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Restoration, not demolition, for Woodstock "gateway" home

by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - No demolition here! Vic Remmers of Everett Custom Homes promised to find someone who would buy and restore the historic house at the corner of Woodstock and S.E. 39th (Chavez Blvd.), and Amy Charbonneau and Steve Niemi are the ones who stepped up. For over forty years – until just recently – the house at the corner of Woodstock Boulevard and S.E. 39th (Chavez Boulevard) was, under various owners, a Reed student house.

During those years, some Woodstock and Eastmoreland residents bemoaned the fact that a prominent house sitting high on the hill at the “gateway” to the Woodstock and Eastmoreland neighborhoods should have been well-loved by students, but remained for decades in a state of neglect and disrepair.

The concern for 3908 S.E. Woodstock reached a state of tension a year ago, when neighbors thought it might be demolished. This concern was compounded when Whitney Menzel, a neighbor to 3908 S.E. Woodstock, discovered through online research that the house had once been a source of neighborhood pride, when owned by Capt. George Pope, a prominent Portland citizen.

Menzel found that Pope had built the house in 1909, and had lived there for nearly two decades. During that time he became well-known for his civic involvement, his propagation of sweet pea flowers, and his efforts to improve the Woodstock neighborhood.

Wouldn’t it be great, the neighbors thought, if someone would restore the old home to its original early Twentieth Century status and splendor?

In an era when older houses seem destined for demolition and replacement, in this case that wish is now coming true. In December of last year this Vic Remmers, President of Everett Custom Homes, which is developing the block, sold the historic Craftsman house to Steve Niemi and Amy Charbonneau.

“For the past ten years Amy has driven by this house on her way to work, and admired it for its potential and its historic nature,” commented Niemi. He further explained that both he and Charbonneau love old houses, and are committed to “restoring” – not just renovating – this one.

“I love historical architecture,” says Charbonneau, who is a big fan of television programs that provide DIY information on how to fix up old houses. Her favorites are “This Old House” and “Rehab Addict”.

A walk through the historic home makes it clear that the couple is dedicated to restoring it as closely as possible to the period of early 1900’s. While it is still a work in progress, they and their contractor, Russ Bartels, have already accomplished a lot.

Four layers of brown paint have been removed from the fir flooring, and they have been sanded and refinished with an eco-finish. Porch railings have been dipped and stripped, ready for painting. Original windows are being restored with the help of East Portland Sash & Carpentry. Original bead board is being reused to make a tongue and groove exterior for a kitchen island. An old chimney was removed, and the brick salvaged.

“Everything we’ve taken out, we’ll re-use,” promised Charbonneau.

Niemi and Charbonneau are doing some of the work themselves – including boiling the windows pulleys, door hinges, and door knobs, in preparation for having them buffed by Timby’s Dip Strip, a company that specializes in restoring old furniture.

“It’s a lot of work, but a labor of love,” Niemi told THE BEE. “When you walk in, it will be authentic,” promised Charbonneau.

In a case in which demolition was once a possibility, Woodstock neighbors are relieved that this “gateway” home is finally getting the care and attention it deserves.