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A backyard adventure

by: Vern Uyetake, The Bell’s cottage at right — named Mole End — was built by Nan McBride, a fan of “The Wind in the Willows” story.

Amongst the tree-lined backdrop, a quaint cottage resides on the bend of Glenmorrie Drive that looks as if were taken from a page in a storybook.

To the neighbors it is known as 'The Wind in the Willows house,' but to Jon, Amy and Madeline Bell, it is home.

The wooden characters of Toad, Badger, Mole and Rat stand back to back in the Bell's yard. Mole holds a light, leading the way towards the Willamette River.

Nan McBride, who was a fan of the children's story, built the house in 1918 and named it 'Mole End' after Mole's house in the story.

Homeowners Jon and Amy Bell did not expect to be part of history when they moved into the Glenmorrie neighborhood last May.

The previous owners had a wooden sculpture carved from a fallen Redwood tree in the yard after a strong storm blew it down nearly seven years ago.

And the sculpture was a selling point for the Bells.

'I loved it when I first saw it,' Jon Bell said. 'It is definitely a unique aspect to the house.'

The story of the River Bank and the four creatures that live along it has become a favorite in many children's bookshelves, including the Bell's, who received a copy of Kenneth Grahame's classic when they moved in.

The house shares a special relationship to the story, and the tradition continues each time the house changes owners.

Although Bell was not sure how long this tradition has been going on, he assumes it could date back to the original owner since she had such a fascination with 'The Wind in the Willows' story.

'Also passed along with the house has been a typed history of the neighborhood, some old pictures of Nan McBride and the house throughout the years, various newspaper articles, including some detailing the tree, the storm, and the sculpture and 'The Wind in the Willows' connection,' Bell said.

But, the Bells had a connection to the story before they moved in.

While packing up their Portland house to move to the suburbs, Bell found a library checkout slip dating back to when he checked out the book in third grade.

Jon decided to reread the story this summer after they moved in the house.

The Bells moved in seven months ago, and they decide to give the faded wooden sculpture a fresh coat of paint. They even put a Santa hat on the Mole character for the holidays.

Their one-year-old daughter Madeline enjoys spending time admiring the playful sculpture.

'She loves the statue and points at it and oohs and ahs over it whenever we're outside,' Bell said.

Now that the family has settled into their new home, they appreciate the unique aspects of the Glenmorrie area.

'We love the neighborhood for its natural setting: the beautiful trees, the ravine, the wildlife, and the proximity to the Willamette. It's very peaceful after living for years among the relative hustle of Portland,' Bell said.

Bell said his house has little quirks, but that makes it all the more charming. Their timeless cottage sits amid older and newer homes but resembles a picturesque home just like characters in 'The Wind in the Willows.'

'It's fun to have a house that people in the neighborhood know for its uniqueness and character,' Bell said. 'These kinds of houses don't come along very often, so we consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have ended up here.'