We’re launching a new initiative of “direct preservation.” In the months and years ahead, we will directly intervene to save selected historic properties that are urgently at risk. We will take ownership of them, stabilize the structure, permanently protect them with a conservation easement, and transfer them into the hands of owners who can complete the restoration.
Our first direct preservation project is the Sam Brown House, in Gervais – one of the most important Pioneer Era homes in the state. This historic property is in the process of being donated to Restore Oregon.
Built on a frame of hand-hewn timbers, it is said to be the first architect-designed house in Oregon. Its Classical Revival, Palladian style made it one of the most impressive homes of its day.
Apart from its unique architecture, the Sam Brown house and the story of the Brown family is woven into the fabric of Oregon history. Samuel Brown was born in Pennsylvania in 1821. In 1846 he, wife Elisabeth, and their 9-month-old son joined a wagon train bound for Oregon.
After detouring to California where they had some success mining for gold, the family settled in Oregon, filed a donation land claim, and eventually completed this house in 1856. For some time, it also served as a stop on the Oregon-California stage coach route. Brown went on to serve in the state legislature, and his son ran for Governor.
The Sam Brown House had been passed down in the family for generations, but was sold a few years ago to a local nursery operator attracted to its acreage.
While appreciating the historic significance of the House, the new owner did not want the responsibility of its preservation, and with no one living in it, could see it was rapidly deteriorating. We approached the owner about partitioning the house from the land and letting Restore Oregon see to its future. Very generously, they agreed.
Even with this generous gift, Restore Oregon will incur significant costs. Site surveys, structural inspections and stabilization, septic inspections, and the partitioning of the property from the surrounding exclusive farm use land could cost as much as $25,000. But what a treasure we will have saved and passed forward to a new generation!