Please email the City of Lake Oswego Mayor and the Councilors about these issues: CouncilDistribution@ci.oswego.or.us
June 2016 Letter to the Editor by Marylou Colver, President
Historic preservation may not readily tug at one’s heartstrings in the way that worthy causes championing children, puppies, and kittens do, but reflect for a moment about why one visits foreign countries? Is it to visit these vulnerable populations?
Our presumption is that one strong motivation is to experience their architecture − their manifest record of human thought and existence − as evidenced by the built structures which housed them and which have survived the ravages of time, greed, wars, and other powerfully destructive forces.
Some of these buildings have been transformed into hotels, restaurants, or other uses, but they continue to serve the place that created them even after the forces that shaped their original creation have changed or no longer exist. Creative reuse not only saves buildings, it’s a measure of success proven to be a win-win for communities on multiple levels.
The obvious question is: Why is Lake Oswego, not unlike other cities, so quick to voluntarily sacrifice our built heritage to the short-term avarice of those who will not even be remembered in our community, except perhaps for the notorious, wanton destruction of our local landmarks and our neighborhood character? Should we allow our local culture to be destroyed with an ISIS-like fervor, which celebrates bulldozing heritage?
Historic buildings are the precious gifts our City has the unique opportunity to give to the future, they are our legacy. We need to protect these fragile, threatened resources for Lake Oswego residents now and those who come after us and for those who come after them.
Please join the Lake Oswego Preservation Society’s efforts to save the best of our built heritage for the sake of our future. As John Steinbeck wrote, “How will we know it’s us without our past?”
October 2015 Citizen’s View
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got “till it’s gone.” wrote Joni Mitchell. These lyrics seem particularly appropriate for Block 137.
On October 19, 2015, as the demolition of the Wizer’s block began, the Society posted a Facebook photo with the comment: “On October 23, 1960 the ‘Oregonian’ announced the grand opening of a new million-dollar shopping center. The first occupants of the Richard Sundeleaf-designed building were Wizer’s and J. C. Penny’s. Demolition of this iconic, mid-century building, in the heart of downtown, began today.”
Within 24 hours, there were 25 shares, over 120 comments, and more than 4,100 people were reached. These memories are a tribute, an elegy, for this beloved building designed by Lake Oswego resident and architect, Richard Sundeleaf.
Clearly, from the spontaneous outpouring of memories, expressions of sadness, heartbreak, and even grief, buildings play a major role, not only in personal histories but in our shared sense of community and sense of place. This intangible aspect of historic preservation may be one of its most undervalued or overlooked benefits.
“J.C. Penney’s is where Santa found me the blue coat with the real fur collar in second grade.”
“Wizer’s will always be in my heart.”
“That has always been the first thing we wanted to see when we went back home for a visit to Lake Oswego, Oregon.”
“I suppose it doesn’t suit the new LO.”
“SAD, I feel like I grew up in that shopping center!”
“I truly hate seeing all of these buildings being torn down. Tearing away my childhood memories.”
“Gene [Wizer] showed me how to open a paper bag with one snap.”
“Breaks my heart!”
“My mother would send me to the bakery…I bought sliced bread for 35 cents a loaf.”
“Another part of our history gone!”
“End of an era.”
“That was a great shopping center.”
“Oh my…. All those memories!!”
“Sad, my first job was at Wizer’s.”
“Wow – I have memories of saving my pennies to buy Breyer horse models and candy from Rogers, riding the coin operated horse and shopping with my Mom at Wizer’s – those stores very much a part of growing up in LO.”
“Many good times there hanging out in the underground parking when it was raining outside. Riding our bikes.”
“Sad because it is not inevitable.”
“J. C. Penney’s, that’s where I bought my wedding dress.”
“Too bad the building couldn’t have been renovated & kept for this history of it. Too many changes in what used to be a great town!”
“It was the coolest building in LO.”
“This makes me so sad. Many fond memories. I remember going to the bakery in the center as a kid!”
