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Historical accuracy.

Historical accuracy

Restoring a fine old house to its early state calls for more than replacing worn-out materials. According to Philip Dole of the University of Oregon's Department of Architecture, it requires patience, detective work, and time to research--long before you negotiate with a contractor.

The first question to ask is, what did the original house look like? Familiarity with buildings of the same era is essential. Dole, whose own restoration appears here, recommends looking through historical society records and perusing deeds, architectural plans, newspapers, and even family photo albums for useful data.

One helpful reference is All About Old Buildings: The Whole Preservation Catalog, edited by Diane Maddex (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1785 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, 1985; $27.95 postpaid).

Next, evaluate the house's present condition. Look for dropped ceilings, doors and windows that were added or covered over, and other evidence of modernization. A thorough inspection--best done by an architect trained in restoration--will reveal the state of beams, joists, floors, roof, and foundation. Plumbing and wiring might need to be brought up to code.

Rehab Right: How to Realize the Full Value of Your Old House, by Helaine Kaplan Prentice and Blair Prentice (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 1987; $9.95), is a valuable walk-through guide.

Tracking down original sources

Dole found clues to the house's history in different places. Photographs at Lane County Historical Museum revealed an early bay window; a later owner had replaced it with an aluminum-framed picture window. Fortunately, Dole salvaged a similar bay from a nearby house being razed. The rescued piece fits neatly in place--although the "water table board" at the bottom needs to be replaced.

Other discoveries came when he identified a board used to frame a kitchen window as part of the porch railing; its irregular paint pattern indicated the spacing of the original jigsaw work. The molding will serve as a model for milling a new railing.

And paint layers on the exterior wall where the porch joins the house included a faint shadow showing the locaton and contour of a vintage porch post.

Venturing into the present

Although Dole cherishes the house's 19th-century charm, he didn't hesitate to add something of his own. He tore off a 1915 porch connecting the house with a woodshed and esigned a sunroom heated by a woodstove. To match the roof line of house and shed, he positioned a falsefront gable to block the view into a neighbor's yard from an upstairs window.

Photo: Gothic revival farmhouse, built in 1885 and moved to present location in Eugene in 1915, is being restored almost to its original design. A major change: installing small sunroom between house and former woodshed at rear.

Photo: Sleuthing above porch's dropped ceiling reveals old paint line of original, loftier one--a vital clue for restoration

Photo: Owners study newly drawn plans for porch restoration. Molding in foreground, used to frame window opening in 1915 remodel, is part of original porch railing

Photo: Salvaged buy window is good match-- according to an old photograph--for one removed during earlier remodeling

Photo: New sunroom links main house with utility room and also with the garden, improving light and warmth indoors
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Title Annotation:1885 Oregon farmhouse's restoration
Date:Apr 1, 1988
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