Party House, Grow House, Room with a View

Exploring the History of a Home and a Neighborhood


Leave a comment

Race in the Oregon Wilderness

I wrote a blog post last year that I never posted. It seemed too raw to post then. It still does. But the armed white protesters occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge inspired me to revise and post it now:

IMG_1425

I am writing this without internet from Fivemile Butte Lookout Tower, one of the fire lookouts the Forest Service rents to tourists. It is a smallish room, but surrounded on all sides by windows it feels spacious, a magical tree house. When we go to sleep, the tops of Lodgepole and Ponderosa pines outside the windows are silhouettes against the sky’s sprinkling of stars. When we wake at dawn, the clouds are a pale pink on the horizon, Mt. Hood a snow-covered peak in the distance. In my dream the climbers summiting Hood are within shouting distance, roped in, wearing crampons and bright blue parkas. In my dream I wave at them.

In the quiet of the tower we just finished reading Claudia Rankine’s new book, the brilliant, award-winning Citizen: An American Lyric, a lyric account of both racial microaggressions and the extrajudicial killing of black men and women.

IMG_1431

In the drawers of the tower are games and puzzles. One of the games is “Ghettopoly,” copyright 2002. In the center is a picture of a black man wearing a red bandana, brandishing a machine gun and a bottle of malt liquor. Each stop on the board is a racist and classist caricature, with “Weinstein’s Gold and Platinum” and “Trailer Trash Court” standing alongside more racist caricatures of blacks, Latinos, and Asians.

I burned the game in the wood stove.

It seemed like it should have been satisfying, but it wasn’t. The existence of the game was too awful, too violent. I wanted to write my anger down in the Tower’s journal, but as my wife pointed out, to write it down would re-inscribe its message to any person of color who visited: you are not welcome here. That was the message of Oregon’s constitution; that is the message of too many of Oregon’s land use policies since. In Elizabeth Alexander’s beautiful poem, “Race,” it is Oregon’s “cool, sagey groves” the pale Great-Uncle moves to when he begins passing:

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life. . .

 

At a reading Claudia Rankine gave recently at Reed College, she told the audience that many of those who shared stories of microagressions had never told their spouses the stories they were telling her. Remembering them, holding on to them, would get in the way of their success as high powered professionals. They knew how to get things done. They knew when they needed to forget. What, then, does this American Lyric do by remembering? Among other things, Rankine tells us, it exposes to the white reader the sources, the incitements for an otherwise inexplicable rage.

Years ago, when I was very sad and trying not to be, I shared a summer sublet with my sister. The room was a bump-out on the second floor of a Craftsman in a now-expensive part of town. Perhaps the room had once been an open deck. Now, it was all windows. Windows surrounded by oak and maple and sunlight. It felt like living in a treehouse. Sleeping in that room, working at the public library, nourished like the leaves that surrounded me by Portland’s summer sun, I slowly began to remember to be alive.

One day, my little sister invited three boys over. I don’t remember where or how she met them. They talked a tough game, looked uncomfortable and out of place. They made me nervous, and I assumed my nervousness was racism. I offered them each an IPA and one laughed a little, expressing a discomfort that I remembered vividly from visits to my grandmother’s house as a child: Here I am, the bull in the china shop, the poor girl in the rich house.

Later that day, I got a call from the owner of the home, a lesbian who had bought before the neighborhood came up. Her downstairs renters had seen us invite into her home boys who had been loud. Did she say thugs? Or some polite circumlocution? I don’t remember.

Later that day, my sister realized they had stolen her phone.

At the time, I felt angry at those black boys for the distance between us. Like most white girls I knew, I had shoplifted a thing or two in high school. As long as it was from a corporation, what did it matter? It was disconcerting to think that those boys saw us as as far away from them as we might be from K-Mart. Were we that? Just capitalism’s white, impersonal facade?

Now, though, I remember one of the most shameful acts of my adolescence—stealing a three-volume set of the collected works of Nathaniel Hawthorne from a small used bookstore. The owner behind the desk had been kind to me, talked to me about the books. She had gone to Bryn Mawr, a school that two years later I didn’t apply to, convinced they would not accept me. How could I have stolen from her? It’s taken me a year to publish this post because this theft goes against every part of my self image.  Looking back, I wonder if it was about not distance but identification. I don’t remember what I was thinking, only that I felt empty and wanted to fill that emptiness. It was the year I spent in the closet after my parents told me being a lesbian was against the Bible. I wanted to be like the bookshop owner. I wanted to be her. Instead, or perhaps because of this, I stole the volumes and never went back. Did I ever read from them? I don’t remember.

