Building could be older than Zimmerman House

Historic houses mean a lot to a community, and more than one local resident hopes the Hamlin-Johnson House at 1322 S.E. 282nd Avenue can be saved.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - A historic house at the corner of Southeast 282nd Avenue and Lusted Road may be demolished.Alice Duff, a member of the city's Historic Resources Subcommittee, wrote a letter as a private citizen to Fred and Elizabeth Asa, new owners of the property, who had planned to demolish the home to make way for a subdivision.

The home was built by Charles Hunter Hamlin, an 1853 pioneer settler, Duff says, and its construction may go back that far, judging by its style. Duff said in her letter the house is in excellent condition and has historic significance.

“There are very few houses of this age and condition left in Gresham. It may be even older than the Zimmerman House, operated by the Gresham Parks Department. The Hamlin-Johnson House epitomizes the mid-19th century, Victorian farmhouse built by a homesteader by hand,” she wrote.

Multnomah County records list the house at the corner of 282nd Avenue and Lusted Road as being built in 1904, but Duff said the house was built before that.

“I suspect that is when someone got a permit to electrify or put in plumbing,” she said.

Brandon Spencer-Hartle, field programs manager for Restore Oregon, said he hopes the Gresham house can be saved, just as a historic home in Willamette Heights neighborhood scheduled for demolition found a solution — after public outcry — when a neighborhood couple bought the house.

Portland demolishes more than one house per day, Spencer-Hartle said, and neighbors often are caught off-guard.

“In the span of a week, they (the owners) had filed for demolition and filed plans for a new building,” he said. “But the neighbors said 'Wait!' and the solution was the buyer was able to step back, but it was contentious.”

The house on 282nd Avenue is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Duff said, and was somehow missed when Gresham surveyed its historic places in 1987-88.

“It's not on the inventory,” she said. “If it were, it would have given the city and our committee some more leverage to do the research.”

Duff says the Asa family wants to develop the 3.5-acre plot into a 20-lot subdivision. In her letter, she suggested plot lines could be changed so the old house can be saved or a way might be found to move the house. She said she has not heard back directly, but was told by city planner Ann Pytynia that her letter may have had some effect.

“He indicted that as long as it doesn't interfere with his development plan, he was neutral on it,” Duff said.

Apparently, he has decided to try for a compromise. Pytynia said Fred Asa has "been very gracious" and is looking at all the possibilities.

Spencer-Hartle said he hopes a solution is found.

“Now we will have a chance to learn something more about Gresham's past,” he said. “We know change is going to happen, but a win-win would be a new development project that meets the owner's financial goals and seeing this is preserved.”

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