Our Old (1883) Victorian Home

My home from 2003-2011 was in the Clark Historic District in Forest Grove, Oregon. When we bought the house in August 2003 it was thought that it was built in 1916 because that's what they found when establishing the district. We had a plumber (Jerry Brown, a descendant of early pioneer Tabitha Brown) come out to fix a leak, and when in the basement he said "they stopped making mortised beams with birdseye timbers and attaching flooring with square nails before 1916. This may be the oldest house on the block." So I checked it myself, doing all the pre-1916 research below from original sources, and substantially rewriting the existing post-1916 research.


2023 18th Avenue
Historic Name: Etta J (Smith) Kane House
Date(s) of Construction: 1883/1909/1945
Owner: Carol N. Sibley
Owner Address: 2023 18th Avenue
Legal Description: Tax Lot #1S306BB11800
Classification: Historic Non-Contributing
Plat Name: part of Lot 1, Block 23, Original Town of Forest Grove


This is a small one-story, wooden post-and beam framed house that has been extensively remodeled. Originally a vernacular Queen Anne, it is sheathed with a vertical board siding (covering shiplap on most of the house), excepting a few areas of barnboard, and sits on a full unfinished basement and a concrete block foundation with rough-cut mortised beams. Its front three intersecting gables, of unequal height and length, are roofed with composite shingles over square-nailed cedar shingles. The east and west gables are offset from each other and of differing height and length. The windows are primarily aluminum slider; a large, six-pane fixed window has been installed on the front facade as well as a large three-pane slider. A rounded arch entry under a sloping roofline has been constructed at the southeast corner of the house. Two major additions have occurred on the back of the house. Front landscaping includes camellias, roses, irises, and an incense cedar. In October 2004 a 80' tall, 60 year old arbor vitae was removed from the south-west corner of the house. Back landscaping includes a 30' tall fig tree, 70' tall Sitka spruce and a 60' tall apple tree. Added since 2003 were several smaller trees and shrubs (cherry. tanoak, grand fir, redcedar, willow, red-flower currant, and Nootka rose).


Pioneer Beginnings The house and property have a long history, especially rich in ties to 19th Century Forest Grove from its start. Rev. Henry Harmon and Eliza Spalding crossed the Oregon Trail in 1836 with Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman; and William Gray. The Spaldings founded a mission at Lapwai, near current Lewiston, Idaho. Fleeing from Lawpai to West Tuality (Forest Grove) after the Whitman Massacre in November 1847, the Spaldings stayed a few months with the Alvin T. Smith family. On their way west the Smiths had spent November 1840 - August 1841 living with the Spaldings. (See the A. T. Smith house on Elm Street south of OR-47, just outside Forest Grove, in the middle of their Donation Land Claim (DLC)). In May 1848 the Spaldings built a home on this lot while Eliza was the first teacher at Tualatin Academy (the forerunner to Pacific University). All of lots 1 & 4, block 23, was her payment. In May 1849 they moved to Calpooia (now Brownsville), Oregon, but returned to visit a couple of time a year. Eliza died in January 1851, and in 1853 Henry married Rachel Smith, a sister-in-law of Rev. John Smith Griffin, in nearby Hillsboro, Oregon. (Rachel was Mrs. Griffin's sister. The Griffins had stayed with the Spaldings in 1839-40.) The Spaldings sold Lot 4 in October 1858 for $50 to Isaac Meyer & Joseph Rafferty. Henry & Rachel sold Lot 1 to Cyrus & Maria Lacey of Clackamas County in March 1859 for $80 before returning to Idaho, where Henry died in 1874. That deed prohibits ardent spirits and gambling.

