Curious About the Oldest Homes in the Portland Area? Read On!

A recent discussion at the Architectural Heritage Center led to the question

What is the oldest standing house in Portland?

James B. Stephens House - SE 12th Avenue - Portland, Oregon

To our knowledge, within the city limits it’s the James B. Stephens House on SE 12th Avenue. The circa 1864 house was moved to its present location in the early 1900s.

Of course, outside Portland there are a number of older homes still standing. In Oregon City there are several that predate the Stephens house, including the well-known McLoughlin House.

So as a result of this discussion and the recent interest in house history, we thought it would be both fun and informative to gather a list of the oldest homes in the Portland Metro area. In addition to Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties, we should also include Vancouver and Clark County, Washington, since they too have some interesting historic homes from before Oregon achieved statehood.

To get things started, here’s the beginning of a list of the oldest known standing homes in the Portland area.

1845    Francis Ermatinger House – Oregon City  (On the Historic Preservation League of Oregon’s 10 Most Endangered Buildings list for 2011)

1846    Dr. John McLoughlin House – Oregon City

1847    William Holmes House (aka The Rose Farm) – Oregon City

1849    Dr. Forbes Barclay House – Oregon City

1850    Morton McCarver House – Oregon City

1851    Captain J.C. Ainsworth House – Oregon City

1856    Alvin T. Smith House – Forest Grove

1859    Thomas Hines House – Forest Grove

c. 1864    James B. Stephens House – Portland

1865    Governor Curry House (attributed) – Portland

1870    1728 SE Belmont – Portland

1872    Jacob Kamm House – Portland

1873    Benjamin Cornelius Jr. House – Forest Grove

If you know about a home that should be on this list, please send it our way.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out this upcoming AHC program on House History Research.

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23 Comments

Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Local History

23 responses to “Curious About the Oldest Homes in the Portland Area? Read On!

  1. Greg

    Don’t forget the Commanding Officer’s Quarters at Fort Vancouver, presently known as the Grant House on Officers Row in Vancouver, WA. Completed in 1850 & still open to the public today as the Grant House Restaurant!

  2. Tiffany

    My house! The Thaddeus Fisher House, 915 SE 33rd Ave and Belmont! 1881

  3. villardhouse

    Another one to add – 6119 N Villard, Portland (1894). A little “younger” than what is listed above, but we think it’s one of the older homes in the Arbor Lodge area (excepting the John Mock house, of course!) We’ve only started to scratch away at the history.

  4. Just heard today about a house in St. Johns that may date to 1855. The house is on N. Edison and has been heavily altered, but it’s certainly possible. Supposedly it was moved to its present location from near the river back c. 1905. If this proves to be true, that would bump the Stephens House from the top of the list for the oldest house within the Portland city limits.

  5. Daniel

    1859 Augustus Fanno Farmhouse – Beaverton It was donated by the family to the Tualitan Hill Park & Rec Dept. in 1982. It stands in its original location off of Hall Blvd. just west of 217

  6. Does that make the Belmont house the oldest one in the city in its original location?

  7. Great list–thank you for sharing this. I’ll be looking for these houses while out and about in PDX. :)

  8. The Canemah National Register District has 24 structures dating from 1859-1880. However, some of them are in better shape than others. I will send you a PDF of them to you to add to your list.

    We now have all survey forms and area history online – check us out at http://www.orcity.org/planning and look for us under the historic info drop down menu.

    Christina Robertson-Gardiner- Preservation Planner, City of Oregon City.

  9. There’s a small farmhouse at 35 NE Fremont Ave in Portland. The construction date is listed as 1860 at Portlandmaps.com I don’t know if this is verifiable, but the house appears distinctly older than the 1880s houses nearby.

    Ted Buehler

    • Interesting! Thanks for sending this our way. We’ll have to investigate further.

      • I met the owners today, Noah and Anne. I asked them if they’d ever examined the main floor joists and floorboards from the basement, to see if they were regularly spaced or had other distinguishing characteristics that would either date it in the 1880s (with other houses on the block) or date it significantly earlier.

        They said they hadn’t, but would take a look.

