Sharing history, saving a future

by: Vern Uyetake, The city-owned McLean House in West Linn provides space for anything from small picnics to large, lavish events with the rental of the house and property. The volunteer organization, Friends of McLean House, maintains the property for all to share.

Tucked at the end of River Street in West Linn, sits an old house always filled with new memories.

Built in 1927 by Dr. Edward McLean for his family, the 17-room colonial style house suited the needs of his growing family. McLean and his wife, Anne, worked outside in the rose garden and helped design and build the home, which featured handcrafted woodwork, fancy wallpaper and moldings of walnut throughout.

Now the property, known to locals as the McLean House and Park, serves a larger family - the community of West Linn and visitors from other towns.

Board members manage the home. Friends of the McLean House maintain the house and grounds along with volunteers and caretakers. The city is also involved in some upkeep in the park.

The home's exterior and interior are charming. While walking through the sunroom overlooking the mature garden, Leanna Lindquist of West Linn stops by a window, peering outside.

'People walk into this room and their eyes just light up,' said Lindquist, 53, a board member with the nonprofit group for eight years and registered nurse. 'The whole house kind of has that effect on people.'

In a way, Lindquist has helped nurse the home back to health. Although Lindquist is treasurer, she is unofficially a go-to gal - creating publications for the house, meeting with event coordinators, renting the home out for events and overseeing the home's caretakers.

'I put three coats of red paint on the ceiling,' said Lindquist, pointing to a cozy nook in the kitchen. 'You never could appreciate that light (fixture) before.'

And she has plenty of help.

Twenty-six years ago, a small group of concerned citizens formed Friends of the McLean House, a 501-c3 non-profit organization, to maintain the home for all to share. This came after the city of West Linn wanted to sell the historic house in 1981, according to the McLean House Web site.

Currently with 10 active members and 15 contributing members, even the appointed officials pick up a broom or paint brush to make sure things stay maintained. The city still owns the property and park and the volunteers show no sign of slowing down their progress. The West Linn Lions Club are actively involved with yard upkeep efforts.

Through events such as English Teas, art shows, ivy pulls and garage sales, the historic home continues to get the attention it needs. Lindquist stumbled upon the McLean House 12 years ago at a Christmas Bazaar.

'I love old houses and when we were looking to make a move about 18 years or 19 years ago I really wanted to buy an old house and my husband said, 'no, they're too much maintenance.' So, this is my old house,' Lindquist said.

The home and surrounding gardens on 2.4 acres look like a glamorous, but humble, movie set from a 1920s film - pristine, charming and comfortable. The land nearby the home along the Willamette River is known as West Bridge Park, a popular fishing spot.

Inside, the McLean House is spacious with attention to detail through its oak floors, walnut trim and an elaborate banister. Church groups and individuals rent out the space for activities. Lindquist said the home can house 70 people comfortably - 100 maximum because of parking. One family rented the home for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Nature can be viewed from each window. Birds flutter throughout mature landscaping. At any given time Ed Zuck could be watering the rose garden, as he has for years.

An area upstairs is often used by brides and bridesmaids preparing for weddings on the property. Before, the same space served as Dr. McLean's den, which adjoins the master bedroom, said Lindquist.

Dr. Edward H. McLean traveled from home to home in Clackamas County as a doctor and checked on expectant mothers, following up on broke bone patients and surgeries. He practiced at the McLean Clinic, which he founded in Oregon City.

As a trailblazer in medicine, McLean helped found the Physicians Association of Clackamas County, the first physician sponsored prepaid plan in the U.S.A., which led to the formation of the Oregon Physician Service. McLean is remembered as a fine doctor, teacher and researcher - especially in the field of communicable disease.

And just as McLean worked to built-up his business, his home also requires much work. Like any historic house, the McLean House has a list of projects to be completed - expanding the patio off the sunroom, installing a sprinkler system, restoring areas upstairs.

As the home's care takers, married couple Ryan and Candice Tidwell, live within the home and maintain the gardens and interior. They are the first caretakers with their own kitchen upstairs by their living quarters so as not to disturb events held downstairs.

Judy Nelson - a long-time volunteer - said that the home has special meaning to her and she's witnessed and participated in the home's changes over the years. She even hosted her 70th birthday at the McLean House last summer.

'About 25 years ago we started on this room and took down eight layers of wallpaper,' Nelson said, standing within the living room and running her hands up the wall. 'Now, this is the second restoration that we've done in the last few years.'

I don't know if I'm stubborn or what, but I don't give up.'

Like Nelson, there are a lot of locals who won't 'give up' on the McLean House because the house has brought them so much joy. It's a 'labor of love,' as they say.

'The master plan is a landscape plan for the park. We're part of the park's master plan but we have our own,' Lindquist said. 'If we had Bill Gates adopt us, there would be a grand lawn between the gazebo and rose garden.'

Lindquist said that the rose garden would be relocated, and a new bathroom facility would screen off some of the parking lot.

'On the one side of the building you could bring down a huge screen and host movies in the park,' Lindquist said.

Maintaining the house and park is one thing, but sharing the work it is what makes everything worthwhile.

'(Visitors) are in for a real treat,' Lindquist said. 'The McLean House is a grand old family home that is reminiscent of a simpler time.'