from the applicant’s and staff’s ESEE analysis.Economics: The applicant ordered the Hurd windows after being informed that the house is historic so they could have avoided alleged “extraordinary costs.” / The Van Houten House is a significant building by a prominent architect. Major alterations would compromise Hemenway’s design and diminish the value of applicant’s and the community’s asset. There is a definite financial benefit to retaining the house in its present condition. /Historic preservation is the vehicle for heritage tourism events that bring revenue to the city, such as the Lake Oswego Historic Home Tour.
- Social: It’s Lake Oswego’s only confirmed example of Hemenway’s Tudor Revival Style on the Landmark Designation List. / Provides an educational value to the community now and in the future. / Creates a “sense of place” that distinguishes Lake Oswego from other communities. / Exemplifies the historical, architectural, and cultural heritage of Lake Oswego’s residential development.
- Environmental: 30% of the time, replacement windows will be replaced within 10 years. /Retaining the original windows keeps them out of a landfill. Each year Americans create 124 million tons of waste from demolitions of buildings. Every window that goes to the dump adds to this problem / Conserving existing materials reduces the carbon footprint because new materials, such as the Hurd windows, are often not sourced locally and must be shipped across country.
- Energy: It can take up to 240 years to recoup enough money in energy savings to pay back the cost of installing replacement windows. / More heat is typically lost through the roof and un-insulated walls than through windows. / Historic wood windows—maintained, weather-stripped and with a storm window—can be just as energy efficient as new windows.
- An article in “Fine Homebuilding” magazine asserts that, “Other than a lighted match, nothing will ruin the charm of an old house faster than ripping out the original double-hung windows.” With each major alteration and demolition, we lose another piece of our past for the community now and forever. According to staff, the interior has already been “completely gutted.” Don’t allow the exterior to also be gutted. I ask you to deny this application because it does not satisfy the approval criterion. Further, if every applicant can construct an ESEE so that they’re allowed to make major alterations to a landmark property, we make a travesty of Chapter 58, we place all of our landmark properties at risk, and the City would not be meeting its obligation under Oregon’s statewide planning Goal 5.
Landmark: Christie School
July 24, 2014
Historic Resources Advisory Board Hearing Continued
We would like to address two statements previously made by the applicant. In Exhibit F-1, on page 2, the applicant’s attorney states: “At the time of the designation, the Christie School property was owned by the Christie School, an Oregon non-profit corporation.” This is clearly a misrepresentation of facts. The Society presented proof that the Christie School did not own the property at the time of the designation. Following our testimony to this effect, the attorney, in his rebuttal, contradicted his written statement and admitted that they knew that the School was not the owner and he asserted that the School was the “contract purchaser.” ORS197.772 states that a “property owner” has the right to object. Our understanding that under Oregon law: “ ‘Owner’ means the owner of the title to real property or the contract purchaser of real property of record as shown on the last available complete assessment roll in the office of the county assessor.” The burden of proof is on the applicant and unless or until they can prove that the Christie School was listed on the county assessors assessment role at the time of the designation, the applicants do not have a right, under Oregon law, to object. The other statement made by the Executive Director is that they intend to board up the building and let it fall into disrepair if they aren’t allowed to demolish it. We don’t think that this demolition by neglect strategy is allowed under the terms of the property’s deed restrictions included as Exhibit G-205, Attachment 2. The restrictions state: “The grantee, it’s successors and assigns, shall not ever use said premises for a purpose other than the education and welfare of children who for emotional or social reasons require special instruction and supervisions.” It goes on to say that breach of this condition will cause title to revert to the grantor, i.e., the Sisters. Clearly, the restriction requires that the building be used and it must be used in a specific prescribed manner—boarding up the building is not an option for Youth Villages. Lastly, the Society, upon reflection, wishes to withdraw our support of the delisting of the cottages. We do not believe that the City ever designated any Christie School buildings except the administration building. There’s nothing in the record, or in subsequent land use decisions regarding the cottages, to support their Landmark status. We also do not believe that the City received the letter submitted as Exhibit F-2. Even if the cottages had been listed, the burden of proof is on the applicant and until they can prove that the City received the letter, there is no objection and, therefore, no delisting is warranted. In the end, the two elements required to apply the state statute—an owner and an objection by that owner at the time of the designation—are missing. The Christie School was not the owner and the applicant has not proved there was an objection so your decision is an easy one. We ask you to deny LU14-0033 in its entirety.
