City board denies tram and cabana, OKs guard tower

by: VERN UYETAKE - At 1850 North Shore Road, the Jantzen estate, on an island in Oswego Lake, is accessible only by boat or private bridge.Changes are in the works for the Jantzen estate, viewed by some as one of the most unusual and historically significant residential properties in Lake Oswego.

An architect on Monday presented proposals to the city’s development review commission for an elevated tram to the water, a lakeside entertainment pavilion, a wider driveway with retaining walls and a new guard tower by the private bridge connecting the estate — located on an island in Oswego Lake — to North Shore Road.

After more than an hour of deliberations, the commission tentatively approved the guard tower and driveway improvements but rejected the entertainment cabana and tram. Of primary concern was the possibility the projects would overwhelm the historical significance of a dock and boathouse, among features garnering the estate national and local historic listings. The main home and the bridge are also considered local landmarks and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s just the combination of so much being added that I think is visually detracting from the historical structure of the boathouse,” Commissioner Bob Needham said.

by: SUBMITTED - The Jantzen estate, on an island in Oswego Lake, is one of the most unusual and possibly the most historically significant residential property in Lake Oswego.

Dubbed Crazy Man’s Island by early settlers who concluded the main resident, a mute hermit, was insane, the property came under the ownership of Carl and Emma Jantzen in 1929. The couple used to entertain their guests with fashion shows, using the lake as a runway, with water skiers modeling the latest in swimwear designed by the family’s eponymous knitwear company.

Renowned architect Richard Sundeleaf designed the estate’s stone boathouse and a private bridge with stone arches, wood railings and stone gate posts. Another prominent local architect, Charles Ertz, designed the estate’s 9,443-square-foot mansion. The landscaping was the work of Tommy Tomson, who reportedly designed residential landscapes for Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford and Henry Fonda and helped found the city of Palm Desert, Calif. The island’s 5 acres of manicured grounds are accessible only by boat or the private bridge.

The estate was recently at issue in a $1 million lawsuit pitting Jerry Stubblefield, a former University of Oregon discus champion and founder of shoe company Avia, against Tesoros de Oswego, a company linked to Chris Dudley, a former Portland Trail Blazer and 2010 gubernatorial candidate. At issue was money Dudley loaned to Stubblefield, who put up his property as collateral.

When the case was settled in May 2012, details of the agreement were not disclosed. Tesoros now owns the property, but it’s unclear who lives there. The residents are identified only as the Miller family in the development review commission’s records.

Several new structures proposed

Todd Iselin of Oregon City-based Iselin Architects, presented the plans for new structures on the estate.

by: VERN UYETAKE - This historic bridge designed by Richard Sundeleaf is one of the Jantzen estate's defining historical features and is considered a city historic landmark.

He said the proposed guard tower by the bridge is based on one of Sundeleaf’s designs that never came to fruition. He said the entertainment pavilion would be located where Sundeleaf originally planned for a small teahouse he designed, although the teahouse also was never built.

While trams aren’t unusual on Oswego Lake properties, the city didn’t have any when Jantzen Island was developed in the 1930s. Still, Iselin said, “They were throughout the country, and very common in Europe.”

He said the tram’s route, running east to west in the most prominent view of the property from the lake, was chosen so fewer trees would be affected: “We have some very rare trees down in there, some the landscaper really had a hard time identifying. We really didn’t want to touch any of those.”

And the tram is necessary to help residents and guests traverse a 35-foot drop in elevation from the home to the water, Iselin said. The 8- to 11-foot height of the trolley-style cab would accommodate the island’s main resident, whom he declined to name.

“The owner is very tall,” Iselin said. “He doesn’t fit through a standard doorway.”

While the 819-square-foot entertainment building would be a couple hundred feet larger in floor area than typically allowed, he said an exception to the city’s size limits would be justified by the potential for other development of the property. The nearby boathouse is about 975 square feet.

“If the property were to be subdivided, that would have more impact on the lake,” as more new structures could be built, he said.

Materials used on the new buildings’ surfaces would closely match those of the historical structures, although that raised concern with the state’s historic preservation experts.

Oregon’s State Historic Preservation Office objected to the use of materials and finishes that could “create a false sense of historicism.” The state also recommended moving the proposed cabana closer to the estate’s swimming pool and farther away from the boat slip.

Historical surroundings a concern

Marylou Colver of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society testified against the plan. She worried the new entertainment pavilion would overwhelm its surroundings, as would an elevated tram.

“The fact that a rail car looks old-fashioned doesn’t mean that it belongs on or is appropriate for an historic site,” she said.

Colver also urged commissioners to require consideration for the landscape design in addition to the historical buildings, as the landscape connects the three historic structures and provides context, “much like the setting for a jewel.”

“It’s the most significant single historic residential property in the city,” she said, “a community asset.”

Shelley Lorenzen, acting chairwoman of the North Shore-Country Club Neighborhood Association, said she wanted to welcome new neighbors to the area, “especially the quiet cove that brackets the island. The island clearly is the crown jewel of our neighborhood and the lake.”

Boats can’t go faster than 5 miles per hour in the cove, and fewer than 10 homes line the shoreline there. But residents in some of those homes have complained about light and noise coming from the island in recent months, she said. And they are concerned about the new guard tower, which will include an enclosed generator, because it “looks a bit medieval, as if it’s a tower at the end of a bridge across a moat.”

“We do appreciate the new neighbors wanting to enjoy the island and wanting to entertain their guests,” Lorenzen said. At the same time, “it needs to be someone who will respect the natural beauty and respect the historical significance.”

Lorenzen added that she didn’t hear any reasons for making exceptions to the city’s limits on structure size and setbacks to allow the new structures on such an important property.

Before the meeting, she said the island’s previous owners took great care to preserve the island.

“The Stubblefields were wonderful stewards of the island,” Lorenzen said. “When you have a really historical, unique property like the island, some sense of responsibility to be a good steward comes along with that.”by: VERN UYETAKE - Renowned architect Richard Sundeleaf designed this boathouse on the Jantzen estate, where some residents worry a proposed new entertainment cabana and tram could overwhelm historic buildings.

Tram, cabana plans could be tweaked

Design review commissioners debated the overall impact of the tram and the entertainment pavilion it would carry people and supplies to.

While David Poulson said he was comfortable with those elements, Frank Rossi said he might approve the larger cabana — except not when paired with the new tram, because “the boathouse kind of drowns away.”

Needham agreed.

“If it’s too big, it draws your eye away from what’s there,” he said of the entertaining area. “I can understand the need for trams, and I can appreciate the owner wanting one, but I’m very concerned about its visual impact from the lake.”

The commission’s tentative decision to approve the driveway improvements and the guard tower and generator will become final later this month.

Architects hadn’t yet decided Monday night whether to appeal the commission’s denial of the entertainment cabana and tram to the city council. They could also tweak their plans and bring a new proposal to the city’s design review commission, which next meets at 6 p.m. Aug. 19.

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