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Lake Oswego honors Cooks for restoration work on the Shipley-Cook farm, which has been in the family for 116 years



REVIEW PHOTO: ANTHONY MACUK - Rick Cook and his brother, Steve Cook, stand in front of the new foundation for the Shipley-Cook farms historic barn, built in 1860.When Lake Oswego Associate Planner Paul Espe presented the City’s Historic Preservation Merit Award to the J.P. and Susie Cook family for their work in restoring the Shipley-Cook farm on Stafford Road earlier this month, 13 members of the family were scheduled to attend the awards ceremony.

But according to J.P. Cook’s great-grandson and current farm resident Rick Cook, that’s just a handful of the many extended family members who have contributed over the years to the restoration and preservation of the historic 6-acre farm.

“It’s aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends. At the Fourth of July (party), we look like an RV park,” Rick Cook says.

The Shipley-Cook farm was originally purchased and settled by Adam Shipley, who turned to farming after Lake Oswego’s iron-mining industry petered out. James Preston Cook purchased the farm in 1900, and it has remained in the Cook family for 116 years and six generations.

The farm passed from J.P. and Susie Cook to their son William Cook, then to his sons James Cook and William Cook Jr., and then finally to James Cook’s son Rick Cook. The farm had become overgrown in the 1980s, and in 1993 Rick Cook decided to move in and quickly began restoration efforts. He says the project initially began as a way to “see what we had.”

“I had a ‘pull mower,’” he says jokingly. “Everything was so high you couldn’t push it, you had to pull it.”

Rick started the project, but the restoration has been a collaborative family effort. Rick Cook is the only family member who currently lives on the farm, but several others live nearby and frequently visit to help out, including his brother, Steve Cook. Rick’s cousin, Dan Cook, is another frequent helper, and he also describes it as a group effort — both among the family and the larger community.

“We’ve definitely met a lot of people in the process,” he

says. “A lot of people want to help.”REVIEW PHOTO: ANTHONY MACUK - Rick Cook and Steve Cook pose near the farms grape gardens, which were added in the 1990s.

The Cooks’ efforts proceeded in bits and pieces for about a decade, but Rick Cook says the impetus to focus on historic preservation truly emerged around 2003, when a quarter-acre of the farm’s land was purchased to create additional right-of-way for the traffic circle on Stafford Road. After that, the Cooks decided to make sure that the farm didn’t lose any more land.

“That’s been our battle cry,” says Rick Cook. “How do we save every blade of grass we have left?”

Since then, the family has achieved a series of historic designations for the farm, including a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The next step, Cook says, was applying for Heritage Tree status.

The farm was designated as a Clackamas County Heritage Tree grove in early 2010 and joined the state Heritage Tree program the following year. Then in 2014, the farm was designated as a state Century Farm, meaning a farm that has belonged to a single family for more than 100 years.

“We got to the point where we thought, ‘This is a pretty special place — we need to do something to preserve it,’” says Rick Cook.

In 2014, Cook also began campaigning to have the farm added to plans for the City’s Hazelia Agri-Cultural Trail. The new trail will wind through the Stafford Basin and give visitors a way to learn about the area’s history, just like the existing Iron Heritage Trail on the north side of the lake.

Rick Cook and other family members are involved with the trail’s planning committee, and he says the trail will teach people about the history of farming in the Stafford basin.REVIEW PHOTO: ANTHONY MACUK - Steve Cook feeds the farms chickens with assistance from Rick Cook.

“Where’s the rest of the story?” he says. “When (the iron industry) went belly-up, where did the people go? To tell the history of the agricultural piece — that’s why we wanted to do it.”

Another important project has been the restoration of the property’s barn. The structure was built in 1860, and according to a report by the Historic Resources Advisory Board (HRAB), it is one of only 23 surviving barns in the Willamette Valley built before 1865. The report describes it as “a rare example of Oregon pioneer building craft... built with hand-hewn timbers with mortise-and-tenon joints — one of the oldest structures of this type in Clackamas County.”

Today, the farm looks very different from the way Rick Cook describes it in 1993. The barn has been rehabilitated in recent years, with part of the west wall replaced and the foundation supports rebuilt. Dozens of rows of grapes now grow in the fields, and a large number of chickens roam inside (and often outside) a fenced area behind the barn.

Rick Cook says he thinks his family was chosen for this year’s Historic Preservation Merit Award due to “the totality” of their projects rather than any specific achievement. The HRAB report states that the family was given the award for their “outstanding restoration work on the Shipley-Cook Barn and continued stewardship of this Century farm.”

Beyond the trail, Dan Cook says the family wants to “open up the eyes of the public to what we’re got here.” He and Rick say that means hosting classes and workshops and, if possible, painting the barn.

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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