“I loved Wizers. It’s where I got my first taste of good international chocolates and sent me on a love affair of quality not quantity throughout my life.”
“Kind of sad to see another LO icon gone forever.”
“Lots of memories there!”
“I still remember the smell of the building, I don’t know, maybe the cleaning materials they used, but I remember so clearly! Oh how sad….”
“Dark day for LO….”
“Another piece of my childhood gone. I’m grieving…”
“And so the destruction of Mayberry continues.”
Let’s join together to preserve that which remains of our shared sense of community.
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 could be throwing away a major economic benefit. The “gold” is heritage tourism, which can provide long-term returns on investments in our historic resources.
Lake Oswego has the only remaining iron furnace west of the Rockies. The city helped finance the major restoration of the 1866 furnace and the only extant iron worker’s cottage. In addition, the Oswego Iron Heritage Trail guides visitors to these and other former industrial sites.
Promoting tourism, especially in light of the recent Oregon State Heritage Area designation and possible national designation, makes economic sense. Studies show that heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money than any others.
Visitors drawn to our city by the unique vestiges of the iron industry will also be attracted to our restaurants, shops, hotels and surrounding neighborhoods. For a city with such a long and rich history, it’s alarming that, as of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan update, we retained only 8 percent of the housing stock built prior to 1950.
Especially in the 1920s and 1930s, major Oregon architects were designing Lake Oswego homes, and many of these have been lost. The city, based on our Comprehensive Plan’s historic preservation goal, should encourage private property owners to retain older homes by providing real incentives to do so, funded by the hotel/motel tax. Charming streetscapes have often defined our neighborhood character, but this is changing with the increasing pace of demolitions.
Historic preservation is far too often viewed as a burden, but, given incentives and a shift in emphasis, it can be of tremendous positive benefit to our community. As Arthur Frommer observed, “Tourism does not go to a city that has lost its soul.”
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 claw these houses to piles of rubble, lead paint is converted to a particulate dust that spreads to neighboring homes, an unwelcome and dangerous presence which lingers for decades.
Most homes in the United States built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Lead poisoning leads to crippling mental and physical health effects for people of all ages and for pets, but it isn’t the only health risk posed by unregulated demolition practices. Unleashing asbestos and even non-toxic dust can lead to asthma and other respiratory issues.
The question for our community is: Should redevelopment be allowed to expose residents to long-term health hazards?
The good news is that we can take steps to prevent unleashing additional decades of poison in our neighborhoods. Responsible demolition practices can effectively minimize health risks. An Annie E. Casey Foundation study (aecf.org/…/aecf-ResponsibleDemolitionBmoreCaseStudy-2011.pdf) recommended implementation of eight demolition safety protocols:
1. Effective community notification;
2. Adequate use of water to minimize dust;
3. Partial deconstruction of homes to remove components with high amounts of lead prior to demolition;
4. Fencing and other barriers;
5. Picker method for demolition as opposed to backhoe or wrecking ball;
6. Prompt, careful debris removal;
7. Replacing contaminated soil with new sod; and
8. Independent testing to measure lead dust and lead accumulation.
Please join the Lake Oswego Preservation Society in asking the city to take steps to responsibly address this critical issue that adversely affects the livability of our neighborhoods.
March 2015 Letter to the Editor by Marylou Colver, President
I was appalled by recent accounts of ISIS bulldozing the ancient city of Nimrud, but then it occurred to me that we, in Lake Oswego, are also guilty of bulldozing our history.
Of course our bulldozing is on a completely different time and place scale — we are not plowing under remnants of an ancient civilization — however we are destroying the historic structures that exist in our own backyards, neighborhoods, and downtowns.
Cultural bandits, who are often not Lake Oswego residents, are robbing our community’s future of meaningful structures that will never have a chance to “age in place” as we often desire for our senior citizens.
Today’s profit is destroying tomorrow’s prophets, in as much as buildings express and embody the cultural values and collective memories we wish to pass on to future generations.
