Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The History of our House: Somewhere to Start

Our house is really old.  Almost as old as Portland itself.  See this 1897 map of North Portland?

Here's where our house is:

Or rather, that's where it would be built a mere 13 years later.  But more on the history of Portland and our neighborhood another time.  We have been researching the history of our house.

The couple that we bought our house told us that our house was built in 1910 by a lawyer living in Portland.  Supposedly the house was a kit, shipped from the east coast around the horn of South America.  As of yet we don't know who this lawyer is, how long he lived in the house, or most interestingly to us, what company made the kit for our house (Sears-Roebuck is the famous choice, but there were many others).  Finding the answers to these questions is going to take a lot of research, and this weekend we got started.

The only definite information we had to start with was the names of the former owners of the house who we know lived here for about 60 years, and a record of the permit for an oil burner from 1945 which has the name of the owner at that time.  With a little snooping we were able to find some more information about the former owners of our house.

We were able to find a lot of information in our local newspaper, the Oregonian's historical archives.  We paid $9.95 for a day pass to use it, but we were pretty successful.  The archives us text recognition to find what you are searching for, and it is amazingly pretty accurate.  Just by searching the name of the former owner and our address we were able to find announcements such as the 1967 marriage of one of the couple's daughters:

June 6, 1967

And earlier, the 1953 birth of their youngest child:

May 13, 1953

We also came across this interesting tidbit:

July 9, 1960
We knew that the family before us had lived here for about 60 years, and sure enough there were no records of them being here before 1953.  By searching the name, however, we were able to find the announcements of the rest of their children in 1949, 1947 and 1942 at two former addresses:

March 19, 1949

February 12, 1947

November 13, 1942

So we know the former owners moved into this house sometime between 1949 and 1953 (confirming that they lived here for about sixty years), so who lived here before that?  We found a record of the permit application for the house's old Oil Burner on portlandmaps.com, an information site run by the city.  Lucky for us, the permit is from 1945 and lists the name of the owner at that time:

Since the work was being done for Faye Stanton, seemingly a female head of household, the question was what happened to Mr. Stanton?  The next logical step was a free trial membership on ancestry.com.  We searched for a Faye Stanton in Portland and sure enough one came up in the 1930 census.  It showed her as the wife of Paul B. Stanton.  The problem was, it also showed their place of residence as Broadway Ave, not our address:

1930 Census

Back to the Oregonian archives a search for Paul B. Stanton confirmed that Paul B. Stanton had in fact moved to our house at some point after 1930 and had died in 1939, explaining why his wife's name appeared on the Oil Burner permit application:

May 12, 1939

We also happened to find that the Stanton's had bought the house on Broadway in 1927 for $6500.  What a price!

June 26, 1927

This is where our search hit a wall.  We now know that there was at least one more owner before the Stanton's and presumably the previous owner was the original owner.  It seems, however, that at some point before the 1930's, the street numbers on our street changed.  This makes things a little more complicated.

We searched for our street name in newspapers from 1908-1910 in hopes of finding a record of the building permit.  We found two permits for houses that could describe our location at approximately the right time:

April 3, 1910

June 27, 1909
Another search on ancestry.com shows that in 1910 William E. Curnow and Jefferson Crandall were in fact neighbors.  The street numbers listed on the census form are quite different than ours, despite that they both seem to be on our block.

1910 Census
Additionally, neither Curnow or Crandall are listed as lawyers.  If the former owners were right that our house was built by a lawyer, then it seems that neither of these were the original owners of our house.

The 1910 and 1920 census forms however, don't seem to show any lawyers living on our street.  So it seems possible that the oral history of our house has been skewed and that one of these listings actually is our house.  The next step will really need to be to determine the former addresses of our house and go from there.  At some point we plan to take a trip downtown to the Central Library and to the Oregon Historical Society and see what kind of information we can dig up.  At any rate, there will be lots more information to come!

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