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Historic Ambleside House may be relocated

As Metro prepares to restore the Johnson Creek floodplain, Alice Duff has spearheaded an effort of her own.

“Our committee is very interested in the future of the (Ambleside House),” said Duff, Gresham Historic Resources Subcommittee chairwoman.

Built in 1902, the house sits adjacent to Johnson Creek, which results in routine flooding. It also blocks salmon and steelhead runs, something the Johnson Creek Watershed Council and Metro are interested in improving with the upcoming project.Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - The Ambleside (Schacht) house is located within the regulated floodplain and immediately adjacent to Johnson Creek. The home was built in 1902 and now experiences routine flooding. Metro will either demolish the historic home or try to find a buyer to move the home to a new location.

“We found salmon just a hundred feet down from the site, it’s clearly a pretty important site,” said Peter Guillozet Sr., natural resource scientist for Metro.

But as the only historical house among other structures under consideration for demolition, Guillozet said he wanted to see if any interested parties could take on the project of saving Ambleside. This process began in early December, with potential demolition in the future.

“That’s why I’m scrambling to gather information and explore possibilities,” Duff said.

The forefront possibility Duff has landed on would be to find a buyer for Ambleside and move the building to a nearby site.

“The cost increases the farther away you go. It would not be feasible to take it far, so I am looking in to vacant land nearby,” she said. “I have a lead on someone who might possibly be interested in acquiring the house and moving it, but that’s far from definite.”

As far as Duff knows, this would be the first historic house relocated in Gresham. But she’s not unfamiliar to the concept — her historic home was relocated in Portland.

“I live in portland and it was moved 25 or 30 years ago,” she said. “It’s a 1923 craftsman and it used to face on Foster Road and the person who owned the whole large piece of property picked it up and moved two houses and put them on the far southern edge of the property and thus saved them really.”

Ambleside is currently only listed on the city historic register, but Duff said moving the home wouldn’t prohibit it from making the National Register of Historic Places.

“I was able to get my house on the National Register of Historic Places, so having a house move is not necessarily a barrier to getting on the national register,” she said.

Before any of the home’s longterm future can be discussed, Duff still needs to finalize the potential move and determine if such a feat would be feasible.

“It’s a little bit difficult also because of the physical constraint. It’s located on Ambleside Drive, which is between Johnson Creek and the Spring Water Trail,” she said. “It’s kind of a hilly region with mature trees. There are some housing developments and also some commercial buildings nearby, so it’s not an easy thing necessarily.”

Then there’s the cost.

“(It’s) in the tens of thousands because cities usually charge a traffic impact fee, and that’s not just for holding up traffic, but that includes moving the power lines and all that kind of thing,” Duff said.

The cost of the house, however, is up for discussion. Among other avenues of consideration would be a deed transfer from Metro to the new owner — at no cost.

“I think at this point Metro’s not ruling out a variety of options for the house,” Guillozet said. “I think transferring ownership is among the options.”

He added this process was really kickstarted by the approval of the Natural Areas Levy in 2013, so it’s important to remember the reasoning behind the potential demolition of Ambleside House.

“(That’s) why I approached the historic resources subcommittee about this house,” he said.

Duff said the committee doesn’t meet until February, so in the meantime she’s going to do what she can to get a definite plan in motion.

“The house appears to have been maintained. It looks to be in good shape, so if we could find a property nearby and someone who had some money, they might be able to move it and make it into something else,” she said. “It could be made into offices, an attorney’s office or something like that. Who knows.”

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