I have been living in Lake Oswego’s newest dedicated landmark, the Bondell House, for two weeks now and am loving every minute. of it (As soon as I FINALLY unpack all the moving boxes I’m sure I will love it even more!). I had been keeping my eyes out for a one story, preferably historic, house ever since a serious traffic accident left me without total mobility. My 3 level Craftsman-era house in NE Portland, 20 additional feet up from street level, continually presented challenges. Unfortunately, most single level houses are from the 1950s, or later. Being an architectural historian by training and occupation (retired), I wanted a house built prior to WWII.
The Bondell Cottage literally fell into my lap. It was a good match for me and a good match for the house. When the previous owner passed away this year, all the surrounding homeowners were afraid a developer would purchase the house, tear it down and erect a “McMansion” on the 1/3 acre site near the lake. My friend Denise Bartelt who is on the board of directors of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society informed me of the Bondell Cottage becoming available soon and might I be interested? At first I said “no” feeling that the process of moving was beyond my physical capacity at the moment. But I soon realized that just staying put, with all those stairs, would have far more impact on me than moving. And as soon as I saw the house I was hooked. It was love at first sight.
For those of you that don’t know, the Bondell House is a very rustic shake-roofed “English” style cottage “in the woods” just off South Shore Blvd. Other terms that might describe the style could include: Storybook House, Handel and Gretel, Fairy Tale House, etc. Additionally, I feel it borrows heavily from the “National Park Lodge style” from the 1930s (think Timberline Lodge, Crater Lake Lodge, and even the famed “Steiner Cabins” on Mt. Hood).
The Bondell architect is attributed to Richard Sundeleaf, perhaps Lake Oswego’s best known, most prolific architect. The year of construction has been variously reported as 1936, 1939, and 1940. ( I’m going with 1936, the year printed on the inside of the toilet tank lid — a method of dating that has never failed me). It apparently was the first house constructed in the South Shore subdivision. Other charming Sundeleaf designed houses are located uphill from Bondell.
There is some speculation that the Bondell house was constructed as a real estate office for the subdivision. Though no records exist to prove this one way or the other, I would say that is a good possibility. The original real estate office for my old Portland neighborhood, Alameda/Beaumont was built at the entrance to the subdivision at the foot of the hill — subsequent houses were built further up the Alameda Ridge. The office, now a house, was smaller than the later uphill houses. Also, it was designed to be as cute-as-could be. It certainly would have been an attention getter in 1919, just as the Bondell house would have been in 1936 (or ’39, or ’40).
Inside, the Bondell Cottage is a festival of Natural Oregon woodwork and craftsmanship. The quality of the massive beams and wood panelling bespeaks of clear grained, first growth Douglas fir. The many finely scrolled built-in cabinets are perhaps of a different variety of Oregon wood. I am still learning the types of finished Oregon wood just as I am also learning the types of live Oregon trees and shrubbery that surround the house. The massive split-stone fireplace that takes up 3/4 of the main room completes the Oregon experience.
Photo: Drew Nasto
I am looking forward to spending the long drippy winter surrounded by the warmth of the fire. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the many examples of decorative antique hardware that are found throughout the house, from the huge metal circular knocker on the Dutch door to the many beautiful knobs, pulls, braces, brackets, and hinges.
Friends of mine from California visited me last week. I promised them a total “Oregon experience”. They were not disappointed. Beginning with my rustic Oregon house “in the woods” to watching the sun go down over the lake at dinner at the Lake Theater cafe (also designed by Sundeleaf), they thought they had experienced the best of Oregon. Who can argue with that?