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Owners open doors to historic Trueblood house

Renovation project stays true to its roots
by: vern uyetake Owner Sheila Perrin stands in the kitchen of the Trueblood house – a room whose new appliances and cabinetry have been modeled to match its surrounding original elements.

After a five-year renovation process that's still in progress, the owners of one of Lake Oswego's historic homes are opening their doors this weekend to share with the public the result of their hard work.

Located at 1805 Glenmorrie Terrace, behind George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego, the Trueblood house was built in 1917 by Samuel Owen as a wedding gift for his daughter, Angie, and her husband, Harrison Trueblood. The Truebloods occupied the house with their son, Sam, and eventually Angie's half-sister, Clara Owen, until they sold it to the Harts, a neighboring family, who then sold the property to the city of Lake Oswego.

The Owen family originally moved to Oregon from Michigan and owned Owen Lumber Mill in Southern Oregon. They lived in a large main house overlooking the Willamette River, which, originally constructed in 1910, was demolished after sustaining heavy damage in the Columbus Day storm in October 1962.

An additional smaller house still stands near the Trueblood house, and the land around the half-acre property has been designated a permanent greenway, creating its park-like setting.

Sheila and Kevin Perrin, previous residents of Southwest Portland, purchased the house from the city in 2006 through a bidding process after it had sat vacant for many years.

'Clara Owen was the last person to live here, and (when we bought the house) you couldn't even see the chimney,' Sheila Perrin said, as its was completely overgrown with vines.

And the interior of the house was not much better.

'When we first saw it, there was mold everywhere, and it smelled,' she said.

The city had originally wanted to bulldoze the house, Perrin said, but the Historic Resources Advisory Board (HRAB) convinced officials it was worth saving and put it on the market.

Although there was a record number of lockbox openings at the house - about 250 - the Perrins were one of seven serious applicants to submit a bid for the property, presenting a committee of city officials, HRAB and community members with dossiers of information, including their plans for renovation and how they intended to fund the work.

In the end, the committee selected the Perrins' bid.

'One of the reasons we were chosen is that we didn't want to add on to or change (the house),' Perrin said.

The house has as permanent covenant on its deed requiring owners to keep intact its original windows, window boxes and fireplaces and keep its original light fixtures in the house, whether they're in use or not.

Perrin said restoration work on the Trueblood house has been completed in line with the standards of the National Historic Register.

'We had to keep as much of what was original as we could,' she said.

Luckily, as the house was only occupied by members of one family, they had a lot to work with, as many of its original windows, flooring, molding and light fixtures were intact.

Perrin said the only remodels made to the house were made in the 1930s, when the kitchen was updated and a second garage was added.

Much of the Perrins' restoration work has been about fusing the old with the new.

The kitchen, for example, features new cabinetry and appliances, while the cabinetry in the adjoining pantry is original. Similarly, while one archway leading to the kitchen is original, the other is one Kevin - a master carpenter by profession - modeled to match.

Perrin said she scoured Portland in search of vintage 'wavy' glass to install in the house's sun porch, as more modern windows had already replaced its original screens.

'We wanted to open it up a bit,' she said.

They even converted a new door to fit one of the house's original skeleton keys.

The Perrins stripped the staircase's hardwood flooring of its dark stain for a more natural wood coloring, and restored the picture molding that runs throughout each room.

Upstairs, the house's bathroom needed complete renovation - the Perrins found straw in its walls and floor that had been used for insulation - but they replaced its fixtures and subway tiling with their best estimate of what was originally there.

While the house's wall sconces are original, none of its rooms contained central lighting, which the couple added. Perrin said she also replaced the fabric on the house's original roller shades.

'I was told they were better rollers than I could buy today,' she said.

Perrin said many hours were logged sanding the house's walls to the wood, filling in the cracks in its lath and plaster walls and refinishing them with a sand and plaster finish to mock their original texture.

'Most of the work was done ourselves, but we have had help,' she said.

Along the way, their work underwent inspections by the city and the HRAB to ensure they were staying true to their proposed plans.

Now that much of the interior work has been completed, Perrin said her winter project will be landscaping the property, and she still hopes to find a connection between the house and the Lake Oswego community that will qualify it for a place on the National Historic Register.

She said she's been fortunate enough to have been in contact with several members of the McVey and Trueblood families to compile a clearer picture of the house's history.

Perrin said she was able interview Sam Trueblood, who grew up in the house, while he was living and spoke with both Elizabeth and Bill McVey, a mother and son pair - cousins of the Truebloods - who lived in the property's main house before moving to California.

On display at this weekend's open house will be the house's original blueprints by local architect Tom Clinefelter, Trueblood family photos and the original deeds to the property - all of which have been provided by the family.

And, Sam Trueblood's daughter is coming for the event.

'We want to show our work and what can be done with a historic home,' Perrin said of the event. 'It's almost better now than when it was originally built.'