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Local "Hobbit House" on the market, facing uncertain future



Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Completed in 1978, the home at 1850 Carriage Way has been called a 'Hobbit House,' 'The Mushroom Home' and even 'The Flintstones House.'More than 40 years ago, Francisco Reynders was driving past a Portland salvage yard when a set of items caught his eye.

For a prolific artist like Reynders, inspiration could come from anywhere, or anything. He could take a piece of chalk and draw a perfect silhouette of a nude woman, all in one stroke. He painted, he sculpted, he mimed — quite literally, the Holland-born Reynders could not stop himself from creating. He was, as his friend and longtime Lake Oswego-based realtor Valarie Ross remembered, “just propelled through life by his art.”

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - REYNDERS

So when Reynders drove past that junkyard and noticed several dome-shaped objects scattered amongst the rubble, a single thought crossed his mind.

“I could build a house out of that!”

The dome-shaped objects, as it turned out, were old metal covers used to protect gun turrets on the USS Bunker Hill battleship during World War II. Valued at just $50 apiece, they would later become the cornerstone of a home valued today at $375,000.

The house — located at 1850 Carriage Way and playfully referred to around town as “The Dome Home,” “Yoda’s House” and “The Mushroom House” — is now listed on the market for just the second time since it was built. Almost 20 years after Reynders’ death in 1996, Ross smiles when she remembers the early days of the eclectic house.

“He purposely wanted it to be nothing from the outside,” Ross said. “He wanted it to look like a hole in the ground, and then you really walk in and go ‘Wow, this is pretty amazing.’”

After discovering the dome covers, Reynders still had to buy a property to build the house on. He and his wife, Liz Page, found the perfect lot in what was then considered “the middle of nowhere” (now Carriage Way). They borrowed $16,000 from Page’s parents, and the project was officially underway.

Reynders’ final blueprint divided the home into ten rooms.

Beyond the standard living room, kitchen, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, he also included a study, a photo lab and a steam room. The two largest rooms — the living room and master bedroom — were constructed by covering a circular steel cage with plywood and polyurethane foam, with the inside coated with cellulose made from recycled newspapers. The turret covers were used for the home’s smaller rooms.

When the home was finally completed in 1978, Reynders described it as “organically sensuous.”

“And this was in the days when ‘organically’ wasn’t a word anybody used,” Ross said. “He wanted it to be way different on the inside than it was on the outside, and didn’t want any corners (in the house).”

It was in the corners of life, as Reynders said, where bad things happen.

“That’s just how Frans talked,” Ross said.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: BURL ROSS - Reynders stands on a rooftop overseeing construction on the home.

Reynders and his wife divorced shortly after moving into the home. He eventually remarried. Four years after he died, his widow decided to put the home on the market for the very first time. Fittingly, it was Ross who sold it to a new family in 2000.

Now, that family is ready to move on — “it’s just too much property (for them),” Ross said — and the infamous Mushroom Home’s days may be numbered.

“The livability of the house has really been trumped by the value of the land,” Ross said. “The home is livable ... but land is so scarce, especially where this is located ... in the ’70s it was out in the middle of nowhere, now there’s nothing like it available.”

If there’s a twinge of sadness about the home’s uncertain future, Ross is also a realist, and her past personal connections to the home are long gone.

“I kind of let go of the sentiment once Frans was gone,” Ross said. “Things move on. It’s a lovely piece of property, which is why Frans and Liz loved it.”

Beyond her friendship with Reynders, Ross also refers to Page as one of her best friends. But for Page, too, the home is a distant memory — she moved to Boston 30 years ago.

Yet even with the future uncertain, the home continues to fascinate. On Oct. 5, shortly after the home was officially put on the market, the popular Facebook page “Keep Portland Weird” posted a photo with a link to the listing.

By the next morning, Ross said, the post had 1,500 “likes,” 400 “shares” and more than 70 comments.

The flood of interest could be seen as a testament to Reynders’ artistic vision.

“I would always think of him like that movie ‘Amadeus,’ with Mozart, where he kind of couldn’t help it, it kind of got in his way, but he had this music coming out of him,” Ross said. “He was really like nobody I’ve ever known or will ever know again.”

To learn more about the home, visit pmeinstein.com/dome1.htm or read the listing at windermere.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Listing.photos&CustomTourId=14635

Contact Patrick Malee at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: BURL ROSS - A circular steel cage made up the outer rim of the home's largest rooms - the master bedroom and living room.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: BURL ROSS - Reynders covered the domes with polyurethane foam on the outside.

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