Mountaindale couple to restore 1912 home on C Street in Forest Grove

As a sign of their commitment to historical renovation, the Browns cite their efforts to match this Craftsman homes old narrow-lap siding when they had to cover a new exterior wall at the back of the house.Susan Brown first glimpsed the house when she drove past it one Saturday on her way back from the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market to her Mountaindale home.

It was a big old Craftsman bungalow on the northwest corner of Pacific Avenue and C Street in Forest Grove, where Brown and her husband, Barrett Brown, had been looking for a historic home to renovate.

Best of all, there was a “For Sale” sign out in front.

Every Saturday after that, Susan stopped across the street from the house on her way back from the Hillsboro market, “and I would say, ‘I’m going to own you, I’m going to own you, I’m going to own you.’”

Her prediction came true a year ago, when the self-described “design and architectural enthusiasts” bought the 1912 home.

It’s a high-profile structure, so people were curious when the building activity started — perhaps too curious. “The rumor mill in town is going crazy,” Barrett said.

In truth, the only thing the Browns are sure of is that they plan to renovate and rent out the 1,400-square-foot basement as a three-bedroom apartment. A few families have already expressed interest.

Beyond that, anything is possible. The Browns aren’t yet ready to leave their Mountaindale retreat. So possible tenants for the rest of the home could include families, students or even a small business such as an architectural or accounting firm. The land is zoned “community commercial,” Barrett said.

Or perhaps they could loan it out as meeting space for civic groups, he said.

But first the Browns plan to restore much of the home’s original design — a task that requires both architectural expertise and detective NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - We just love this town, Susan Brown says of Forest Grove, where she and her husband, Barrett Brown, are working to restore a 1912 bungalow they bought last year. The couple currently lives outside Mountaindale.

A series of renovations, beginning as early as the 1930s, removed or covered over much of the internal woodwork and trim.

That’s why the home is designated as a “contributing resource” to the Walker Naylor Historic District in which it sits, rather than a “historic home.” The Browns are fine with the lower-level designation, which has fewer restrictions.

They uncovered the original fir floorboards beneath a top layer of carpet and a middle layer of oak flooring that was apparently installed in 1939 — at least that’s the date of The Oregonian pages that were stuffed under a threshold to level it at the time.

What was the original color of the kitchen cabinets? They found their clue in the garage — a single, front piece of a tilt-out flour bin from the original kitchen.

The original trim was removed from most of the main floor, but not the upstairs, so they’ll be able to replicate and restore it.

They also uncovered what appears to be the original kitchen ceiling, with colorful wallpaper that had been hidden by a dropped ceiling and a layer of acoustic tile.

The Browns will also replace the wide single-pane picture window in the kitchen with a trio of windows, in “classic Craftsman” style, Susan said.

They expect Phase One of their renovations — the basement and the top floor — to be finished in the next few months, while Phase Two, the main floor, will take at least another year.

Barrett is just glad the place lasted long enough for them to buy it. On the basement beams, he found numerous charred spots “where fires had started (and put themselves out) from the unbelievably unsafe wiring,” he said.

“There’s no reason this place should have survived.”

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