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Rotting Watts House roof fix overdue

by: ROBIN JOHNSON - The 22-year-old roof of the Watts House is deteriorating mostly around the edges and corners.Moss, grass, and other types of unknown vegetation sprout from the rotting roof of the Watts House Pioneer Museum, a 110-year-old victorian home that holds a place on the National Historic Register.

The building’s green roof is the result of a poorly constructed gutter system that directs water behind fascia boards and onto improper areas, said Barbara Hayden, president of the Scappoose Historical Society. “It’s so soft up there that you can stick your finger right through it in some places,” She said.

“We’ve had to take on the job of funding the roof restoration ourselves” said Hayden. The City of Scappoose owns the Watts House, but due to a tight budget, cannot afford to fund the construction.

As a result, the Scappoose Historical Society is asking the community for help. The Scappoose Historical Society has established a Raise the Roof fund at the St. Helens Credit union where contributions can be placed directly into an account that will be used to replace the roof, damaged wood, and gutter system. They are also applying for an applicable grant in the amount of $20,000, but will need a lot more money in order to fund the project completely.

So far, the lowest estimate the Scappoose Historical Society has on the repair is $33,000, but the price could go up once the existing roof is demolished if the supporting trusses and beams have succumbed to rot as well.

The Watts House is a gathering place for regular fundraisers such as springtime teas, Christmas Tours, An Evening with Santa, and the Summer Daze Car Show — which had 90 cars last year and is expanding this summer. The Scappoose Historical Society is also working with community leaders and the city to plan more fundraisers for the summer—one of which will be a gazebo concert.

Inside, the Watts House has been restored to replicate what the home would have looked like in the early 1900’s. The main floor and upper levels are full of vintage furniture—some of which is original to the home itself—and there is a museum in the basement where hundreds of local artifacts have been arranged in order to visually tell the story of Scappose’s history. So far, there are no leaks bringing water into the building, but since the walls are made of lath and plaster rather than modern sheetrock, any water damage to the house would be disastrous, said Hayden.

The roof of the Watts House is in such bad shape that it was hard to even get an estimate from a contractor. “We’ve already had two roofers walk away from the job as soon as they saw the house,” said Hayden. The steep pitches of the roof add to the difficulty of the project.

Hayden estimates that the total renovation costs for the Watts House would be about $250,000. Aside from the rotten roof, the building’s concrete foundation is sinking in the Southwest corner and some of the plaster on the interior walls is beginning to crack. “She’s in need of some tender loving care.” Said Hayden. “She’s the heart of this city.”

For more information, contact Barbara Hayden at 503-961-5621.