This house was built in 1886, and served as the homestead for my grandparent’s farm in Hillsboro, Oregon. My great-grandfather built the house from nothing, and my grandfather was born in the back bedroom of the first floor. This was a century farm, in our family for over 100 years, and that was something my grandpa was incredibly proud of, though when raising his family he decided there was no good future in farming and made sure his kids found other things to do. We visited in June 2014, assuming the house was simply unused, expecting to take a couple of photos outside, and found some family of the current owners removing the last of the fixtures before having it demolished. They were very gracious, inviting us in for a look around, so we were able to get a few last photos of the place.
My family took a road trip in 1976 from Indiana to Oregon, staying several days visiting my grandparents at this house. It was still a working farm then, grandpa working the large parcel left after selling off half of the farm to pay for my dad, his brother, and sister to attend college. By our next visit in 1980, they had retired, sold the farm, and moved to a house in town. On that visit, we flew past the newly erupted Mt. St. Helens and my dad hosed ash off their roof. In 1976, i stayed in the small bedroom at the top of the stairs and listened to the wind-up Edison 78 player before drifting off to sleep. It’s almost a given that places you visited as a child look much smaller when re-visited as an adult, but the farm house was much larger than i remembered. Probably because i couldn’t take it all in as an 8 year-old, and partly because i could see all the rooms this time, and appreciate it as the owner of an old house myself.
We all remembered that the farm house had a distinctive smell to it; the accumulation of decades of my grandmother’s cooking and my grandfather’s cigars. That smell was long gone on this last visit, but many of the details of the house were still intact. It’s a big place with wood floors and big windows, covered in some rooms by linoleum laid in the 1930s and still in good shape. It was a building that grew over time and looked it, with odd chains of rooms and even walk-in closets, and a heating system that my uncle Tom called ridiculous. When he left home for college, my dad took his room because it was right above the heater in the living room, making it the warmest bedroom in the house.
My dad died this past January, and i couldn’t help but wonder how he’d have seen the place for one last visit. My uncle got choked up showing us the room where his dad had been born, and laughed showing us the floor grate where he would sneak peeks at the christmas tree set up in the living room below. Three generations of people lived and loved and grew up there.
The house itself was in great shape and could be fixed up without too much trouble, but there are no renters for a large house outside of a Portland bedroom community, so that last bit of land will be cleared and farmed. It had probably been 20 years since i saw it last, so this was a lucky stop; it’ll likely be gone forever next time we visit.