Landmark: Christie School
July 9, 2014
Historic Resources Advisory Board Hearing
Harken back to almost 106 years ago today to the grand opening of the Catholic orphanage for girls in Oswego on July 4, 1908. Two years of charity balls, concerts, and other fundraisers were held to raise the $30,000 initially thought to be needed to build the orphanage. This opening day event was so important in the history of the state that Oregon’s Governor Chamberlain was on hand on that Independence Day to deliver the keynote address following Archbishop Christie’s dedication. Steamship excursions from Portland brought boatloads of picnickers, and the orphans serenaded the crowds. This event also commemorated the first building constructed by the Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary on their Oswego land holdings. Here is how the Sisters define themselves: “We educate to bring liberation, we stand in solidarity with those who are invisible, discounted and disenfranchised, and we work with others to bring about a world of just relationships.” That they chose to build an orphanage first, before anything else, is a testament to the work that these women have dedicated themselves to for over 100 years in Oregon. This building, the oldest one at Marylhurst, holds a special place in the history of the Sisters as well as a place in Lake Oswego’s history. In addition to what the building represents historically, it has important architectural significance. Seattle-based architect Conradin Alfred Breitung was commissioned to design it. Two of Breitung’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and this may be his only design in Oregon. The Society is the local historic preservation advocacy group and we’re here tonight to help you and the applicant, the Tennessee-based Youth Villages, Inc., preserve this building, which has national, state, and local significance. These are the facts that need to be considered. This delisting application is based on what is commonly known as Oregon’s owner consent law: ORS 197.772. “Consent” is defined as an objection by the Attorney General’s office in their January 31, 1997 opinion, which is included as Attachment 1. So what is needed to successfully delist under the state statute is an objection by the property owner at some point during the designation process. The designation of the Christie School building went into effect on May 29, 1990. We have verified that the owner on that date was the Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary—not the Christie School as has been assumed. The Christie School purchased this property on September 27, 1990, almost four months after the historic designation. A copy of the statutory warranty deed, found in a 2009 land use case, LU09-0016, is included as Attachment 2. Attachment 3 is a map, also from LU09-0016, which shows what was owned and what property the Christie School leased. The legal description of the property is the same in both of these cases, however the terminology is inconsistent so it may be confusing. LU14-0033 Exhibit F-2 refers to the land in question as Parcel II. In LU09-0016, it is called Parcel A. On the map, it is labeled Tract B (leased land). The important point is that these documents consistently refer to the legal description of the land on which the 1908 Christie School building is located and all state the date of purchase as September 27, 1990, well after the historic designation. During the May 4, 1995 hearings on the bill concerning the interpretation of owner consent, Chair Tiernan concludes, “Then once a person voluntarily puts their property in, it is in.” The record is very clear on this; the Sisters did not object to the listing of the Christie School therefore there was no owner objection so the designation was not “imposed.” Voluntary historic designations run with the property. This means that the request for removal of the Christie School from the landmark list, based on the owner consent law, must be denied because the owner at the time of the designation consented to it. There was no objection by the Sisters and the Christie School didn’t own the building, they were just leasing it, so they had no legal standing, no right to object. In fact, the Executive Director of the Christie School at the time of the designation, Daniel Mahler, agreed with the Sisters based on a letter submitted into the record by the applicant. Mr. Mahler states, “… the corrected listing should include only the administration building which was constructed in 1908.” The current CEO, Lynne Saxton, has also publically expressed appreciation and pride in the school’s historic 1908 building. An August 6, 2009 Lake Oswego Review article states: “The City of Lake Oswego Historic Landmarks Board recently awarded a plaque to ChristieCare, where it is proudly displayed right next to the front door of the Christie School.” The article also featured a photo of Lynne Saxton next to the bronze plaque. This article is included as Attachment 4. There is also the question of delisting the 1960s cottages, which the applicant owned at the time. They had the right to object to their designation and it appears they may have exercised that right. We do not believe that the 1960s cottages were actually designated in 1990 as they didn’t appear to meet even the basic criteria for a historic resource. They were not 50 years old at that time and it is uncertain an adequate statement of significance was provided to support the designation. The problem may lie with the fact that there was no street address for the property in 1990 so only the tax lot could be used to identify the property. This is supported by the fact that the CRI does not contain a street address for the Christie School and there isn’t an even address