Sunday, August 7, 2016

Near Verda and Chemawa Venerable Pugh-Hall House Debated in Keizer

via Keizer Times (the back side of the house)
This is over a month old, but it does not seem to have been noticed in Salem much, and it is worth more comment.

1852 survey shows Keizur and Pugh family claims
(Road on the right is close to the modern Verda Lane alignment
Chemawa probably aligns with the survey boundary line)
According to the Keizer Times, the old house associated first with John Pugh and then with the early dairy near the intersection of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road, has become the focus for criticism of a proposed apartment complex on the bottom land below the rise on which Verda Lane sits.

Keizerites have apparently mostly been unaware of the house. Back in 1980, Ann Lossner had written
When John [Pugh] married Sallie Claggett his neighbors, who had some experience with Keizer’s floods, advised the young couple to build their house on high ground. Their house, probably the oldest in Keizer, still stands at 4845 Verda Lane above Claggett Park. The huge rocks for the foundation were hauled from the Santiam River.

In 1878 John and Sallie donated 1-1/2 acres for a school at the corner of Chemawa and River Roads, with the stipulation that when the land is no longer used for school purposes, it is to reven [revert?] to the heirs of Charles Pugh, their oldest son.
You may recall that a very grand tree had fallen there a few years back.

But this seems to have gone down the memory hole mostly, and it wasn't until a citizen pulled the ODOT historical assessment, necessary because of Federal funding, for the traffic circle at Verda and Chemawa, that folks really tumbled to the significance of the house and property.

The consulting historian suggests a slightly later date for the house however.
By 1884, census reports suggest John Pugh was living in the “South Salem Precinct” and the home was sold to Benjamin Franklin and Mary Hall. An expert consulting on the ODOT report suggested that the home on the property most likely dates to the Hall era.
John Pugh House with Stump (2013)
The house is not in tip-top condition, and it's not a high-style anything. It's just an ordinary "gable front and wing," a very common farmhouse style.

The Houses of Grant Neighborhood
But apparently "it is indisputably the oldest structure of its type in city limits," and it is associated with people important to local history here. You will recognize the Pugh name in Salem architecture (Walter D.), in School District history (William P.), and of course the Claggett name as well. So the building is probably eligible for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, all the more so because Keizer has practically nothing from the 19th century still standing.

More recently, the Keizer Times reports the current owners say the home "is not in salvageable condition for preservation." (Engineering assessment here.) They are not interested in a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and intend to resist any such efforts, and point out that "someone off the street does not qualify as being 'interested'" and therefore cannot initiate any application for official recognition as historic. (The whole legal filing is interesting and can be seen here.)

Apparently the matter will return to City agenda late this month - so folks who live in Keizer and are interested in historic preservation and in sustainable density may want to be on the lookout!

In the meantime, comment is open until the 15th:
Those wishing to comment on the proposal now have until Monday, Aug. 15, to respond in writing to the city. Correspondence can be sent to City Recorder Tracy Davis at or via mail at P.O. Box 21000, Keizer, OR 97307.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The Keizer History FB group has a very nice album of images and documents associated with the Pugh family.

In it is a photo of Walter D. Pugh from OHS, which doesn't seem to have circulated or to be known about here very much if at all, and an article from 1929 that claims the Pugh house was built in 1875. Ann Lossner in other materials from 1989 also continues to assert the house dates to the Pughs and not the Halls.

It would be interesting to know if the ODOT consultant had additional documentary evidence for the later, post-1884 dating, or if that's just a gut-assessment based on house form. By the "best available evidence" standard, the circa 1875 dating seems most likely at the moment.