A town treasure: Brown House repairs continue to provide history lessons

November, 2013 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
Charles & Martha Brown House on First Avenue.

Charles & Martha Brown House on First Avenue.

By Mary Owen

The historic Charles and Martha Brown House on Stayton’s First Avenue continues its transformation with the gift of two new grants.

“The Kinsman Foundation recently awarded $5,000, and Oregon Cultural Trust awarded $7,500,” said Bob Pendleton, vice president of the Santiam Heritage Foundation. “The most recent grants are being used for the interior work, including plumbing and wiring upgrades as well as wall and ceiling repair. Some of the interior walls were so water-damaged that they needed to be completely stripped of the original covering, repaired or replaced and replastered.”

Pendleton credited major corporate sponsors for funding improvements, including Stayton Cooperative Telephone Co., NORPAC Foods, Pacific Power Foundation and the Marion Cultural Development Corp.

“Most of the original old growth fir and cedar has been stripped and is being refinished to match what little of the original trim existed when SHF purchased the house,” he said of the molding, doors and windows.

“At the inception, the Brown House was a chance for the Stayton community to learn about its own history and to preserve one house from that history,” said Gregg Olson, SHF board member and consultant. “It was clear from the beginning that the Brown Mill had produced much of the housing stock of Stayton from this period, the Brown house being one of four houses that celebrated that ability. Within the Brown House are several styles of doors and many molding shapes that document the mill’s ability to produce a wide variety of millwork.

“By working on the Brown House, and in particular reconstructing the exact machinery that made the doors to repair the north porch door, I have been able to identify Brown millwork shipped to other communities,” he added. “In the last month, I have found Brown millwork in four houses from the early 20th century in the Valley Junction and Willamina area. I have seen it, of course, dispersed in the Willamette Valley as well, but to find it so far from home is impressive and is a part of Stayton’s history I would never have suspected.”

The Brown House project has been used by SHF to instill an awareness of the value of the house to the community and region, Pendleton said. “Our major goal at this time is to complete a kitchen plan and gain funds to complete a user-friendly facility for public and private events.”

Local schools have already expressed an interest in providing tours as part of school modules on local history and how the Brown House fits in to that history, SHF board member Anne Hernandez said.

“The annual free open house during SummerFest features historical displays about the house and other local historical events or artifacts,” she added, citing some 300 visitors during the summer celebration.

SHF treasurer Carol Zolkoske plugged the Brown House as drawing lots of interest and having no lack of uses – weddings, poetry readings, cultural events, reunions, music recitals and more.

Zolkoske believes the Brown House is an important part of the Stayton community. “It will be a place where people from the area can meet and form connections. It will help Stayton become a place where people are proud to live and want to support their schools, libraries. They will also learn that they have the power to accomplish much more than they thought possible.”

Fundraising for the project includes the annual Holiday Wreath Sale, 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1. Caroling at the Brown House with the Regis High School Voices Beyond Gravity will be held 4-5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

“The Brown House is already a local landmark that people can be proud of and will only get better,” Hernandez said. “It’s a wonderful achievement for a small town that will be even more appreciated in 50 years or so.”

For information, call 503-769-8860 or 503-769-5863.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.