We need to slow down or delay the rampant demolitions until we can evaluate the full impacts of the headlong rush to replace the old with the new.
Your voices, combined with the Lake Oswego Preservation Society’s advocacy, will create a chorus of citizens imploring the Lake Oswego City Council to address the myriad issues surrounding demolitions NOW.
Please let your voices, and ours, join in concert. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Please contact the Society at email@example.com or 503-481-2479. Our website is: lakeoswegopreservationsociety.org
January 2015 Letter to the Editor John Yeon’s Shaw House
For those who value architecture and history, this story should be entitled “Street of Broken Dreams.” In July 2014, I visited the John Yeon designed Shaw House at 12800 Goodall Road. The exterior siding and much of the original interior, except for a wing added by the previous owner, was astonishingly intact. This included a pair of light sconces designed by Yeon for the house, original windows, parquet flooring, and wood paneling. It currently stands, stripped of its board and batten siding, amidst the empty lots that will become the 2015 Street of Dreams co-sponsored by NW Natural Gas and the Homebuilder’s Association of Metropolitan Portland.
The Shaw House, built in 1950, was the House Beautiful magazine cover story in April 1953; the article was entitled “The Age of Great Architecture.” Yeon referred to this elegant design as his “Palace style.” The house was beautifully sited on the property to capture expansive vistas of the Cascade Range. Yeon also designed, in his “cradle to grave” approach, extensive landscaping surrounding the house.
Although he did not earn an architecture degree or AIA certification, Yeon’s creativity and innovation contributed significantly to the development of the Northwest Regional style of architecture. He was also recognized far beyond this region. Several exhibits and publications by the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured Yeon’s 1937 Watzek House, which spurred Yeon’s international fame.
Unfortunately for our built heritage, Oregon law mandates that an historic property cannot be listed without the owner’s consent. The Shaw House is not among the 43, yes only 43, protected landmark homes in Lake Oswego. Now, as undesignated historic houses are demolished or significantly altered with alarming frequency, this legislation ensures that many significant examples of our built legacy will not survive for the education and enrichment of future Oregonians.
December 2014 Letter to the Editor submitted by our president, Marylou Colver
The Lake Oswego Preservation Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Our mission is to support Lake Oswego’s historic fabric through advocacy and education. We strive for excellence and accuracy in all that we do.
As the Society’s founder, my vision was to create an organization to advocate for the triple bottom line benefits—social, economic, and environmental—of preserving our unique built heritage as well as having a strong, researched-based focus on education. In the relatively brief time since founding the Society in 2011, hard work, meticulous research, creative thinking, and land use advocacy along with dedicated volunteers, generous members, granting organizations, and other supporters and friends have contributed to achieving this goal.
We have received recognition, both locally and statewide, for our historic preservation advocacy on behalf of City landmarks, including our four-year-long effort to save the oldest house in Lake Oswego, the 1855 Carman House. In word, and deed, we honor our motto: “Advocate. Educate. Celebrate!” No other organization does what we do for Lake Oswego.
Do you see a future in our past? If so, please support the work of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society through your membership or donation. The Society is an all-volunteer organization. Since we do not have paid staff and we don’t have a physical building to maintain, 100 percent of the funds we receive are dedicated to our mission.
The Society is also proud to be an Oregon Cultural Trust partner. If you donate to us and make a matching gift to the Trust, you can claim your entire contribution to the Trust as a tax credit!
You may learn more about the organization at: lakeoswegopreservationsociety.org
May our current community, and future Lake Oswego citizens, enjoy the fruits of all of our labors on behalf of the place that we love.
November 2014 Citizen’s View
“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.” — Jane Jacobs
Out of over 15,000 homes in Lake Oswego, only 43 are protected; these are the historic homes on the Landmark Designation List. Any of the remaining 14,957 homes can be demolished. As it’s often said, trees in Lake Oswego have more protection than houses.
In the last 12 months, a demolition permit has been issued every 8 days at a cost of $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?
