The couple recently took paneling off parlor walls to find chalk drawing of angels on shiplap

CAROL ROSEN - Liana and Steve Berge.Way off on a hill about five miles from Molalla is a tall grey home with several outbuildings. The house appears new, but that's because Steve and Liana Berge have been renovating it since 1992, a few months after they bought it. The outside has been painted and re-roofed with most of that work done by the couple.

They couple actually saw the place for the first time on Thanksgiving morning in 1991. They bought it immediately. But it hadn't been lived in for at least 25 years and required a lot of work. Since then, despite working, they have repaired and replaced much of the home including two bathrooms, which were a real mess, according to Liana. Both have now retired.

But the story goes back to somewhere between 1900 and 1910, when the Julia Staudinger House was built near Molalla. It was land her father had homesteaded, and when she married, her father gave her land. Julia and her husband William John Staudinger, then the president of the Molalla Phone Company, were the first owners of the home that is now part of Clackamas County's historic registry.

CAROL ROSEN - During renovations, Steve and Liana Berge discovered this chalk drawing by a previous owner, Carolyn Santiago.Before entering the house there's an ice house—it's been redone—and a small porch with a laundry room off to the side. The small porch they had to take down and rebuild drilling down the concrete.

Like many old houses, it has a kitchen, dining room, library, parlor and a bathroom and laundry room on the first floor along with a steep stairway leading to four bedrooms and bath upstairs.

The Berges have worked hard to "keep" the home charming while making it livable, and the first level is nearly complete. There's a modern kitchen that appears to be an old farm kitchen. It's simple but useful with 21st century appliances and one day had a wonderfully smelling loaf of bread just out of the oven.

Some of these rooms are new. The library was Liana's hope and dream, and while not as large as some, it's a comfortable room with wooden shelves built by Steve, a clean and modern bathroom and even a ladder for those whose physiques are unable to reach books on the top levels.

The dining room was redone by the couple with a higher ceiling, new crown molding and wallpaper.

But it's the bathrooms that took a lot out of them. These they stripped down to nearly the studs. While Liana was taking out the floor, she noticed it was moving. It turned out that besides nests of mice, the underlayment actually was moving. There was cat food feeding weevils in amongst the insulation.

"It was horrible, I could barely stand to be in there. But somehow we managed to get everything out and do it over," said Liana.

She emphasized that they kept as much of the house or imitated what had been there. Most of the walls were shiplap and had been covered over wallboard and paneled during the 1960s after being empty for a while.

They were able to keep some of the wood that made the house so charming, but they also had help. The old wood and custom moldings were matched by nearby Jim's Custom Molding, owned by Jim and Ryan Hordichok. He was able to make the new lumber look beautiful but still charming using older trimming designs and bead board. Some of the wood has been dealt blemishes so it appears it's been there from the beginning.

But it's the parlor, as Liana calls it, where the most dramatic work is about to begin. The Berges have pulled the 1960s paneling off the walls. As they began pulling it down, they uncovered a chalk drawing of angels in bright colors next to the stairs.

It's not as old as the home, but was drawn by the wife of the second owner of the house, Carolyn Santiago, whose family moved into and lived in the house in the 1960s.

CAROL ROSEN - A close up of the details in the chalk mural.Once they moved, it stayed empty until the Berge's bought it. They followed 60s trends, redoing the house by lowering the ceilings and paneling all the walls.

The Berges still haven't decided what to do with Santiago's chalk painting, although Liana has sprayed it to keep the colors fresh looking.

Another feature from the original home was the wallpaper. The original owners had wet cheesecloth and stretched it to the walls with tacks to act as backing for the wallpaper. Liana has saved some of the old samples with the cheesecloth stuck to them.

Besides the inside, the Berges also painted and reroofed the house themselves. They had offered the job to someone else but the timing wasn't good so they did it themselves and saved some money. They still plan to fix up the barn.

Carol Rosen
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