The A.T. Smith House
The 1854 A.T. Smith House in Forest Grove is among Washington County’s most significant historic homes. Saved in the past from numerous perils by dedicated preservationists, the house is once again facing serious challenges due to ongoing maintenance and repair costs, as well as the lack of power and water at the site.
News and Updates
Through grants from Restore Oregon, Oregon Cultural Trust, and the Kinsman Foundation, a preservation plan is being conducted by a preservation consultant.
Received grants from Oregon Cultural Trust and Kinsman Foundation to conduct a preservation plan, strategic planning, and water access to the house.
Friends of Historic Forest Grove assembling options for advancing reuse concepts for the house.
Alvin and Abigail Smith arrived in Oregon in 1841 as lay missionaries, having made a winter stopover at the infamous Whitman Mission on their journey to the Willamette Valley. They settled in Forest Grove and built two cabins; the first washed away, but the second became the areaʼs first Post Office. A.T. Smith kept a daily diary— the original of which is located at the Oregon Historical Society— which provides unique details on the construction of the third Smith residence, a Classical Greek Revival house.
In 1853, Alvin felled large oak trees on a knoll south of Forest Grove to be used to frame the house. Mr. Smith was a skilled carpenter; the survival of the house through decades of neglect and abuse is ample testimony to his talent. The “bones” of the structure are hand-hewn oak beams joined with mortise, tenon, and wood peg.
In 1937, the house was studied and recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey. It was listed on the National Register in 1974, placing it among Oregonʼs earliest listings according to the State Historic Preservation Office, which has deemed the property to be “highly significant.”
Why it’s Endangered
The Smith House lacks full electrical power and there is no water access on the property. Because of the lack of any heating/cooling capability, in the winter the floorboards swell and buckle and in the summer the entire property is dangerously dry and susceptible to fire.
With each passing season, the structure’s maintenance needs mount, as does the threat of catastrophic loss to fire. The Friends of Historic Forest Grove have been engaging in a campaign to save and reuse the house, an effort that Restore Oregon will assist with. Having identified economic opportunities for other Willamette Valley Pioneer houses in previous years, Restore Oregon will provide feasibility planning and targeted funding to advance the restoration and continued use of the Smith House.