When the homeowner called about us inviting the three boys in to her house, she said, “they could see my stereo equipment and come back to steal it.” I wanted to say, they would never do that. But I didn’t know. After all, they had stolen my sister’s phone. So instead I apologized. I didn’t say, the only things you know about them are their color and their class. I didn’t say, your renters are being racist. I thought all of that, but said only, we are sorry, it won’t happen again.


Leave a comment

“At night / I get up to catch my breath”: Labor, Poetry, Asbestos

That is what happens, isn’t it?
A choking-off in the air cells?
Yes.
There is difficulty in breathing.
Yes.
And a painful cough?
Yes.
Does silicosis cause death?
Yes, sir.
– Muriel Rukeyser, from “The Disease” in The Book of the Dead

Muriel Rukeyser’s great 1938 documentary poem The Book of the Dead recounts the fight of industrial workers who contracted silicosis while constructing a hydroelectric plant in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. Her focus on the visible–the camera, the extra, the historical document–seeks to make visible what is essentially invisible in lived experience. Namely, the ways in which industrial products or byproducts–in this case, silica released from rocks in the process of building the plant–can mark, change, and even destroy human bodies via mechanisms beyond the understanding of most of us who are not doctors. To work with old residential buildings is to confront the bewildering proliferation of known and unknown dangers presented by products old and new, but more than that, it is to confront the moral and sometimes legal responsibility to keep safe those within one’s employ. Yesterday a subcontractor came to our new home on Emerson Street to discuss installation of our new wood stove. He recently found out, he told me, that he has asbestosis in his lungs from years repairing asbestos coated chimneys, and installing chimneys through roofs insulated with vermiculite, a mineral sourced in the US mostly from a Libby, Montana mine contaminated by asbestos. 

Hearing this gave new meaning to the hours and days I spent in that attic, bent over, breathing through my P100 rated respirator and sweating in my Tyvek suit, scooping loose vermiculite into bags and hoping all the knob and tube wiring wouldn’t electrocute me. It was terrifying work–have I done it right? Is my mask fitting properly today? Will I be able to bag it all in time to take it to the landfill? Do I have all the proper forms? Then, my nose itches and there’s nothing I can do about it. Light-headed from hunger but unwilling to change all my clothes just for a snack, I continue scooping loose mineral fill into plastic bags. Speaking to my subcontractor gave meaning to all of this: if he and his men, heedless of the risks, take off their masks half way through the day, they are safer for those hours I spent in the humid dark. 

And if my sub and his workers do not always wear their masks, heedless of the risks, it is in part because of this problem of visibility–what can we see or understand about the hidden workings of asbestos particles? Like Muriel Rukeyser, who struggled in her documentary poetry to bring the discourses of science, statistics, and public health into the language of her work, public health outreach faces the problem of making immediate what is distant and abstract: the dangers we cannot understand face off daily against the discomforts we feel all to immediately.  In the following passage, silica dust is visible everywhere, even as the danger the dust poses–its legibility in a legal, political, and medical sense–is subject to litigation:

The water they would bring had dust in it, our drinking water,
the camps and their groves were colored with the dust,
we cleaned our clothes in the groves, but we always had the dust.
Looked like somebody sprinkled flour all over the parks and groves,
it stayed and the rain couldn’t wash it away and it twinkled
that white dust really looked pretty down around our ankles.

When I was researching in the Rukeyser archives at the Library of Congress, I stayed with a dear friend who had, without knowing it, a bedbug infestation. I sat in the reading room surreptitiously scratching my ankles. Like lead, bedbugs seem an insidious, invisible danger. Yet bedbugs announce their presence with loud discomfort and no risk of disease or permanent harm, besides driving you up the wall. Lead exists silently in the soil, the dust on windowsills. And then children face difficulties in school, often without knowing the reason why. Presence and absence, visible and invisible. One of Rukeyser’s speakers is a woman who has lost two children to silicosis and is about to lose a third. Rukeyser allows this mother to express her grief in eloquent language drawn from the Egyptian Book of the Dead:

I open out a way, they have covered my sky with crystal
I come forth by day, I am born a second time,
I force a way through, and I know the gate
I shall journey over the earth among the living.