It can take a few hours for a backhoe to destroy the decades-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 regarding the demolition of single-family residences in Lake Oswego. There are many reasons why we shouldn’t throw away buildings. We offer the following “S.A.N.E.” approach:
S is for sustainability. Reusing an existing building is our most sustainable choice. It’s ironic that citizens dutifully recycle cans and bottles while landfills overflow with the rubble of habitable homes.
A is for affordable housing. When we lose our older housing stock we are eliminating affordable housing. 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 eroded. 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.
Here are ideas for discussion:
Some municipalities will not allow a habitable house to be demolished. While we may not go to that extent, retention should be encouraged.
- Create incentives to rehabilitate older housing stock.
- Make it easier to remodel than to tear down.
- Provide incentives for relocating buildings.
- Partner with organizations specializing in building reuse.
- Educate citizens about the relationship between sustainability and building retention.
We are not taking a fly-in-amber approach to saving every house. When demolitions occur, we advocate a more responsible and transparent approach.
- Mandatory deconstruction for remodel or construction projects exceeding a threshold dollar amount.
- Require photo documentation of existing structures with a demolition permit application.
- Post a sign for pending demolitions similar to the posting of a tree-cutting permit.
- Provide notice to neighbors.
- Make it easier to find out about demolition permits issued.
- Institute a 30-day delay before demolition can begin.
- Prohibit demolition by neglect.
- Maintain the same front and side setbacks for new housing to maintain neighborhood compatibility.
- The City has 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.
Our community is faced with a demolition derby; homes are being bulldozed almost weekly. Once the decision to demolish a structure is made, our built environment is forever altered by this choice. Let’s stop the insanity. We urge City Councilors to take a S.A.N.E. approach to the demolition issue.
Note: An extended version of this was presented to the Lake Oswego Planning Commission and it was also submitted to the Lake Oswego City Council as input for their 2015 goals.
September 2014 Interpreting History Letter to the Editor
It’s easy to assume that history is static. The events have certainly happened and will not change. What does change are the filters through which history is viewed and, in this sense, history is forever changing.
Previous researchers and writers of history used resources at their disposal to accurately, one assumes, portray events given information available at that time. New resources are constantly becoming available – census records, newspaper archives, diaries, photographs, and more – that make us question previous assumptions and may change the “facts” that were once seemingly true.
Materials, written at the time under study, are referred to as “primary sources.” Works created from them are considered “secondary sources” because the author has interpreted the original materials. Just because interpretations are published or cast as bronze plaques, doesn’t mean that the information retains a high degree of accuracy.
We need to proceed with great caution when we settle for repeating previously written histories instead of tackling the research ourselves. The easy path leads to the seemingly endless repetition of misinformation. Writers owe it to their readers to be as accurate as possible.
Ubiquitous misinformation about Lake Oswego’s history seems to have taken on a life of its own. There are many examples; the following were selected to represent three different eras of our history.
- Oswego Lake is man-made. The Ice Age floods created Oswego Lake 15,000 to 18,000 years ago.
- Lake Oswego was 100 years old in 2010. Oswego was incorporated in 1910, but it was founded in 1850. It’s 164 years old, which makes it one of the oldest towns in Clackamas County.
- In 1912, Paul C. Murphy was involved in Oswego real estate. Murphy actually was not involved in developing Lake Grove and Oswego until he joined the Ladd Estate Company in 1923.