on the school’s own 1990 letterhead. Since there appears to be an objection to listing the cottages in 1990, why weren’t they removed back then? We checked the archival files and found no proof that the City received the letter (Exhibit F-5) or that the requested review took place. If the letter was received, one reasonable explanation is that the City clarified that only the 1908 Christie School was being designated, not every structure on tax lot 200, and the matter was resolved. This would explain the lack of a hearing before the Historic Review Board in 1990. We acknowledge there may be ambiguity regarding the historic designation status of the cottages and we urge HRAB to resolve this ambiguity. Our testimony is not directed towards this, but we do not oppose delisting of the 1960s cottages if necessary. One would trust that this almost 12-acre site provides adequate land for needed expansion without the demolition of these buildings or the clearly historic 1908 Christie School. There are a couple more items we’d like to submit into the record. Even if there had been an objection to listing the Christie School, the applicant is claiming that by definition the designation was “imposed” because the designation was followed by an opt-out period instead of the other way around with a pre-designation opt-out. The state statute clearly specifies an objection “at any point during the designation process” so we don’t believe the applicant’s interpretation is supportable. Even if there had been an objection to listing the Christie School, it was designated as a landmark under City of Lake Oswego code and that code contains delisting criteria. We challenge that an applicant can ignore and fail to apply the local criteria. There is a process in place and an applicant may choose to follow delisting under both state law and City code, but state law does not trump local criteria. The arguments we’ve presented are congruent with the facts and with the law. The Lake Oswego Preservation Society supports staff’s recommendation and we ask the Historic Resources Advisory Board to retain the 1908 Christie School administration building as a protected City of Lake Oswego Landmark.
ATTACHMENTS 1. Attorney General’s January 31, 1997 Opinion 2. Statutory Warranty Deed September 27, 1990 3. Map of Christie School Owned and Leased Property 4. Lake Oswego Review Article August 6, 2009.
Advocating for Better Planning
October 2014 – The following message was sent to the City of Lake Oswego Planning Commission regarding their 2015 goal setting study session.
There are only 43 protected homes out of the more than 15,000 homes in our City; these are the historic homes on the City’s Landmark Designation List. An owner can demolish any one of the remaining 14,957 homes. As it’s often pointed out, trees in Lake Oswego are afforded more protection than houses.
In the last 12 months, a demolition permit has been issued approximately every 8 days. According to a Permit Technician, the cost is $95 plus $320 for erosion control. But what is the cost to our history, our neighborhoods, the environment, our sense of place, and our local economy?
Like pieces suddenly ripped out of a patchwork quilt, it can take a few hours for a backhoe to destroy the decades-old, sometimes century-old, fabric of our neighborhoods. Without a sign posted, a notice to neighbors, or photo documentation of these buildings, they truly disappear without warning and without a trace.
It’s time for new ideas and a fresh approach to the demolition of single-family residences in Lake Oswego. There are many persuasive reasons why we should not continue to throw away our buildings. The Society has come up with the following “S.A.N.E.” approach to emphasize the most pertinent reasons:
S is for sustainability. Reusing an existing building is the most sustainable choice that can be made. It’s ironic that citizens dutifully recycle cans and bottles while landfills are mounded to capacity with the rubble of what once were perfectly habitable homes.
A is for affordable housing. When we lose our older housing stock we are eliminating affordable housing and this choice is changing the demographics of our city and making it less diverse.
N is for neighborhood character. The fabric of our neighborhoods is being torn asunder and the charm that attracted homebuyers in the first place is being gradually replaced by homes that shout: Anywhere, USA.
E is for economic development. Rehabilitation of older buildings contributes more, in the long term, to the local economy than new construction. Donovan Rypkema is a leading expert on the economics of preservation. His report entitled Measuring Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation may be found online at: http://www.placeeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/economic-impacts-of-hp.pdf
The Society offers the following ideas as a starting point for discussions:
DEFINITION OF TERMS
We could not find any of the following terms in the Definitions section of City Code, with one exception noted below:
- Demolish: The City’s definition only applies to the code section on Historic Preservation: “To raze, destroy, dismantle, deface or in any other manner cause partial or total destruction of a contributing resource within a historic district or any landmark.” Let’s clearly define the term “demolish” for all structures.
- Demolition by Neglect: This term is used to describe a situation in which a property owner intentionally allows a property to suffer severe deterioration, potentially beyond the point of repair.
- Deconstruction: Essentially this should be reverse construction to salvage the majority of building materials for reuse. This is not picking out a few reusable elements after wholesale destruction.
