Featured Stories

Picture perfect

by: Vern Uyetake, Nancy Tongue, an impressionistic oil painter, has painted the exterior of her home and views out many of the windows.

Nancy and John Tongue's home on Oswego Lake looks like a painting - alluring, peaceful and attractive.

The home on West Point Road is situated on a peninsula, giving views of the lake from all windows. This time of year, cherry trees bloom and ducks drift past the backyard on an afternoon swim.

The home was designed in a French colonial revival style by local architect Richard Sundeleaf in the early 1930s. It shares signature Sundeleaf elements such as the asymmetrical layout, brick details and lighting through multi-light windows.

Nancy Tongue - an impressionistic oil painter - was drawn to the close eaves, arched windows and fantastic wood detailing that wraps visitors in warmth.

This home - along with a handful of others - will be featured on the Lake Oswego Historic Home Tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 17. The second-annual tour is in celebration of National Historic Preservation Month and put on by the Oswego Heritage Council.

'Older homes are so wonderful. You cannot build this kind of stuff. The doors are solid wood,' Tongue said. 'It's important to show that you can live in an old house. You don't have to tear it down. You don't have to have the most updated, fancy stuff. There are ways to work (modern items) in.'

Tongue grew up three doors down and remembered her current home from when she was a child; at that time it belonged to Stan Terry, public figure.

'He had pinball machines. He ran for governor and mayor,' Tongue said. 'We were told he had mob-ties.'

The Tongues moved in 29 years ago, replaced windows with bullet-holes and freshened wallpaper selections. But the home has stayed pretty much the same for nearly 80 years.

Tongue's 4,000-square foot home opens to an oversized front door of knotty-pine that her grown family of five calls the 'Wizard of Oz' door. It has a large peep hole like in the movie from the same era. The entry way is encased in wood and frames a view of the lake through the dining room.

In the foyer, a recessed part of the wall used to hold a telephone.

'The telephone must have been relatively new back then,' Tongue said. 'This was a telephone jack, so right when you walked in the front door you could impress people.'

Next to the dining room is the kitchen - now with updated limestone tile on the floor - but cabinetry from the 1950s and a long bench for sitting and viewing the lake.

'It was perfect. Every morning at breakfast all five of us would line-up here,' she said.

The home is filled with unique storage spaces, such as the rounded center of the kitchen cabinets that pull out to reveal a large drawer.

And the small door in the master bedroom which opens to reveal clothes hung on a pole and can be pulled out halfway into the room.

'This is my closet. Isn't that funny?' Tongue said of utilizing the roof eaves as closet space. 'But what a good idea.'

Tongue still has an original small box - about the size of an alarm system panel - which was mounted on a wall in her home decades ago. The different buttons indicated which rooms the maid should visit.

Wallpaper selections - from soft grass cloth to flower prints - abound. But, Tongue said the task of removing worn wallpaper was more difficult than expected.

'We had to use a steamer. It was torture,' Tongue said. 'I don't know how many layers were in the girl's rooms, but there were six layers in the kitchen.'

Now with fresh wallpaper prints, the rooms look refreshed, but still true to their 1930s time period.

'Every room has a view of the lake and the bedroom on the end has a view out both sides,' Tongue said of her daughter's room at the end of the home and near the point of the peninsula. The room is connected to her other daughter's room - making the space a girls' suite, separate from their brother's.

'I've painted lots of the views out the windows,' she said.

Carpeting was removed in the living room to expose original wood floors with dark wood peg details. An interesting looking fresh water scuba mask is on display in the room.

'Someone asked me, 'what is this?' and I said, 'let's put it in the living room,'' Tongue said, laughing.

A decade ago, Tongue built an art studio above the boathouse to match the exterior of her home.

'Every morning I feel lucky that I'm here,' Tongue said of her home studio - without air conditioning. 'When it's really hot, I paint in my swimming suit. I jump in the lake, then paint until I'm dry and jump in the lake again.'

The floor of the studio is made from car decking planks - what railroad cars are made of, she explained.

'We had to sand off the railroad car numbers,' she said.

Now that Tongue's children are grown and live away, they requested paintings of their childhood home. The completed oil painting of the property is picture perfect.

Reflecting on her years at the home, Tongue said she still remembers when they moved into the space three decades ago as a newly married couple.

'We had no furniture and no money,' Tongue said. 'My parents would walk down the street with a table and say, 'here you go.''

And Tongue's parents still live three doors away.

'I used to tell the kids when they were little,' Tongue said, 'there are probably very few kids in the world that can swim to their grandparent's house.'

For more information about the Lake Oswego Historic Home Tour, visit the Oswego Heritage House at 398 10th St. in Lake Oswego or call 503-635-6373.

The tour, featuring homes from the 1880s to 1939, is on May 17 and costs $25 for those that are not members of the Oswego Heritage Council, and $15 for members.