July 2014 Buildings Matter Letter to the Editor
A Seattle wedding and a Philadelphia funeral — what do these two solemn ceremonies have in common? There’s the woman who tried to save an abandoned Seattle warehouse by marrying it and the funeral held for a vernacular Philadelphia townhouse prior to demolition. Both of these ceremonies were intended to honor buildings that were once an integral part of their communities. Why are people willing to invest time and money in such unorthodox, and potentially useless, acts? The only answer is that buildings matter. Places matter. Humble, grand, and everything in between. Buildings house our personal and collective memories. Too often building materials — stones, bricks and lumber — typically of a quality that would no longer be affordable today, are thoughtlessly tossed into dumpsters destined for landfills. The unfortunate fate of these structures that shaped our memories is a disservice to our community now, and for every future citizen who won’t have the opportunity to experience and enjoy these buildings that were once a part of us. Take action and oppose the changes that threaten the essential fabric of our city and our neighborhoods. Here are a couple of steps you can take to be a part of the solution. 1) Advocate for changes in City policy regarding demolitions: CouncilDistribution@ci.oswego.or.us 2) Join and support the work of the your local non-profit historic preservation advocacy organization, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society: lakeoswegopreservationsociety.org
June 2014 Our Mission of Advocacy Letter to the Editor
Advocacy is the most challenging aspect of the non-profit Lake Oswego Preservation Society’s mission of supporting Lake Oswego’s historic fabric through advocacy and education. We steadfastly believe that if we don’t advocate on behalf of threatened landmark properties, we are not fulfilling our mission. The Society has testified on behalf of every threatened home on the City of Lake Oswego’s Landmark Designation List since our founding in 2011. In this timeframe, public hearings have been held regarding proposed major exterior alterations or delisting of five of our 43 landmark homes: 1) Carman House 2) Jantzen Estate 3) Duncan House 4) Black House 5) Van Houten House We believe that our actions speak louder than words. Additional advocacy work of the Society includes: 1) In 2012, we nominated the 1855 Carman House, the oldest house in Lake Oswego, to Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List 2) We lobbied on behalf of maintenance incentives for landmark homeowners 3) We worked to protect and enhance language in the City’s comprehensive plan regarding historic resources 4) We serve as one of the two City-recommended resources for documenting buildings over 50 years old which are slated for demolition 5) We are working to change code requirements regarding demolitions 6) We submit letters to the editor to maintain public awareness of preservation issues 7) We speak to groups regarding the social, economic, and environmental benefits of building retention 8) In partnership with the City, we co-hosted a free, community screening of the documentary, The Greenest Building, which cinematically examines preservation’s triple bottom line benefits If you would like to be instrumental in preserving our built heritage for future generations, please support the Lake Oswego Preservation Society through your tax-deductible membership or donation. For more information, please visit: lakeoswegopreservationsociety.org
September 2013 Wizer’s Building Citizen’s View
The Wizer’s building has been a part of the fabric of downtown Lake Oswego and a part of the community’s collective memory for 53 years. In 1960, the year the city’s name was changed from “Oswego” to “Lake Oswego,” the Oregonian announced the grand opening of a new million-dollar shopping center. The Wizer’s Oswego Food Center was the city’s first covered shopping mall. It was described as an “ultra modern” design and the central court featured fountains, skylights, and mosaics depicting the outdoor activities Lake Oswego has to offer.
Richard Sundeleaf, the architect who shaped our town more than any other, designed this building. Actually, the reason I proposed that the City’s newest park be named after Sundeleaf was to honor his work and thereby hopefully save his legacy. I can see it is not quite turning out as I intended! The Sundeleaf-designed Lake Grove Shopping Center on Boones Ferry Road recently gave way to new construction and now this one may be slated for demolition.
Also, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society was awarded a $5,000 Clackamas County Community Partnership Grant to create a treasure hunt of historic commercial buildings in Lake Grove and downtown. Photographs of architectural details will serve as clues and participants can combine the treasure hunt with dining and shopping. This is a unique way to bring attention to the architectural treasures in our city while also promoting heritage tourism and economic development. As part of this grant, the Society will be conducting walking tours of the downtown historic commercial buildings. Wizer’s is one of the 15 buildings we will feature — if we hurry!
Reduce, reuse, recycle applies to buildings as well as to bottles and cans. There is a focus on sustainability in the community, but it misses the mark by not including our largest objects — buildings. Once the interrelationship among economic development, sustainability, and historic preservation is understood, it becomes clear that the most sustainable choice is to adapt this mid-century building to a new use. Let’s not let a landfill be a final resting place for this unique structure.