 He shall not be diminished, never;
I shall give a mouth to my son.

 Work–the work of poetry and the work of making things–is essential to life. Yet it brings with it, like stepping into a car, known dangers and unknown ones. May I always act thoughtfully and responsibly to keep my family and workers safe from harm.

But I want to close with a reflection on that old, boring canard, the role of poetry in all of this. Auden, like Rukeyser, thought carefully during the 1930s about the role of poetry in public life. In famous lines from his elegy for Yeats, Auden writes, 

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth. 

The Gauley Bridge disaster was one in in which executives did indeed tamper. It was a disaster of busy griefs and isolations, but isolations that Rukeyser sought to speak past through her incorporation of statistics, legal records, and scientific information into her poems. How, after all, can poetry make visible collective organizing any more than it can make visible the slow working of asbestos fibers in the lungs? The towns turned industrial disasters of Gauley Bridge, West Virginia and Libby, Montana are indeed “raw towns” that those with few resources “believe and die in.” Does the poet also believe and die there? Authenticity is, perhaps, too much to ask of language, when language is itself never authentically that which it evokes. But my own appreciation of the work of safety–and of what Rukeyser was trying to communicate in her poetry about that work–has been immeasurably deepened by the hours I spent under the hot attic roof. Her work offers, among poetry’s many “way[s] of happening,” the beginning of a way to assimilate technical and manual labor into art, and to give voice, “a mouth,” to that labor.

 


1 Comment

Reclaiming Gym Floors: eco-friendly beauty and soundproofing all in one inexpensive package

After weeks of stalking Craigslist, I was beginning to despair of ever finding affordable–let alone ecologically sustainable–flooring for Rocky Butte’s 3,000 square feet of public space (we will probably be re-carpeting the bedrooms). But yesterday I found 2,000 square feet of premium grade maple tongue and groove for $1 per square foot. It has been lightly used as the floor of the gym at a Christian high school in rural Oregon. With luck, we’ll be able to buy another 1,000 square feet from the same contractors. Here’s a picture:

GymFlooring

Unlike gym floors bought through an FSC certified dealer, this flooring won’t come with an official FSC re-use chain of custody certification. But since we are buying it from the people who demo’d the floor, we know its story. And since–unlike more expensive certified repurposed flooring–we’ll have to take apart the dang floor ourselves, there is no question it really was a gym floor to begin with. Moreover, since absolutely nothing about owning a 5,000 square foot home made mostly of windows is eco-friendly, we aren’t exactly trying for any official certifications.

Traditional gym floors are made from maple tongue and groove stapled onto two layers of plywood or pine subflooring; this assembly is then floated on top of evenly spaced pads that allow the floor to absorb shock and, hopefully, save the knees and ankles of the athletes and dancers who use it. When the contractors demo’d the floor they cut the floor assembly into the large rectangular pieces pictured above. They are *heavy*! It took five of us many hours to load them onto a trailer and unload them into the garage at Rocky Butte.

Last week we almost had a chance to purchase 1,700 square feet of old growth Douglas Fir tongue and groove from an 1880s farmhouse, also at $1 a square foot, but the woman decided in the end to keep the flooring. It would have been an amazing opportunity–this type of flooring usually sells for $15 a square foot. Yet those beautiful old growth boards really belong in a smaller home that would respect and showcase the labor and history that they represent.

Our repurposed gym floors are much more in keeping with Rocky Butte’s history as a party house. We will have to pry apart the tongue and groove from its two layers of plywood backing and cut off/sand down the blind nailed staples. But we should be able to reuse most of the plywood when we create our own floating floors in areas of the house where soundproofing is desirable. As this article notes, floating your hardwood floor on two layers of plywood over either acoustic rubber matting or rubber gym pads is the most effective way to muffle impact noise. And the additional layers of plywood mass also help address airborne noise. Portland building codes will require us to muffle both impact (IIC) and airborne (STC) noise to at least 45 between the main floor and the accessory dwelling unit we hope to build in the basement. Since at STC 45 loud voices can still be heard as a low murmur, we hope to meet the higher STC 50 standard mandated in California. Repurposed gym flooring is the first part of putting that standard within our financial reach. Insulation, careful sealing of ducts and other passageways, and perhaps a floating/furred ceiling, will comprise the second half of the project.

