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Library good place to start when researching home history

by: Cliff Newell, Claire Kellogg, librarian at the Lake Oswego Public Library, scans through some files at the library. Library staff can help local homeowners interested in finding out more about the history of their home. The Lake Oswego Public Library, located at 706 Fourth Street, contains old newspaper articles, photos, maps, neighborhood association information and other materials to help local homeowners research the history of their homes.

A house is not just a house. In many cases it is also history, and homebuyers are increasingly eager to find that history.

The Lake Oswego Public Library offers an archive system and reference librarians such as Claire Kellogg to help with the information hunt.

'This is frequently a first stop when people first move to Lake Oswego,' Kellogg said. 'We have a lot of strong points for researching the history of homes.'

Among these strong points include accessibility. There is lots of indexing and filing of materials which people can get to easily. There is also always a reference librarian on hand to help people access files.

Most of all, those files hold a lot. There are many old newspaper articles, and the Lake Oswego Review is now indexed, making research much easier.

Kellogg said, 'When you look at old Lake Oswego Reviews you can find information on when a house was built. You never know when you're going to find a little clue.'

There are some items that can even be checked out of the library, such as the history of Lake Oswego. However, most material must be viewed there. These include microfilm of old census records, where 'you can trace a family and see who lived next door,' Kellogg said.

There is an extensive photo collection that can also be seen online at the library's website. The collection is currently undergoing an overhaul, which will include in-depth indexing by names.

'That will really be helpful for house research,' Kellogg said.

Other items include: Old maps showing the development of Lake Oswego, which give an entertaining view of the origins of neighborhoods like Lakewood and Oswego Heights in the 1920s; files on neighborhood associations; historical artifacts, such as title abstracts.

Wonder where you should go first? The library even offers a worksheet that will help organize your effort, plus two informational handouts.

'Researching the history of a house is an extension of genealogy research,' Kellogg said. 'You approach it the same way as a family genealogy. You start with what you know yourself.'

For the library's archive Kellogg thanks some 'real dynamo women' from the past, like Mary Goodall and Theresa Truchet. In the early 1950s they went from door-to-door collecting history. Goodall wrote a book called 'Oregon's Iron Dream,' and Truchet collected material for a scrapbook about the World War II era.

'They collected material and went out into the community,' Kellogg said. 'If they hadn't done that we wouldn't have (nearly) the understanding we have of this area. I'm very appreciative of what they did.'

In fact, Kellogg dug so deeply into the work of the two women that she, 'can even recognize their handwriting.'

Kellogg, who has been with the LO library for 31 years, has been working to make local history more accessible to the community.

'I went to a convention in the '90s and I got really inspired about organizing local history,' she said.

A major result from her efforts was obtaining a grant from the Friends of the Lake Oswego Library three years ago.

Kellogg's timing has been excellent, because interest in house history is ever on the rise, she said.

'There's more and more interest,' she said. 'People are starting to value the past more. There's even a television show (Hidden House History) on house research.

'In Lake Oswego it seems that everyone starting a business wants old photos. I get calls all the time for photos that celebrate Lake Oswego. It's a nice trend.'

Kellogg said that donations to help build the library's Lake Oswego history archive are always welcomed. Those interested can call (503) 636-7628.