HISTORY: 'Goat House' finds new life as multigenerational home
An extensive remodel of an old Sellwood home at 1507 S.E. Lexington Street has been attracting the attention of neighbors since work began earlier this year.
The most notable feature, besides the ongoing construction, would be the three resident goats: Jack, Blossom, and Miles. They draw a daily parade of children, families, dog-walkers, and on-lookers. "Sometimes 20, 30, even 40 people will stop on any given day," says Rick Hepper, former owner and current resident.
Initially when construction commenced, there were so many questions from neighbors about the project that a sign was posted with information, so as not to disturb the builders. Yet the house is more the sum of its goats. It has history â€“ a history that involves multiple generations of the same family, and a future that solidifies a multigenerational legacy.
The house, located in the Millers Addition section of the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood, was originally built in 1905 by the Miller Family. It was owned by two other families before Rick and Pam Hepper purchased the home in 1973 for $16,000. Rick and Pam's daughter, Dana Hepper, grew up there along with her brother, both of whom attended Llewellyn Elementary School, Sellwood Middle School, and Cleveland High School. After graduating, Dana went away to college and her brother went into the Army. When Dana returned from college, she bought a house nearby on Tacoma Street; her brother moved back into their childhood home where he lived for over a decade, raising his two daughters while Rick and Pam lived in the apartment upstairs.
Eventually, major repairs were needed. At the same time, Dana and John were looking to buy a house. They considered ways in which the repairs could be done while still keeping the home in the family. "We figured out a 'partial gift, partial purchase," said Dana. "We wanted something that worked for everyone." Rick chimed in, "And we get to be near our granddaughters!"
Work began with the removal of an old locust tree that fell on the house during a storm a number of years ago. Insurance would only agree to take the tree off the house, not remove it fully from the property. "For many years, there was just a giant locust tree lying in the yard," explained Dana. "Then the root system started growing a locust forest." They were told by a landscape architect that the only way to avoid having the growth continue was to dig down a minimum of three feet and sift the soil to get all of the root system out. "There was no other option except to basically take up everything," explained Dana.
In addition to the site work, the house needed new wiring, new plumbing, and new HVAC. "At that point, you're like, why keep the walls?" laughed Dana. The renovation ultimately involved taking the house down to the studs. "We found some fun stuff," said Dana. Artifacts included a dollar bill from 1935, an invitation to a party from 1914, and a copy of THE BEE from 1973.
The home's new design features, spearheaded by architect Nick Papaefthimiou and by Laughlin Construction, include a 400 sq. ft. addition that will change the original floor plan slightly to accommodate a parlor, living room, dining room, kitchen, and mudroom on the ground floor; and three bedrooms above. The family is keeping the original bay windows, the parlor with the original sliding doors, the original woodwork in the parlor and dining room and the downstairs original leaded glass windows. Although they are not original, they are also keeping two stained glass windows flanking the entry door, a gift from a family friend dating back to the 1970s. New storm windows will be added to the some of the original windows on the main floor; all others will be replaced for energy efficiency. The unique roofline will be mostly preserved, except on the east façade â€“ to accommodate an upstairs balcony. "It would have probably been cheaper to start from scratch â€“ and more energy efficient," laughed Dana. There were some financial incentives for their design route, including tax credits for multiple dwelling units. A "tiny home" was constructed on the property where Rick and Pam currently reside, and will continue to do so after construction on the main house is complete.
The other notable structure on the property is the "goat shack" as John refers to it â€“ but it is anything but. "We went a little bit overboard with the architecture," John admitted. The same features that will be used for the main house were used first on the goat house. This included the siding, colors, trim for the pillars, and even the barn doors. "We got to have a sneak peek," John remarked. "The goat deck is made of mahogany from the remaining pieces that were removed from the main house. It's over the top, but it was really fun. It's appreciated." The roof of the goat shack is a living roof, composed of small plants and succulents. "Or as my daughter calls it, her fairy garden," said John. "It's her sacred space, and allows her some artistic creativity."
When asked what they are most looking forward to, Dana and John responded in unison: "Moving in!" Then Dana added, "And family gatherings. Our last house was just not set up for ten people to all come together. It was really crowded. This house will be way better to set up for Thanksgivings, Christmases, Birthdays. Getting everyone together, that was the whole point."
The family hopes to be in before Christmas.
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