Will Wilsonville historical landmark have brighter future?
The Tauchman House, it seems, is ever-changing.
In recent history, it's been a private school, a city hall and, now, a sporadically-used event space.
But, to some, the house amid a thicket in Boones Ferry Park is also one of the town's few historical landmarks and relics of the city's settlement era.
In adopting the Boones Ferry Park Master Plan, which is slated to be presented to City Council this summer, Wilsonville councilors could decide if the enigmatic building will undergo another change of identity.
"From my perspective, I think it's underutilized," Wilsonville Parks and Recreations Director Mike McCarty said. "I think it's a pretty cool house and a pretty cool area. Doing something around it to make it more attractive and usable is a good idea. It's maybe one of those hidden gems that people don't know about."
The Tauchman House is located next to Boones Ferry Landing — the site of a Willamette River ferry operation that transported travelers, workers, wagons, goods and animals across the river starting in the mid-19th century, according to The Historical Marker Database. The house was built in the 1870s and was home to Captain Emil Tauchman, who navigated the ferry across the river for 30 years in the early 20th century.
Currently, the Willamette Piecemakers quilting group uses the house regularly, the Wilsonville Historical Society is meeting there temporarily until Wilsonville Public Library renovations are completed and the space is available for rent. It was used 28.8 hours on average per month in 2017, vacillating between 76 hours in August and 12.5 hours in June.
"We love being there," Wilsonville Piecemakers Secretary and Treasurer Mindy Bergquist said. "It provides ample space for what we do and there's plenty of storage for the items we need to store there."
McCarty said the City is considering renovating the exterior of the house to include a plaza and an expanded grass area so that it's a
more attractive spot for events such as weddings or birthday parties.
The City could also leave the space as is, which McCarty would be against.
"I don't think we'll do nothing," he said. "I think it's a space that can be utilized better and for more purposes. I think doing nothing would be a mistake."
Bergquist can envision the house as a meeting ground for bigger events.
"The facility is designed to serve crowds because it has a kitchen with a brand new refrigerator and a stove top for cooking items as well as a microwave and the bathroom facilities are excellent and the outside grounds are beautiful," she said.
Wilsonville City Councilor Charlotte Lehan, though, said the house has certain limitations.
She said it has been remodeled so many times it's difficult to tell which aspects of the house are historical and which are not. The upstairs area is off limits because it doesn't meet city standards. The house's maximum occupancy is 40 people, there is only one restroom, and it lacks ample parking.
Lehan said Wilsonville is currently lacking in comparison to cities like Tualatin, Sherwood and West Linn in terms of historical reverence and she would like to see the house used not only as an event space but as a historical building for visitors to learn about Wilsonville's past.
She suggested the building include revolving displays of historical documents, art, quilts and other items to make the interior of the building more interesting. And she envisioned it being open to the public on certain days of the week.
Lehan is a member of the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society and said the WBFHS would like to make the Tauchman House its permanent home. The society currently stores its historical archives in the Wilsonville Public Library attic and Lehan said the society could use the storage space upstairs while facilitating a transformation at the Tauchman House. Decisions on funding potential renovations are yet to be determined.
"If you're looking for a historic venue in Wilsonville, Tauchman House would be it because it overlooks Boones Ferry Landing, which is the beginning of Wilsonville," Lehan said. "There is no more historical space than that."