Willamette Valley pioneer-era homesteads are a threatened species. Only about five percent of them (255 homes, barns, and outbuildings) still exist today. The Delaney House is considered one of the most important Oregon Trail Pioneer homes still standing. It is also one of the three oldest homes in our state, yet it was nearly lost to a fiery fate.
Over a decade ago, the house still stood on acreage from its original pioneer land claim, but it had seen better days. Its owner, eager to replace it with a new modern home, had arranged to have it burned to the ground as part of a volunteer firefighter training exercise. Luckily, Restore Oregon member Karla Pearlstein was familiar with the home, and aware of its tremendous historic significance.
Determined to preserve an important piece of Oregon history, Karla begged the owner to allow her to save and relocate the home. He agreed, offering to sell a tiny corner of his property onto which the structure might be moved. However, the piece of land he had in mind was zoned for farm-use only. Thankfully, the county agreed to make a zoning exception, ruling that the home could occupy the little slice of farmland thanks to its historic designation.
Karla spent the next ten years designing and executing the home’s rehabilitation. She restored historic woodwork, mantles and floors, and installed a geothermal heating system. She also returned the staircase to its original position, and made the country kitchen functional by tucking a dishwasher behind historic cabinet doors.
Since the house had featured a wrap-around porch in 1900, Karla was able to have a new porch constructed to meet federal preservation standards established by both the Secretary of the Interior and the National Register of Historic Places. And because the new site featured a gentle slope, it was possible for Karla to create a daylight basement beneath the original home, providing additional living and bathroom space.
The last step in Karla’s rescue saga involved securing a historic conservation easement for the property. The easement – held by Restore Oregon – will protect the Delaney House in perpetuity against demolition, neglect, or inappropriate alterations.
The Delaney House will be open to the public from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, May 20th as part of our Pioneer Home Tour that includes three of Oregon’s most significant pioneer-era homes. The tour includes the Sam Brown House in Gervais, the Keil House in Aurora, and the Delaney House just outside of Salem.
Tickets are available for $15 for Restore Oregon members, and $20 for non-members. (No children under 12, please.)
If you fall in love with the Delaney House during your visit, you may just be in luck! Karla has decided to hand the keys over to a new steward. She plans to list the home for sale soon, offering a new owner the opportunity to inhabit and protect a little piece of Oregon history.
Restore Oregon applauds Karla Pearlstein for turning a functionally-obsolete pioneer era structure into a creatively reimagined dwelling which appeals to modern tastes while also retaining historic integrity. We hope others will be inspired by her efforts.
We are committed to preserving our state’s remaining settlement-period architecture. And because we believe that visiting historic structures — and learning how history has unfolded beneath their roofs — does the best job of illustrating the need for preservation, we offer the Pioneer Home Tour for all to enjoy. Our hope is that the tour will inspire Oregonians to embrace their pioneer heritage, look past the wear and tear of our remaining pioneer building stock, and perhaps consider breathing new life into some of these rare beauties.