Aesthetically, both first and third grade floors have their beauty, the former for its clear, smooth grain; the latter for its interesting knots and discolorations. Because first grade maple has become increasingly expensive, newer gym floors are increasingly made with third grade maple, also known as “seconds.” While both would be beautiful at Rocky Butte, the large open expanses of the great rooms will be accentuated by the smooth lines of the first grade maple. And while those who install gym floors sometimes retain the original gym markings to create visual interest, we are going for a more traditional look.

Don’t expect photos of the refinished floors for a long while yet . . .


Leave a comment >

The other day, taking a break from moving boxes, we saw a red tailed hawk riding a thermal right outside the kitchen window. More recently, again moving boxes, a juvenile bald eagle soared by. Every day as I finish work, I watch the sunset from the living room windows:Image

Here, in the end, is what makes this house so beautiful. Despite the Rocky Butte house’s fortress-like exterior, many elements of the original architecture emphasized a connection to the natural world. This is evident in everything from the huge timber beams that span the open floor plan to the banks of windows overlooking the city, and as we remodel we are searching for ways to bring nature back into the home in keeping with Northwest Modernism.

The original emphasis on the natural was most evident in its incorporation of two large fir trees—probably Douglas Firs—into the plan for the ground floor. The part of the house where the firs were incorporated is one story with the large front deck above it. In the architect’s construction documents, the fir trees are the two circles in the “party room.” (As you can see from the names of the rooms–party room, pool room, card room–the original owner did not plan to spend all that much time contemplating nature. . .) The text beside the the fir trees instructs the reader to “save existing fir trees [illegible] enclose in glass . . .”

FirTreeCloseup

Here is a picture of the beams that seem to have been the framing for these firs, evidence that the plan was carried out (the smaller beams painted grey, and the unstained smaller beams edged in plywood painted a greenish grey that seem to been used as an exterior finish):

IMG_0210

Neither tree remains today, and there is no record of how or why they died. It is such a shame that they are gone! Since we can’t really plan to grow new Douglas Firs up through the ceiling, what can we do to bring nature back into the building?

As you can see from these photographs we have begun by uncovering some of the beams. We are revealing the beams on the ground floor, while postponing any decision on the beams on the middle and upper floors. My mother still worries that it will make the house “too rustic.” I’ll update this post with photos of the gorgeous tongue and groove that we also decided to uncover throughout the ground floor.

Perhaps most excitingly, my father has suggested that we consider incorporating bedrock into the design of the Accessory Dwelling Unit that we hope to build in the two story “crawl space” that used to be the grow room. Here’s what the floors looked like when the county busted the house:

6-2-RockyPOT6-5-RockyPOT

I am measuring the inside carefully in order to develop a Sketchup model that can be used to develop designs/floor plans. Not sure how we can or will incorporate bedrock, but here are some photos from around the web of different extravagant designs:

Elrod_Murray Grigor_01 Malibu1103rock10 Malibu1103rock11 inside-rock-outside-treepetre4

The last image is from a controversial building that follows a design by Frank Lloyd Wright updated to fit today’s construction codes. As the Guardian notes, “One particular bone of contention with the purists is the “desert masonry” – a much-imitated technique Wright devised for creating massive supporting walls, using large rocks embedded in concrete. Usually the rocks stand proud of the wall by only half an inch or so, but the rocks in Massaro’s desert masonry jut out much further. He couldn’t recess them any deeper, he explains, because the walls have an insulating layer necessary to satisfy the building code.”

Compare the use of large boulders in the images above to Wright’s use of rock and bedrock in his famous Fallingwater:

fallingwaterfp-lgfallingwater-1Frank_Lloyd_Wright_-_Fallingwater_interior_9fallingwater-living-room-image-flohaus-com_

Our use of bedrock may in the end be limited by the need to mitigate radon infiltration–a neighbor has reported problems with radon, and we are running a short term home test kit now. . .


