House full of stories

by: Vern Uyetake, Above: Jeannie McGuire’s patio is colorful and cozy with plant life. Here she holds Huntly her garden gnome which she carried around in her backpack once she found him on a recent trip to Scotland. The inside of her home is a mini-museum of items from her world travels.

If you should ever visit Jeannie McGuire's home in a historic neighborhood of Lake Oswego, there is really someone you should meet.

Huntly has a full, white beard and wears a cap he could have borrowed from Rumpelstiltskin. His big, welcoming smile reflects his merry nature as he reigns over the garden.

Huntly is also about 1-foot tall. But the little guy - more accurately, garden gnome - serves as a symbol of everything that McGuire has accomplished in her home of 18 years: her love of England and Scotland, art and family.

And she presents things uniquely. A small table near the front door in McGuire's home is covered with items that reflect her life and what she loves. But it is only the beginning of what her home possesses.

'For better or worse, it's not like anything you will see again,' McGuire said of her collection of European items.

You've heard the phrase, 'Every picture tells a story.' Well, in McGuire's house it is 'Every item tells a story,' and the whole theme of her home is largely centered on her years in England in the 1960s that she spent as a teacher. That era that featured The Beatles and Swinging London as England dominated the world's pop culture.

But for McGuire it was also the beginning of a collection to fill her home. Like the genuine bobby hat from a Suffolk constabulary that hangs on a coatrack. No, McGuire didn't snatch it off the head of a British policeman on a crazy Saturday night. She obtained it like she did every other object in her collection; with an eye for value.

'No designer has ever set a hand on this house,' said McGuire, in what is not a boast but a firm statement of fact.

McGuire seems to have the ability to walk into the cellar of an antique story, eye an item that looks like a dust-covered piece of junk, then turn it into something beautiful that is full of reverence for the past.

She places these things in an attractive and cohesive manner.

'I've been doing this for a long time,' McGuire said. 'I decorated my own room when I was 15. I've always loved interiors, antiques, personal treasures.

'I don't consider myself a collector. This is just stuff. It's evolution. It has come to me through the years. It's what I love and what I live with.'

By far the best way to view and appreciate McGuire's home is to take her personal tour.

Still, just to talk about some of the objects and rooms is an intriguing introduction and provides a good taste of what her home is all about.

n Chairs in the hallway come from an English vicarage, and McGuire herself did the brass rubbings by the fireplace.

n There are painted glass windows, a bed warmer and grandfather's clock with Westminster Chimes from the 1860s.

n A Danish telephone circa 1914 comes from the Juland Peninsula and the town of Albany.

n Many paintings line the walls of her home, including her own paintings. One is of the 1819 cottage she lived in during her stay in England. Her current home was built in 1918.

n Family pieces - such as her great aunt's rocking chair and elegant photos of her mother, father and other relatives - are placed in antique frames.

n Scotland is well represented in McGuire's house. 'Scotland is my great love,' McGuire said. 'I've been there 12 times.'

Her Scottish pieces include two pieces of paneled glass. 'On a sunny day those things are gorgeous,' she said.

n The guest bedroom has a Beatrix Potter theme, with an entire collection of books, teacups, stuffed animals, a bed covered with fluffy pillows, paintings of Potter characters, and McGuire's grandmother's cupboard. It's a perfect room in which to read fairytales.

Even more than her taste and talent, the word that comes to mind in seeing McGuire's home is 'passionate.'

Yet it is a quality that she also brings outside of her house and into the community. McGuire has been a long-time member of Lake Oswego's Historic Resources Advisory Board, and she has played a key role in some impressive victories of historic preservation. She has been honored by both the city and the advisory board for her contributions.

'We have wonderful things right in Lake Oswego,' McGuire said. 'If everything around here was brand new it would be pretty boring. I've always been fascinated by a good old house.

'You can't build charm into a new building. The older, the better.'

McGuire says she is proud that the Trueblood House - located in Glenmorrie - will be preserved.

She also helped the city to initiate the historic plaque recognition program that now recognizes 69 houses. And when she heard the Oregon Iron Workers Cottage was for sale, McGuire 'immediately went to city hall' to convince officials to buy the cottage for the city.

McGuire is also chairman of her neighborhod association in Old Town, which is near George Rogers Park.

But of all the things in her house, what she really likes to talk about is Huntly.

'Huntly is my new friend,' McGuire said. 'He's very precious. I got him on my most recent trip to Scotland. I carried him around in my backpack. I don't know how I got him home without breaking him.

'Huntly is so much a part of the culture, fantasy and lore of Scotland. Some people want 100 garden gnomes. I wanted just one. He rules over this place.'

Huntly owes a lot to Jeannie McGuire. And so does historical Lake Oswego.