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The volunteer group known as Friends of McLean House marks its 40th anniversary this year.

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW - Freinds of McLean House Secretary Elaine Spence (clockwise from bottom left), Treasurer Lonny Jochim,  Vice President Mike Watters and House General Manager  Diane Harju are part of the 40-year-old volunteer group that cares for the historic house and park. After the city of West Linn purchased the 17-room home of Edward McLean near the Willamette River in 1969, the house sat largely neglected for 10 years. According to an account from the West Linn Historical Society, paint peeled, windows broke and blackberry bushes grew out of control.

And then, at a raucous late night meeting in December 1980, a group of West Linn residents known as the Friends of McLean House convinced the West Linn City Council to hand over care of the home to the small contingent of volunteers.

For the Friends of McLean House, which the state of Oregon incorporated as a nonprofit in 1981, this year marked 40 years of care for the historic home and grounds that is now enjoyed by people throughout the Portland metro region.

"The Friends have really stuck together in terms of the group that wanted to work with the city and had goals and objectives including a park master plan and restoration and preservation of the house," Vice President Mike Watters said.

Today, the restored house and 2.4-acre grounds of gardens, lawn and tall sequoias serve the city as an open park and popular venue for weddings, celebrations of life and corporate gatherings.

McLean House General Manager Diane Harju said it was important to celebrate the Friends' anniversary to acknowledge the hard work of friends and volunteers past and present who restored the house and maintain it today.

"Initially the city was reluctant to turn the care of the house over to a volunteer group because the average lifespan of a volunteer group was 10 years. So to be going at it, 40 years later, is remarkable," Harju said.

She noted that upkeep of the "special park" requires special skills and knowledge, like historical archiving, furniture restoration and gardening expertise.

Harju, Friends Treasurer Lonny Jochim and Secretary Elaine Spence said although the house and park are a popular event space, many West Linn residents often overlook the grounds as an open space to enjoy any time.

The friends said they are always happy to see people strolling through the grounds, taking in the gardens from a bench or picnicking in the park with families.

Watters said that the Friends had planned a number of events to celebrate the group's anniversary this year, but each were put off due to COVID-19.

While disappointed to not celebrate this year, Watters said the group may mark the occasion next year and tie the anniversary celebration to the 100-year anniversary of McLean's purchase of the property in 1922.

Watters and Harju said hopefully the celebration will include regular tours of the home and grounds as safety restrictions allow.

The city and Friends continue to improve the house and grounds. The city recently completed an ADA upgrade to the first-floor bathroom and extended a path through the grounds, while the Friends are planning to build a large wooden pavilion with storage and a restroom.


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