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Taking care of a Wright – Grant boosts needed Gordon House upkeep

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Gordon House was successfully moved to Silverton in 2001.

By Brenna Wiegand

Last month the Oregon Cultural Trust awarded the Gordon House Conservancy a grant of $13,325 toward ongoing preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home.

The money goes a long way toward funding the stabilization of a sagging 20-foot beam spanning its living room, thereby preserving the home’s structural integrity and protecting the Conservancy’s mission of educating the public about the only house in Oregon designed by the renowned architect.

In 1957, Evelyn and Ed Gordon commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home for them on their farmland near Wilsonville, now the site of Charbonneau.

One of the last of Wright’s Usonian homes, the Gordon House was based on Wright’s design for a modern home commissioned by Life magazine in 1938. It was situated to take advantage of views of the adjacent Willamette River on the northwest side and Mt. Hood to the east.

Grant funds will be used to stabilize a beam in the living room and rebuild an accessibility ramp.

However, the construction bid came in way over budget and the Gordons were unable to commence building until 1964.

The couple enjoyed their dream house for the next 30 years. After the Gordons passed away, the Wright house and its fertile 22 acres were placed on the market. That was 1997. It took until 2000 to find a buyer.

“Sitting vacant for a few years, the house had fallen into disrepair,”  Val Van Alstyne, General Director, Gordon House Conservancy said. “When the other couple bought the property, they wanted to get a permit to tear down the Gordon House and build their own dream home in the same spot.”

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago and others got wind of the situation and made attempts toward purchasing the historic structure, to no avail. Finally, they struck a deal that allowed the owners to donate the house as a tax write-off.

The Oregon Garden and City of Silverton had property below the Garden that lent itself well to the architectural treasure. However, they only had 105 days to remove it.

Donations poured in, and they completed the massive undertaking just five days shy of the deadline.

“Not all of it was salvageable, so they moved what they could and rebuilt the rest on site,” Van Alstyne said. “Everything was here in 2001 and by 2002 they opened the museum.”

Since then, the Gordon House has become a cultural center for Silverton and beyond. It is a frequent venue for meetings, concerts, parties, weddings and the like.

When Van Alstyne, with a degree in museum studies, learned of the house’s existence, she moved here from Denver where she had helped move and preserve a museum. She bided her time until a position became available.

“Seeing that the Gordon House was saved and relocated struck a chord with me,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing to be a part of it and to get to work here every day with the Gordons’ home office as my own.” 

The Conservancy is soliciting donations to complete the living room project, its full cost estimated at $20,000. In addition to grants and donations, the museum always welcomes new members, visitors and volunteers.

An Oregon Community Foundation grant is funding the Gordon House’s “Accessibility for All” undertaking which includes the rebuilding of their accessibility ramp and walking path and translating its handouts, brochures, and signage into several languages, including Braille.

Private donations are funding the restructuring of an existing garden into one in memory of Elsa Coleman who was a major fund raiser from the beginning.

The Oregon Cultural Trust marked its 20th anniversary by announcing a record-setting $3,254,441 in grant awards to 140 cultural organizations across the state, bringing the cumulative total of Cultural Trust grants to more than $36 million since its founding in 2001.

“In its first 20 years the Cultural Trust has proven itself as a stable source of funding for Oregon’s arts, heritage and humanities community,” Niki Price, Cultural Trust Board Chair said. “Thanks to the Oregonians who participate in the cultural tax credit we have raised more than $74 million in support of culture statewide. It is gratifying to announce our largest pool of grants ever as we celebrate this important milestone.” 

 Donate, join, visit, volunteer

Gordon House Conservancy

869 W Main St.
P.O. Box 1207
Silverton, OR 97381

Nov. 25-March 1, Friday-Sunday during tours

March 1-Nov. 25: Wednesday-Sunday during guided tours at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

General Admission $20; 17 and under are free.

Visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds at any time

More information:
[email protected]

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