Leave a comment

“I’m now a person who has learned to admire exposed wooden rafters”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah gently mocks our obsession with the social, racial, and class signifiers encoded in our homes. Ian Baucom admires both Adichie’s sweeping historical vision and her attention to the details of everyday life; I find her gentle satire of manners evocative of Jane Austen. Arguably both George Eliot and Austen would appreciate Adichie’s descriptions of the clash of tastes between wealthy Nigerians and US intellectuals that seems to recapitulate the old conflict between understated old money and the brashly unsophisticated nouveau riche. It is a clash that plays itself out in the body of my parents’ new home: ostentatiously renovated in the 1980s and since deteriorated, it has been owned since 2000 by several families with last names of Hmong or perhaps Vietnamese origin. My, and my sisters’, embarrassed responses to the home’s facade reflects what Adichie calls “the haughty confidence of a person who recognize[s] kitsch.” This blog entry gets right to the heart of the big questions: how precarious is our class identity, anyway? Will it survive our parents’ unintentional acquisition of faux stucco columns? And what, if anything, should be done about the beautiful structural beams and tongue and groove midcentury modern ceiling that appear to be hidden under the main floor’s sheetrock?

Adichie’s exploration of cosmopolitan style specifically addresses many of Rocky Butte’s conflicting architectural features. Near the end of Americanah, Obinze tells Ifemelu “‘Your aesthetics have changed.'” Ifemelu has returned to Nigeria, leaving behind a successful career in the US as a blogger. “‘Did you cure your own meats in America?'” Obinze asks, and continues, “‘But really, tell me how you’ve changed.’ [. . .] And so she said, in a breezy voice, ‘My taste, I guess. I can’t believe how much I find ugly now. I can’t stand most of the houses in this city. I’m now a person who has learned to admire exposed wooden rafters.’ She rolled her eyes and he smiled at her self-mockery [. . .].” The homes Ifemelu is referring to include the “ugly house” of a wealthy woman whom she interviews for a Nigerian magazine: “It was monstrous, with two alabaster angels guarding the gate, and a dome-shaped fountain sputtering in the front yard.” When Ifemelu’s friend responds, “‘The house is beautiful!'” Ifemelu replies, “‘Not to me.'”  “And yet she had once found houses like that beautiful. But here she was now, disliking it with the haughty confidence of a person who recognized kitsch.” Sure enough, a Google Image search for “Nigerian mansion” immediately draws up images of McMansion kitsch of modest? (first) and immodest (second) proportions.

Nigerianhouse-4-dmansion-for-sale-in-maitama-abuja-21629017

The visual parallels to my parents’ new home are hard to miss:

RBPhotoColumns

Elsewhere Adichie describes a version of the American taste Ifemelu has learned to appreciate that strikes uncomfortably close to home: a lesbian couple, friends of Ifemelu’s Yale professor boyfriend, “ticked the boxes of a certain kind of enlightened, educated middle-classness, the love of dresses that were more interesting than pretty, the love of the eclectic, the love of what they were supposed to love. Ifemelu imagined them when they traveled: they would collect unusual things and fill their homes with them, unpolished evidence of their polish.” This description of collecting evokes for me the habits of colonialists past, whose cosmopolitanism reflects the planetary scope of European empires. I inherited many of the furnishings in my own first apartment in New Haven from an art historian, now the curator of a small but prominent modern museum. Without the cutting edge art and organizing style he brought to the apartment, his discarded Korean and African masks, juxtaposed with the matching leopard print wallpaper he installed in the (blue) kitchen and (pink) bathroom threatened to devolve into another kind of (racist, imperialist) kitsch. When we moved to our second and even more awesome New Haven digs my wife wisely suggested we tone it down.

My own parents’ style is best described as plain. They spent their twenties and early thirties helping run homeless shelters, meditating, and living communally as part of an esoteric Christian community. Later they moved to the country to raise us, and my father worked in HVAC and appliance repairs before buying, renovating, and renting out a very dilapidated five-plex in Sandy. My father grew up in a large Craftsman bungalow built by prominent architects Green and Green, while my mother’s family’s modest postwar home boasted tasteful midcentury modern interior design. Raising us on a tight budget, however, my parents’ focus was on the practical and the utilitarian, something that may have either led to or complimented their stylistic tone-deafness. Our amalgam of antique hand me downs, Goodwill, and Fred Meyer particleboard furniture never quite achieved a cohesive design. Perhaps my parents’ interest in the plain and functional is related, in part, to their religious commitment to service. Certainly their small business capitalism has always sat in uneasy relationship to their desire to help others. When their renters get in trouble, it is my parents who have driven them to social service agencies to sign up for Section 8 housing vouchers and food stamps. But for whatever reason, design was never a priority in their personal or professional lives.

