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Oregon City may demolish historic Buena Vista clubhouse at Atkinson Park

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Oregon City is offering one more chance to save a historic building slated for demolition at Atkinson Park.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Since Oregon City took ownership in the 1980s, the Buena Vista Clubhouse building has fallen into disrepair.Due to a staff “oversight,” there’s never been a historic survey of the Buena Vista Club building at the park. City commissioners decided last week to allow time for a historic assessment that would determine the building’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

Federal historic registry would qualify the building for much-needed repair grants. The historic survey will take only an estimated five hours of staff time, and there is no application fee to the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, which has a mission to assist city planners and other officials “to find forward-thinking solutions to protect and preserve our past.”

Since the city took ownership in the 1980s, the building fell into disrepair. Due to maintenance issues a few years ago, the city declared it a “dangerous building” and closed down the Buena Vista Clubhouse at 1601 Jackson St. Hardwood flooring is rotting and moldy on the clubhouse’s large dining/dancing area, among several other maintenance issues.

Buena Vista’s clubhouse was moved to the park property in the 1930s, but was likely built around 1900. The building is a surviving remnant of the Buena Vista neighborhood, which used to be a distinct area and is now part of the McLoughlin historic district.

Commissioner Rocky Smith expressed a view in line with the state’s historic preservation office that communities such as Oregon City can lose opportunities for local economic and educational development in destroying assets that contribute directly to Oregon’s heritage.

In response to the diminished use of the clubhouse before its closure, Smith laid the responsibility on the city for its maintenance and marketing as a rental facility. Although the clubhouse includes a full kitchen, a small stage and a restroom, it isn’t ADA compliant, limiting its ability to be used as a public facility.

“Buildings are only utilized as much as we are willing to market them,” Smith said, likening the clubhouse’s demise to the Oregon City Trolley that ferried tourists between local historic attractions. OC’s buses that were meant to look look like historic trolleys were sold in 2013 following maintenance issues and declining ridership.

In 1986, the city’s attorney recommended that Oregon City prioritize taking care of the Buena Vista clubhouse, which was considered “well maintained” at the time of its takeover by the city. The Ermatinger House, the site of the fabled coin toss that named Portland, was closed in November 2010 because of structural problems. Although Smith acknowledged that Buena Vista probably doesn’t have the same historic significance, it was aquired around the same time as the Ermatinger House, which the city recently restored for $638,000.

Mayor Dan Holladay pledged that Oregon City would never let its resources fall under such disrepair under the watch of the current City Commission.

“Just like our homes, we have to maintain our city’s infrastructure, and that includes our buildings,” Holladay said. “There’s no excuse for that to have happened at the Buena Vista House.”