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Friends of Historic Forest Grove try to grab $1,000 to help pay property debt

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Dennis Frame of Hillsboro poses with the birdhouse replica he built of the A.T. Smith house. The Friends of Historic Forest Grove preservation group is selling tickets to win the birdhouse as a fundraiser.A lucky philanthropist is going to be in for a real "tweet" sometime in the near future: a custom-made birdhouse replica of Forest Grove's historic A.T. Smith house.

The Friends of Forest Grove are selling 200 tickets at $5 apiece for a chance at winning the 14-by-19 inch birdhouse. It took glassworker Dennis Frame of Hillsboro 40 hours to build the house, which he patterned after a photo of the 1850s-era Smith house, currently under restoration by the Friends.

Frame, who grew up in Forest Grove, enjoys building the wooden birdhouses in his free time. "After a hard day at work, I go to my garage and tinker around," Frame said. "I've made between 500 and 600 of these, and the majority of them I've donated."

Frame is a multiple winner of the Jackson Bottom Wetlands "Tweet of Dreams" birdhouse-building contest. The house he constructed for the Friends is a "post-sitter" that's built to be outside, he noted. "It's decorative — you could put it in the middle of your garden as a focal point."

Tickets for the birdhouse fundraiser are available now at Corner Antiques, 2019 Pacific Ave., and at the Old Train Station, 1936 19th Ave.

The Friends hope to raise $1,000 with the project, and when all 200 tickets are sold a drawing will be held, said Mary Jo Morelli, a Forest Grove resident and president of the Friends. Proceeds will go toward the debt payment on 3.2 acres of property adjacent to the Smith House, which the nonprofit purchased in April 2012.

Better access

The Alvin T. and Abigail Smith house, which according to a Friends brochure was home to Forest Grove's first permanent residents, is tucked behind ProBuild south of Forest Grove and east of Highway 47 on 2.2 acres.

One of the reasons the Friends bought the adjacent acreage was to give people better access to the Smith house in the future, said Morelli. "The property has been sort of land-locked," she noted. "The opportunity to purchase the second piece came up, and we jumped in."

Morelli and other Friends members envision a heritage farm on the land one day, perhaps a "small working farm that would help introduce kids to the history of Forest Grove, said board member Melody Haveluck.

In the meantime, the group of about 100 members intends to keep on fundraising, promoting its annual garden tour, historic homes tour and holiday social.

"We committed to the $200,000 asking price (for the property) and are now raising funds to meet our financial obligations," Morelli noted.

The Friends formed in 1987 and purchased the Smith house in 2001. They've been working to restore the two-story home ever since, and also operate a museum in the old Southern Pacific Train Station at 1936 19th Ave. Affectionately known as the "Old Train Station," the venue is open to the public every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The Tualatin Valley Model Railroad Club uses the building, which also serves as offices for the Friends.

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