So when the Rocky Butte house was advertised for a relatively modest price–foreclosed, carpets peed on, debris of the old grow house still in the basement–my parents decided to bid on it. And they did so entirely with an eye to the windows—that view! all that light!—and the square footage—so much!—and with no thought to the snout house design or McMansion-style EFIS pillars on the main porch. And when they think about what to update, all the questions are about flooring, HVAC, insulation, and costs. Design questions barely enter in, and when they do, the impulse is towards a nondescript style. When I suggested we expose the beams, my mother was immediately nervous. Would it be too dark? Too rustic? Given that we cannot afford to remove the EFIS faux stucco siding and rounded exterior columns in favor of something closer to what was probably originally cedar siding and plain beams, wouldn’t restoring the inside clash with the outside?

After many deep breaths, and talking it over with my sister, I realized that we need to learn more about the history of the house before making any decisions on the magnitude of revealing the old beams. I had been imagining that the beams, if they had been originally exposed, had sheetrock between each beam, but a peek into one of the closets revealed that the ceiling (shown in the first photo as it is today, finished in sheetrock) was originally made of tongue and groove wood, and probably looked something like the second photo, drawn from Google images. (Note also the round column visible through the window in the first photo):

IMG_0055 IMG_8159 For now,

So until we learn more, we will stick with the sheetrock: leaving aside the history of the home, until the sink and hot water heater work aesthetics must remain secondary. But the questions of design at the heart of the project remain unresolved: What are the project’s basic goals? For my parents to live somewhere beautiful, to have a place to entertain guests? To not let them lose their shirts on resale? And, in relationship to both questions—beautiful by whose standards? This project will inevitably reflect an uneasy compromise between these goals. And because as Adichie so beautifully documents design is deeply tied to our identities, all of these compromises will be bound up with strong feelings—mine, my parents’, my sisters’.

I hope in the coming months to document this process, as well as to reflect on the history and sociology of this home in relationship to the history of its design. Some of the questions I hope to address include the following:

–       In order to reach my parents’ goals, should we in part restore or revise the house’s design, or (the most financially feasible option) leave it essentially unchanged?

–       Who were Lawrence and Tonya Stebbeds, and were they the original owners? Who was J.L. Monte, the name on the original architectural drawings?

–       This home appears to have been one of the first built on Rocky Butte. What did it look like back then, and what kinds of parties were held there?

–       What is the relationship of the home’s design to the rise of the so-called “snout house,” and the recent banning of this design style in Portland?

–       Our family friend Linda’s co-worker’s mother used to live in the house; she reports that it did indeed have a tree growing through the ground floor. (Does this mean that the fountains on the original architectural plans were also built?) I hope to have the chance to interview her or her mother about the house in more detail.

–       What was the relationship between the Huynh and Nguyen families, who lived there during the 2000s, and the rest of the (primarily white) neighborhood?

–       How does the bust of the basement grow house, incarceration of several of the Nguyens, and the government’s attempt to claim the home through civil forfeiture laws reflect the ongoing violence and racism of the war on drugs, so that a Vietnamese family was targeted even as marijuana is becoming progressively decriminalized?

–       What happened to the two children of the arrested subjects between the age of 4 and 8 who were taken into protective custody and released to DHS the night of the drug bust? How does their experience compare with that of other children of incarcerated parents caught up in the drug war?

. . . stay tuned!


Leave a comment

All houses are also houses of the mind

This is the first draft of a blog chronicling my work for my parents fixing up their new home, a party house built in 1974 at the top of Rocky Butte. When first built it was a picture of late modernist extravagance, and it has since been remodeled into a strange amalgam of middle class corner-cutting and McMansion grandiosity. Most recently, all the carpets were peed on, and the home was left empty after a drug bust sent the previous owners to jail for operating a grow house in the basement. My job, in the aftermath, is to find a way to update, at a minimum, the HVAC and other basic features while keeping the home within budget. This blog will document that job, while also exploring the architectural and cultural history of the home and its surroundings.

I have begun it at the suggestion of Pam, a friend and restoration architect who as agreed to do some consulting on the project. I will be posting about the traces of the original architecture and design that we find as we renovate, as well, hopefully, as oral history audio files exploring the experiences of some of the unusually large number of owners the home has seen over the years.

Talking Rocky Butte architecture with Pam.

Talking Rocky Butte architecture with Pam.