The Case For Preserving Our History
The beautiful, historic Koehler house at 718 3rd Street in the First Addition is slated to be torn down. Based on conversations with the new owner, who recently purchased the four- bedroom, two-bath, 2859 sq. ft. house for $1,547,650, the plan is to demolish the house and replace it.
Because the house has not been listed on the City’s Landmark Designation list which protects properties that are historically significant in terms of their architecture or history, the citizens of Lake Oswego will lose yet another piece of their past.
“This home merits saving not just because of its beauty and condition, but also because it belonged to members of two important, original pioneer families,” says Oswego Heritage Council executive director, Char Green.
The house is connected to two of Lake Oswego’s pioneering families from the late 1800s: the Koehlers and the Van Duyses. It was built on land purchased in 1916 by Leona Van Duyse Foote and then sold in 1925 to her nephew, H. Willis Koehler. Willis was the son of prominent, early Oswego blacksmith, Henry Koehler and his wife, Louise May Van Duyse, Leona’s sister. The Van Duyse family traveled from Belgium to settle here in the 1880s. Willis would go on to be appointed deputy sheriff for Clackamas County starting in 1931 and he and wife were still living in the 3rd Street house when he passed away in the 1960’s.
Willis’ father, Henry Koehler was not only Oswego’s first city recorder, but City Hall was originally situated on the ground floor of his own house, built in 1907, where Baird’s on B is located today and where Willis grew up.
“Not every house is worth saving,” says Jon Gustafson, President of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society, “but this particular house is different, and we feel a certain responsibility about it falling through the cracks.”
The mission of the Preservation Society is to preserve, protect and advocate for Lake Oswego’s built environment and historic assets but we often do not hear about a pending demolition until the permits are requested from the City or we see the empty lot. We realize that the reasons for this are complicated but often occur because citizens are just not aware of the benefits and possibilities available to them by listing their house. The Koehler House, for instance, has been totally renovated and updated inside but that would, in all likelihood, not preclude listing the house on Lake Oswego’s Landmark Designation list.
Based on city data, Lake Oswego has approximately one house a week demolished and replaced with a new structure. Our community makes huge efforts in recycling; we believe that should include the preservation and rehabilitation of our existing structures, and when this is not feasible, structures should at a minimum be deconstructed.
It may be too late to save the Koehler House, but we are taking steps to bring more attention to demolition in our community and address the issue. We have joined with members of community organizations such as the Oswego Heritage Council, the Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board, and First Addition Neighbors/Forest Hills Neighborhood Association to form a coalition whose goal will be to bring people and groups together to drive awareness about the impact of demolitions on our community – both in terms of the sense of place, our history, and the environment.