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Brickwork restoration on historic building being done old-school by union craftspeople

COURTESY PHOTO: COLLEEN CAHILL - Members of the Oregon bricklayers union (BAC Local 1 Oregon/Washington/Idaho/Montana) are donating their time and materials to restore brick work on the historic Cedar School. Theyre  doing the work the old-fashioned way, by hand.

Troutdale's historic Cedar School is getting a bit of a facelift and just received a zoning change that will help preserve the old schoolhouse.

As expected, on Thursday, Oct. 1, Multnomah County Commissioners voted to make a zoning change for Cedar School, from exclusive farm use to rural residential. Oddly, the Cedar School hasn't been used for agriculture in at least 100 years, if ever. It was a school and then became the home, studio and event space it is now.

"This is a huge win and one of many steps toward protecting this historic building," owner Colleen Cahill said of the zoning change via email.

Cahill has been slowly fixing up the beautiful old building as time and money would allow.

She's has just teamed up with the Oregon bricklayers union (BAC Local 1 Oregon/Washington/Idaho/Montana), and they are restoring the deteriorating brick work at no charge. The brick workers are using the building as part of their internship program.

"Just one more huge blessing in the process of securing the future of this almost 100 year old building," Cahill said.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The brick school, at 2326 S.E. Troutdale Road, was constructed in the 1920s. Its now a home and popular place for weddings and other special events. It also features an Airbnb rental.

Matt Eleazer, union president said "as a union, anything we can do to help the community, we do."

The brick workers "are using historic guidelines in the restoration and are doing everything by hand the same way it was done when built, with chisels and hammers. It is a slow process that could take up to two years but certainly worth the incredible outcome," Cahill explained.

Eleazer said training people to correctly restore historic buildings is important to the union and preparing workers for jobs.

The Cedar School had been privately owned since 1976, but by the 1990's had fallen into disrepair.

In 1999, photographer Cahill purchased the property and began restoration. Cahill has transformed it into a popular place for weddings and other special events. It also features an Airbnb rental.

The current brick school, at 2326 S.E. Troutdale Road, was constructed in the 1920s. It had one classroom and an auditorium which held school plays and town meetings. The school was part of the Cedar School District until 1940 when it merged with the Troutdale School District.

The original school on the site was built in 1857 as a small 12-foot-by-18-foot cedar log structure. The school was constructed on one acre of land donated by farmer and landowner William Brooks Jones. Only four to six children attended the school in the beginning.

In 1886, as the community grew, a second building was built on the site. The new school was nearly twice the size of the old one at 20 feet by 40 feet. It had a striking bell tower and although that building is gone, the bell on the front of the former school building remains.

After the 1920s-era school was closed, the building was used as an overflow space until the 1950s, intermittently by the city of Gresham and Mt. Hood Community College until 1971, when it was abandoned and returned to the heirs of William Brooks Jones.


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