Historic residence spans the centuries
- Jill Spitznass
- Portland Tribune - Features
Like any family, the Zimmermans hated to get rid of things. But while we clung to culturally insignificant flotsam (e.g., an Ab Roller and velour separates), the Zimmermans had much to show for their pack rat tendencies.
The Zimmerman House Museum is a two-story time capsule, a Victorian home that reflects Ñ with eerie accuracy Ñ the lifestyle of the three generations that occupied it until 1993.
Located in northwest Gresham on the Columbia River, the structure is maintained by the Fairview Rockwood Wilkes Historical Society, which invites the public to view this historic gem on the third Saturday of each month.
The home was built in 1874 by
Jacob and Lena Zimmerman, German immigrants who arrived in Fairview via the Oregon Trail. The family established a 660-acre dairy farm on the site, where they raised their two children.
Their four granddaughters also grew up in the house. Isobel Zimmerman, the youngest, was the final occupant of the home. She died in 1992 at the age of 93, leaving the house, its contents, and six remaining acres to be developed into what eventually will be known as the Zimmerman Heritage Farm, a collaborative effort between the city of Gresham and the historical society.
'The Zimmerman House is better than the Pittock Mansion,' says Dodi Davies, president of the historical society. 'People lived here, died here, had babies here,' she explains on a tour of the Queen Anne-style farmhouse. 'It's a great example of a pioneer success story.'
The story is told through the authentic objects that are displayed throughout the home. The overall effect is remarkable, one of a dwelling that is frozen in time. 'Our goal is to preserve Ñ not overhaul Ñ the home,' Davies says. 'This is a Victorian home that reflects the Victorian lifestyle.'
The lifestyle is evident in the beautiful clothing that still hangs in closets, fine furniture and even the exquisite shoes that expose the family's relative wealth. (In addition to owning a vacation home in Long Beach, Wash., the Zimmermans vacationed frequently by ship and rail.)
The main floor of the home reveals the family's cultural interests. A piano in the parlor is surrounded by filled bookcases and magazines of the era. Many of the paintings in the home are the work of Jesse, the oldest daughter and a skilled artist.
Upstairs, there are fascinating artifacts from the girls' childhood and early adulthood. Games, dolls and toys are wonderful examples of life before Sega Dreamcast.
Chests of drawers in the bedrooms still hold the belongings of its occupants, such as hairpins, perfume and stellar report cards. Ducks and Quakers note: Three of the four daughters were University of Oregon graduates; Isobel taught math and science at Franklin High School until 1961.