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Lake Oswego officials refuse to OK demolition of 1857 Carman House

Historic designation remains in force until state Supreme Court issues its ruling, home's owners are told

REVIEW FILE PHOTO - Built in 1857, the Carman House is one of 43 remaining historic landmarks in Lake Oswego.City officials have decided not to issue a demolition permit “at this time” to the owners of Lake Oswego’s oldest house, who had sought to push ahead with plans to raze the home despite an ongoing legal battle.

Attorneys for Marjorie Hanson, who is the trustee for the Mary Cadwell Wilmot Trust, asked the city last week to issue a demolition permit for the two-story structure that sits on 1.25 acres at 3811 Carman Drive. But City Attorney David Powell said Tuesday that the home’s historic designation still applies “until the current appeal is resolved.”

Oral arguments are scheduled before the state Supreme Court in November.

Built in 1857 by pioneer couple Waters and Lucretia Carman, the house is one of just 43 remaining historic landmarks in the city. It was built on land from a claim signed by then-President Andrew Jackson. But in February, the state Court of Appeals overturned a Land Use Board of Appeals ruling and cleared the way for the house’s owners to remove its historic designation in order to subdivide and develop the property.

The owners have long maintained that the $500,000 it would take to bring the home up to code is far beyond their reach.

In March, attorneys for the Lake Oswego Preservation Society took the case to the state Supreme Court. A number of state agencies and municipalities have joined the appeal as friends of the court, including the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office and the cities of Portland, The Dalles and Pendleton.

“It goes beyond Oswego history,” said Marylou Colver, the preservation society’s president. “The decision not to issue the demolition permit also has statewide ramifications. Over 3,200 historic resources across Oregon would have been put at risk if the city’s decision had been otherwise.”

Powell said Tuesday that the appeals court decision to reverse LUBA is not effective until the appellate judgment is filed with the state agency. But that filing is suspended while the case is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

That means the historic designation still technically applies, Powell said, and as a result, “it would be inappropriate to issue a demolition permit at this time.” 

Colver said she still hopes to prevent demolition of the home from ever happening.

“My vision is for a good steward to buy it and live in it as a single-family home,” she said, “to preserve it and cherish it.”

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.