Even if the ultimate plan is not to adapt this mid-century building to a new use, we believe there is a wonderful opportunity here for creative thinking. An exception could be made to the LORA-required architectural styles so some of the distinctive brickwork of the façade and other mid-century design elements could be incorporated in the new structure. The overall design could pay homage to the existing building instead of replacing it with a building style that never existed in the downtown. It’s interesting that Appendix A of 50.11.001, which defines the LORA Lake Oswego Style, contains 15 illustrations and every single example of these styles is residential, not commercial. This project presents a unique opportunity to remain true to our commercial built heritage.
Adapting the existing building or even incorporating some of Sundeleaf’s design would be a win-win approach. It would honor the architect’s legacy, it would be a more sustainable choice, and it would keep diversity in our downtown buildings. Cities are not built at one time; they are and should be an eclectic mix of styles and ages. This diversity plays an important part in making a community unique and uniqueness is key for attracting residents and visitors alike.
February 2013 The Eloquence of Buildings Letter to the Editor
Homes, 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 of our community. These stories might be about the place where the first city council meetings were held after Oswego incorporated in 1910 (long before a city hall was constructed) or the local mid-century hamburger drive-in.
They vary in architectural importance, but they may have equal significance to the individual memories on which the community’s collective past is built. The stories these buildings tell are critical in communicating our community’s history and values. They can be silently eloquent, and with our help and stewardship, can live long after we, as individuals, are gone.
Demolishing the past and building anew surrounds us with contemporary structures that rob us of our uniqueness and threaten to turn us into Any Town, USA. Diversity of ages, whether it’s people or buildings, makes for a stronger and more interesting community.
Richard Moe, former President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation observed, “There may have been a time when preservation was about saving an old building here and there, but those days are gone. Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.”
January 2013 Let’s be Visionaries Letter to the Editor
Let’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 houses, have been part of the lives of generations. You don’t have to live in a house for it to become a part of you. It’s the small mid-century modern you notice every time you walk to town. It’s the cottage where your best grade school friend lived. These houses make it our “hometown.” These are not big and grand structures. They are often affordable houses for young families and for seniors, only we’re not seeing it that way.
Let’s not let landfills be cemeteries for these habitable houses. There has been one residential demolition permit issued every 10 days in Lake Oswego over the last decade. These permits do not require a photograph so, for many homes, even this simple snapshot recording their existence doesn’t exist.
Houses are unique assets that set Lake Oswego apart from other places. Let’s have the vision to see what these older homes have to offer our community if they are given the chance.
July 10, 2012 Swan Lake? Letter to the Editor
The renaming of Waluga Junior High School to Lakeridge Junior High School prompted the Lake Oswego Preservation Society to look into the word “Waluga.” It is often said that “Waluga” means wild swan and that this was the Native American name for the place that became Oswego and later Lake Oswego.
An article entitled “Notes on Native American Place-names of the Willamette Valley Region” was published in the Spring 2008 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly. The author, linguist Henry Zenk, states:
WALUGA PARK/SCHOOL. I am at a loss to identify this old name of Lake Oswego, said to be “an Indian name for wild swan.” /wa‑/ (or /a‑/) is a marker of the feminine singular in the Upper Chinook dialects, including Clackamas, the best-documented of the vicinity. While /wa‑/ appears in Chinookan names of plants and animals, the available noun lists offer no obvious matches. The Clackamas word recorded for ‘swan’, /iqilúq/, shows the masculine singular marker /i‑/. The same Chinookan noun-stem is the source of the usual Chinuk Wawa word for ‘swan’, [qilúq]. The Kalapuyan word for ‘piliated woodpecker’, recorded as Tualatin /háʔluk/ and Santiam /aʔlúk/ and /aʔlúku/ is suggestive, albeit most likely only coincidentally so.
For now, the name “Waluga” will remain another one of Lake Oswego’s history mysteries.
