History — Habitat for Humanity discovers well beneath house razed for new home site

Houses are plaster and wood records of the lives lived within their walls. Marks are made on door jams to indicate the growth of a child. Pets scratch at doors and mischievous youths write their names in permanent ink on the insides of drawers. But a discovery in Newberg may take the cake for a visible sign of what used to be.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers demolishing a home on South Blaine Street came across a large well or cistern. That in itself is not unusual. Wells, fed by ample surface water in the area, were not uncommon on land that is now within the city’s limits but wasn’t a century ago. What’s unusual about this particular find, however, is the house constructed in the 1950s sat atop the GARY ALLEN - John Stadeli of Arrow Drilling keeps an eye on the well as it is drained.

“We had no idea,” said Ray Powell, Habitat’s construction supervisor.

The hand-dug well, according to John Stadeli of Arrow Drilling, the Newberg company donating its time to Habitat for Humanity to decommission the well, measures about 38 inches wide and 14 feet deep. It is lined with what appears to be roughly formed clay bricks, but is otherwise in good condition.

When discovered, water was within 18 inches of the surface, Stadeli said, and was infiltrating the well as designed. Arrow Drilling decommissions one or two wells like it every year, he said.

Stadeli pumped the well dry in mid-February, then did so again the next day before clearing it of debris and dumping in three feet of gravel. It will be pumped dry once again before eight feet of concrete is added when the foundation for the next Habitat house is erected nearby. Three feet of dirt will then be added to the hole and the well will be no more.

Now that the building permits are in hand and demolition of the home is complete on the 7,500-square-foot lot, construction has begun on a 1,200-square-foot, single story home with three bedrooms and 1.5 baths, Powell said. Once the house is completed, he added, a separate garage on the lot will be demolished and a second home constructed.

Powell proudly noted that the existing home was torn down “one board at a time” by Habitat crews, with some of the lumber salvaged and some sent off to become hog fuel at the SP Fiber Technologies mill in town.

One would suspect that somewhere in all that wood was a mark indicating the growth of a child.

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