- Remodel: The term “remodel” should define the percentage of the demolition that occurs. For example, leaving one wall standing should not be defined as a “remodel.”
Some municipalities will not allow a habitable house to be demolished. While we may not go to that extent, it would be advantageous to encourage retention of perfectly habitable homes.
- Create incentives to rehabilitate older housing stock.
- Make it easier to remodel than to tear down.
- Provide incentives for relocating buildings within the community as an alternative to demolition.
- Actively encourage partnerships among municipalities (city, county, and state) and local businesses and organizations specializing in building reuse.
- Educate the community about the strong relationship between sustainability and building retention.
- Replacement houses are typically much larger than the ones that were demolished. Recent research by the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab, based on analysis of three American cities, reported: “established neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings perform better than districts with larger, newer structures when tested against a range of economic, social, and environmental outcome measures.” The entire report is available at: http://www.preservationnation.org/information-center/sustainable-communities/green-lab/oldersmallerbetter/#.VDxn10vmF95
We are not taking a fly-in-amber approach to saving every house. When demolitions occur we envision a more responsible and transparent approach to the process.
- Make deconstruction mandatory for any remodel or construction project exceeding a threshold dollar amount.
- Require that photo documentation of the existing structure be submitted with a demolition permit application.
- Post a sign on the property when a demo permit has been applied for similar to the posting of a tree-cutting permit.
- Provide notice to neighbors of a pending demolition.
- Make it easier for citizens to find out when demolition permits have been issued.
- Institute a 30-day delay between issuing a demolition permit and beginning demolition work.
- Prohibit demolition by neglect.
There are steps that can be taken to make new construction fit into an existing neighborhood.
- Maintain the same front and side yard setbacks for the new housing to maintain the streetscape and neighborhood compatibility.
- The City has invested in the creation of an Infill Design Handbook: http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/planning/infill-design-handbook, but it is not, according to planning staff, well used. Make some or all of these standards mandatory, not discretionary.
- Links to additional studies and resources may be found on our website at: https://lakeoswegopreservationsociety.org/resources/
Our community is faced with a demolition derby; homes are being bulldozed almost weekly. There is only one opportunity to make the decision to demolish a structure and our built environment is forever altered by this choice. Let’s stop the insanity. We urge the Planning Commission members to take a S.A.N.E. approach and address these issues in your 2015 goals.
Letters to the Editor
These are some of the Society’s published letters to the editors of the Lake Oswego Review and the Oregonian as well as our advocacy efforts on behalf of local preservation projects.
You can email the City of Lake Oswego Mayor and the Councilors about these and other preservation issues: CouncilDistribution@ci.oswego.or.us
Historic buildings are the precious gifts our City has the unique opportunity to give to the future, they are our legacy.
- May 2015 Letter to the Editor by Marylou Colver, President“There’s gold in your attic!” could also apply to our city’s historic buildings. There are consequences to tearing down our older buildings and homes; we […]
- April 2015 Letter to the Editor by Marylou Colver, President“Building demolitions unlock decades of poison.” This attention-grabbing headline immediately brought to mind the seemingly daily demolition of homes in Lake Oswego neighborhoods. As backhoes […]
- July 2014 Buildings Matter Letter to the EditorA Seattle wedding and a Philadelphia funeral — what do these two solemn ceremonies have in common? There’s the woman who tried to save an […]
- February 2013 The Eloquence of Buildings Letter to the EditorHomes, commercial buildings, and even industrial remains can be among the few long-lived “residents” who can tell us, our children, and future generations the stories […]
- January 2013 Let’s be Visionaries Letter to the EditorLet’s be visionaries and see buildings for their potential and not just for the value of the land on which they sit. Many buildings, particularly […]
- March 2012 Oregon’s Most Endangered Places NominationThe Society nominated the Carman House, the oldest remaining house in Lake Oswego, dating from the mid-1850s to Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list. It is […]
- March 2012 Letter of Recommendation to the National Trust for Historic PreservationMarch 5, 2012 Awards CommitteeNational Trust for Historic Preservation1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20036Re: Oswego Iron Furnace Dear Award Committee Members: As a citizen of […]
- February 2012 What’s Old is New Again Letter to the EditorGraeme Shankland, first Honorary Secretary of the William Morris Society, may have said it best when he observed: “A country without a past has the […]
- December 2011 Preservation’s Role in Economic Development Letter to the EditorFostering current economic development does not require sacrificing our past. Given the community update to the comprehensive plan, we have an opportunity to rethink our […]