July 2012 35 Preservation Milestones in Oregon Nomination
The Society nominated the Oswego Iron Furnace to the 35 Preservation Milestones in Oregon. The City of Lake Oswego has preserved and interpreted this once crumbling relic of Oswego’s industrial heritage. It is the only remaining blast furnace west of the Rocky Mountains. The Historic Preservation League of Oregon did not deem the furnace worthy of inclusion in the top 35 preservation projects in the state. Three months later, in October 2012, the Oswego Iron Furnace was selected as one of 22 National Preservation Honor Award winners.
March 2012 Letter of Recommendation to the National Trust for Historic Preservation
March 5, 2012
National Trust for Historic Preservation
1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Re: Oswego Iron Furnace
Dear Award Committee Members:
As a citizen of Lake Oswego, a resident of the Old Town neighborhood in which the Oswego Iron Furnace is located, and as president of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society, I recommend the Oswego Iron Furnace project for the Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Award.
The 1866 Oswego Iron Furnace stands proudly in the heart of the city’s first public park, George Rogers Park, and in the heart of the community. It’s a monument to the past, present, and future of the city. It’s a monument to the nineteenth century capitalists who invested in the dream of iron, the stonemasons who built it, and the industry’s role in shaping the town.
The stabilization project completed in 2010 has added another layer to this historical significance. The furnace is now also a monument to community leaders with the vision of preservation, to the art of present-day stonemasons, and to those who rallied over the years to save the furnace. It will continue to stand as such a monument and, given the accompanying interpretative panels, it will continue to provide a learning opportunity for those who come after us.
The following examples demonstrate the community’s support of the furnace and its importance to the city’s economic vitality:
- The furnace is such an iconic symbol of Lake Oswego that the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, whose tagline is “forging relationship, building the community” recently adopted an image of the furnace as their logo.
- Over 250 people attended the “Furnace Blast” event in celebration of the completion of the stabilization project.
- Hundreds of people attended a memorial service at the furnace for a former mayor and community leader.
- Educators teach grade school children about the history of Lake Oswego by visiting the furnace.
- Townspeople use it as a gathering place. The area surrounding the furnace functions as an “outdoor living room” for the community.
- The furnace, as the only remaining blast furnace west of the Rocky Mountains, is both a local and a national tourist attraction and this, in turn, contributes to the city’s economic vitality.
- The recently completed Oswego Iron Heritage Trail, funded by the city, links and interprets seven sites related to the industry. It is an innovative approach to telling the story of the iron industry through the eyes of the workers. The trail is generating more interest in Lake Oswego’s history for local, regional, and national visitors who, it is anticipated, will spend tourist dollars in Lake Oswego.
As a resident of the Old Town neighborhood in which the furnace is located, I can attest to the fact that the furnace, along with the other iron-era sites, is a source of pride for the neighborhood. This sense of pride has been revitalized since the city demonstrated the importance of the furnace by investing it its stabilization. Old Town residents have applied for and have been awarded several Neighborhood Enhancement Programs (NEP) grants by the City of Lake Oswego. These neighborhood-driven, city-funded projects include:
- Every street name in Old Town, officially platted in 1867, has a connection to the iron era. An NEP grant funded interpretative signs for each street explaining the significance of the person or place in the city’s history.
- Another NEP grant funded the creation and installation of two maps that show the location of the historic sites in Old Town.
Lastly, I speak as the president of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society, a non-profit corporation. This organization was founded in 2011, too late to play a role in the furnace stabilization project. I applaud the concerted efforts that saved this place that matters so much to our community.
William Murtagh wrote, “It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” Receiving this national award would underscore the importance of the furnace as a symbol of Lake Oswego’s industrial past, a symbol of the present community’s roots, and a symbol of the city’s future.
President, Lake Oswego Preservation Society
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.
February 2012 What’s Old is New Again Letter to the Editor
Graeme Shankland, first Honorary Secretary of the William Morris Society, may have said it best when he observed: “A country without a past has the emptiness of a barren continent; and a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory.”