        I’m not quite sure what to look for besides regularly spaced joists, but I suppose they’d just need to compare floors to nearby 1885 houses, and see if they match.

        Ted Buehler

  10. http://www.zillow.com once had a feature where you could search all the houses in an area by date of construction. I’m no longer able to do this — I can only search “for sale” and “recently sold” houses this way. Someone clever with the user interface might figure out what buttons to click and search the whole city of Portland for homes build between 1800 and 1865 to see if there are any other old farmhouses out there.

    Ted Buehler

  11. Kurt

    There was a Brooklyn Neighborhood newsletter a few years back talking about one of the houses on SE. Pershing Street that was from the 1860′s that is still in original location and has been altered very little. I can’t remeber the name but the original owner was German and the Brooklyn historical society could find the information for you.

  12. Pingback: 2011 in Review – and in Rhyme | Portland Preservation

  13. Mark Wahlster

    The Jason Lee House in Salem 1841
    The John Boon house in Salem 1845

    Both currently on the grounds of the Mission Mill Museum on 12th st in Salem. My dad put the modern heating in both in the 1960′s and I have two boards that were cut from the Lee House in order to route the heating upstairs.

  14. Matt

    The 1853 house of Andrew Jackson Masters and his wife, Sarah Jane, still stands on its original site at 20650 SW Kinnaman Road in Aloha. The two-story, wood frame, Classical Revival style structure retains much of its historical integrity and the Stevens family, longtime owners who desired the homestead to be preserved by a governmental body or a heritage organization as a historic landmark, conveyed the property to the City of Hillsboro last year (2011). At some point in the indefinite future, once Hillsboro’s borders have expanded to encompass the property, I’ve heard that the plan is to maintain the house as a historical site/museum and a City-owned event/conference facility that members of the public can rent.

  15. Matt

    Hello again. I’ve remembered three more venerable old houses that should be on this list. At 3869 NW Martin Road, just northeast of Forest Grove, stands the residence built by Silas Jacob N. Beeks and his wife, Mary A. The charming Carpenter Gothic style structure (following an Andrew Jackson Downing cottage design) was the result of an expansion/remodel around 1860 and is significant in its own right. However, the circa 1860 domicile also encompasses the smaller, original 1848 Beeks house and this makes the structure even more special. Sadly, the Beeks House has fallen into disrepair. I see that the home was just recently purchased. Hopefully, the new owner has restoration in mind. Next is the Robert and Mary Ann Imbrie house, built in 1866 and located at 4045 NW Cornelius Pass Road in Hillsboro. This large Italian Villa style home was originally dubbed “The Gables” by the Imbrie family and it’s now well-known and lovingly preserved as part of McMenamins’ Cornelius Pass Roadhouse complex. Last but not least, my trio is completed by the house of John Quincy Adams Young and his wife, Elizabeth. Dating from 1869, this Salt Box style dwelling is situated at 12050 NW Cornell Road in the Cedar Mill neighborhood on the northern edge of Beaverton. Not so long ago, this little historic landmark was looking quite forlorn. Nowadays, however, acquisition by the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, attention from a group of boosters (Friends of the J.Q.A. Young House), and bonafide, long-term restoration plans on the part of THPRD all contribute to improved prospects and the Young House is already beginning to look better. All three of these properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  16. Matt

    At 6246 SE Scott Dr., just south of where SE Stark St. traffic is rerouted onto SE Thorburn St. on Mt. Tabor (west slope), there is what appears to be a nicely-preserved Carpenter Gothic style residence. Portlandmaps.com reports 1860 as the year of construction.

  17. scott barnard

    Another near oldest house in Portland: 1417 S.E. 34th, built in 1872 per Multnomah County property records.

    Scott

  18. John and Sarah Sheffield House was built in 1866. It’s in Sunnyside. 4272 SE Washington St. Not a record but still 1860′s….

  19. Kerrie

    I know for a fact the Sellwood neighborhood has many houses that date in the mid to late 1800′s. I can’t believe that there isn’t even one listed on this list. I attended Sellwood Middle School when they had their 100 year centennial (circa 1981 or 82′) and they took us on a walking neighborhood tour of all the historical houses and buildings in Sellwood. Sellwood School being one of them.

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