Toilet overflow at historic site had especially bad timing

An overflowing toilet caused major damage to the Oswego Heritage House on the evening of May 16, and the timing could not have been worse.

The annual Tour of Historic Homes was planned for May 18. In addition, the flooding set back plans to get OHH on the National Historic Registry. Jude Graham was forced to move quickly.

“We set up screens and shut doors,” said Graham, OHH executive director. “We placed a lot of flowers everywhere to disguise the smell. It didn’t smell bad.”

The tour was a big success, attracting 300 patrons. Now, Graham and OHH supporters must raise about $10,000 for repairs. by: JUDE GRAHAM - A rolled-back carpet reveals the extensive damage done to the floor at the Oswego Heritage House from an overflowing toilet. Water still glistens at the bottom of this photo.

The crisis started with a clogged toilet in a restroom just off the museum lobby. It started overflowing and didn’t stop until there was damage to the floors and baseboards.

However, the damage could have been worse. The flooding lasted for two hours, but it could have lasted all night and virtually wrecked the museum had Debra Iguchi, who is working on a special project at the museum, and her husband, Tom Sullivan, not dropped by and discovered the big problem. Sullivan took care of it quickly.

“He turned off the water and gave one plunge with the Johnny Plunger,” Graham said. “One plunge and the toilet was fine.”

Next, Graham and her crew of volunteers worked long and feverishly to take care of the damage as much as they could, using water vacs to suck away the accumulated 3 inches of water in the hallway, and removing the wall pads, which weighed a ton because they were so thoroughly soaked with water.

“We’re lucky the water didn’t get in the basement and ruin our artifacts,” Graham said. “We brought in humidifiers for the carpet. We were knee deep, so to speak. The floors are still sopping wet. The more we work, the more damage we find.”

She wryly added: “This is National Historic Preservation Month.”

Graham added extracurricular heroics by chasing away a squirrel and a crow, which were attracted inside by all of the open doors and windows.

“Since then I’ve been careful on what doors I should leave wide open,” she said.

Graham now needs the Lake Oswego citizenry’s help for historic preservation more than ever. People wishing to donate can go to the OHH website at and click the “Donate” button. Checks can also be mailed to Oswego Heritage Council, P.O. Box 1041, Lake Oswego, OR 97034. The museum is a 501(c)(3) charity.

After her weary weekend, Graham was philosophical.

“This is my little baby,” she said. “It’s hard to see it have problems. It’s always an adventure taking care of an old house. You never know what you’ll find.”

Still, Graham is optimistic that help will soon be on the way.

“We have a very generous community,” she said.

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