In Lake Oswego, one of the most unlikely adaptive reuses of an old building is located on Lakewood Bay. It was built about 1912 to house the electric generators that powered the Southern Pacific’s Red Electric trains. In 1929, as the automobile gained prominence, that mass-transit system shut down. The building was reinvented as a facility for the Oswego Weavers’ tie factory. Their hand-loomed products were featured at the Meier and Frank department store and were popular nationwide. The labor shortage caused by World War II drained the workforce and the factory ceased operations in this facility. The war housing shortage prompted renovation of the building into apartments. These apartments were expanded and converted into condominiums in more recent times so the building is on its fourth reincarnation.
As shown by this example, as long as a building remains standing the possibilities for adapting it for a creative and productive new use are endless. Once a decision has been made to demolish a structure, it eliminates those possibilities now and for all who come after us. Is it necessary for the mantra: reduce/reuse/recycle, that’s printed on our curbside containers to be emblazoned on the sides of our buildings to remind us of this most critical aspect of sustainability?
December 2011 Preservation’s Role in Economic Development Letter to the Editor
Fostering current economic development does not require sacrificing our past. Given the community update to the comprehensive plan, we have an opportunity to rethink our approach to historic preservation and recognize the contribution Lake Oswego’s existing historic fabric makes to the local economy and to sustainability.
To fully utilize the potential of Lake Oswego’s built heritage, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society suggests that the following “better by the dozen” concepts be included in the comprehensive plan update:
- Educate the community about the strong relationship between sustainability and preservation.
- Promote rehabilitation of historic buildings, which contributes more, in the long term, to the local economy than new construction.
- Actively encourage partnerships among municipalities (city, county, and state) and local businesses and organizations specializing in building reuse.
- Enhance the protection and retention of Landmark properties by strengthening our code language.
- Encourage the use of conservation easements to protect historic properties.
- Protect National Register properties the same as Landmark properties under the City’s Historic Preservation code.
- Provide incentives for relocating buildings within the community as an alternative to demolition.
- Prohibit demolition by neglect.
- Reexamine the criterion for delisting an historic property and make them more objective than the current method.
- Require deconstruction on any remodel or new construction project costing more than a certain to-be-determined amount.
- Require that photographic documentation be submitted with a demolition permit application for buildings over 50 years old.
- Actively encourage homeowners to document and share the history of their homes, streets, and neighborhoods via workshops, storytelling sessions, photo contests, etc.
November 2011 Our Built Heritage is a Precious Resource Letter to the Editor
Lake Oswego’s built heritage is a very precious community resource. Less than one-half of one percent of the more than 15,000 homes in Lake Oswego have been designated as an historic landmark by the City. Out of this small group, four of the 43 residential properties are currently threatened by major alterations or possible demolition for redevelopment. Three of these homes were designed by prominent Oregon architects and are worthy examples of their work. The fourth is thought to be the oldest house in the City.
The Lake Oswego Preservation Society is the only local organization actively working on promoting the positive historical, environmental, and economic impact of preservation. As the community works toward greater sustainability, preservation is key. Does it make sense to recycle Coke cans, yet throw away buildings?
Donovan Rypkema, an internationally recognized authority on the economics of preservation, summarized the basic sustainability concepts as follows:
- Sustainable development is crucial for economic competitiveness.
- Sustainable development has more elements than just environmental responsibility.
- “Green buildings” and sustainable development are not synonyms.
- Historic preservation is, in and of itself, sustainable development.
- Development without a historic preservation component is not sustainable.
- There is only one chance to make the decision to demolish an historic structure and we make that decision, not only for ourselves, but for all who come after us. Preserving historic properties retains the wide range of options for rehabilitation and reuse.
Retention and stewardship of Lake Oswego’s unique built heritage is a win-win decision. It’s today’s most sustainable choice and it preserves Lake Oswego’s unique historic fabric for future generations.
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.
Note: In 2012, the Society nominated the Carman House to Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List as determined by the Historic Preservation League; it was not selected.