Located along Highway 62 in Southern Oregon, travelers will find a beautiful and arresting sight that has attracted photographers and artists for generations – the rustic Old Wood House, which has survived being moved, abandonment, and continual vandalism. With the help of some dedicated Eagle Point community members, this 19th century house has also endured challenges posed by development and financial pressures. Today, the house is stewarded by a preservation-oriented nonprofit.
The original owner of this ca. 1870 house was Civil War veteran and homesteader Marvin Sylvester Wood, along with his wife Susan and their three children. During their tenure, the Wood family made changes to the original structure – adding a kitchen wing, a front gable, and enlarging the second story in 1898. In 1946, one of the children, Walter Wood, moved the house to avoid demolition for the widening of Highway 62, adding electricity and plumbing at that time. Walter remained in the house until his death in 1974.
After Walter Wood’s death, the house was abandoned and boarded up, and in 1983 the 38-acre property was sold to a developer. Concerned about the fate of the historic house, members of the now-defunct Eagle Point Historical Society began to discuss how to save it. Taking a lead in 2000, Skip and Charlotte Geear negotiated with the landowner to donate the building and lease an acre of land to the society. Volunteers worked to preserve the structure while maintaining its historically rustic appeal — they rebuilt the porch and some doors using original wood, re-shingled the roof with weathered cedar shakes, and added vintage windows.
In 2006, the Old Wood House faced another challenge when the landowner put the property up for sale. Fortunately, preservation-minded Oregonians Judson Parsons and Diana Gardener bought the land and arranged for the lease of two-acres around the house for $1 a year. In addition to the Old Wood House, the surrounding property is home to rare, seasonal vernal pools, which provide habitat for the endangered fairy shrimp and large-blossom wooly meadowfoam. To further protect the land, the couple donated a conservation easement to the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy.
Yet, challenges continued. In 2008, Jackson County stopped providing financial support to the Eagle Point Historical Society and the organization folded. Once again, the Geears took the lead and formed the non-profit Woodhouse Preservation Group, which operates the house with volunteers and through donations. The Woodhouse Preservation Group offers public programming four times a year and is also available for private tours.
“Since the beginning in 1870, the Wood House has fought heavy rains, snow, the Columbus Day Storm, hail, fire, vandalism and county politics, and through all of this the house still remains to welcome you to come and visit,” writes Skip Geear. “See how western primitive living really was in the late 1800s!”
Today, the organization is financially solvent, but continued donations would help with maintenance projects. In addition, The Old Wood House can always use more publicity about its mission and ongoing events.