Sarah and Peter Hatch, Oregon City Congregational Deacon, bought Lot 1 in March 1861 for $80. Isaac Meyer, druggist and real estate agent in Forest Grove since 1857, bought it in June 1870 for $81 and sold it in May 1874 to Henry and Mary Black. The Blacks were 1840 emigrants -- with A. T. Smith -- and DLC holders (all of what is now Verboort). Henry had sailed to California in Sept.1841 with the US Exploring Expedition, returning the next year with a herd of cattle. The Blacks paid $500, also receiving Block 23 Lot 4. In addition, they received the western halves of Lots 3 and 4 in Block 5, which is on the east side of "A" between 19th Ave & Pacific. The 1884 Sanborn Insurance map shows that part of Block 5 holding a dwelling, sheds, and three outbuildings.

A Small Victorian Cottage To this point the house built by the Spaldings was used as a home-away-from-home. What happened to that building is unknown. In March 1879 the Blacks moved to Washington State and sold Lots 1 and 4 for $50 to general merchandiser William D. Hoxter, who came to Forest Grove in 1869. Tax records for 1878 showing a $100 value for Lot 1, 1880 showing $110, and in May 1882 showing $500 for all of Block 23 indicate no new construction date by 1882. Hoxter's sale of Lot 1 for $350 in December 1883 indicates he built the current house here in 1883. Hoxter sold Lot 1 to carpenter and cabinet maker Irvin Lucien (I.L.) Smith. Smith came to Forest Grove in 1870 -- see the I.L. Smith house at 1938 16th Ave. Hoxter also moved the Lelia Smith house from the SW corner of Main & 18th to the NE corner, west of its current location at 2011 18th Ave. He sold it and all of Lot 4 to its Lelia B. (Mrs. James) Smith in December 1883 for $350.

As shown in the 1892 Forest Grove Sanborn map, the 1883 house on Lot 1 was the southern 2/3 of the existing house: a vernacular Queen Anne having a 15'x30' primary north-south gable with unequal offset 45 degree pitched gables to the east (short) and west (long), a rectangular window bay 6' wide on the south gable, 11' ceilings under the gables, and 9' ceilings under the shed (to the north & west of the gables). It had 6" shiplap siding with skirting of 8" board siding and 1.5" battens. The front porch was in its current location on the east end of the south side. There was a back porch next to the chimney.

I.L. and Margaret Smith had four sons (James, George, Elmer, William) and four daughters (Mary, Flora, Esther, and Lillie Day). The two elder sons, James (whose wife was Lelia) and George, went into I.L.'s Sash and Door business, in operation from 1875-1892 just across 19th Avenue on Block 6, Lot 4 (NE corner of 19th & Main). The eldest daughter, Mary, was the first Mrs. Arvid Hinman (see the Hinman house at 1651 Hawthorne St., which I.L. built), but died in January 1874 at age 22. The second daughter, Flora, became the second Mrs. Arvid Hinman. The third daughter, Esther (Etta) Jane (b. August 1859 in Illinois), was a student at Tualatin Academy from 1874-1880. She married John M. Kane, son of William, in November 1880. The wedding took place at I.L.'s house. They had a son, Harold, born in April 1881. John died in February 1882. Etta did not remarry. I.L. sold this house to Etta in Sept. 1887, along with the current 1/4 acre parcel of land. (I.L. sold the adjacent 1/4 acre in Oct. 1890 to Ella O. Jerome, the eastern 1/4 acre to Mary A. Wells in Dec. 1891, and the remaining 1/4 acre to Alvin Haines in May 1894, building homes on all three before the May 1892 Sanborn map -- the first to show this lot.) Teaching public school and living in Forest Grove until at least 1894, by 1898 Etta was teaching in Portland as a public school teacher and boarding at 407 10th in Portland. Etta sold her Forest Grove house in Feb. 1903 (living in Portland until 1938 at 2624 NE 8th Ave.) to J.C. Latta and his wife Maude, who owned the house across the street at 2024 18th.

One Hundred Year of Change J. C. and Maude Latta sold it in September 1909 to Esther Haan, a widow. Before doing so, they docked a 20'x15' outbuilding to the east end of he north side of the original house, as shown in the 1912 Sanborn map. It has 8' ceilings, a roof pitched shallower than the 45 degree original gables, and round nails attaching its cedar shingles (which underlay composite tiles). A side porch was added between the new addition and the east gable, a root cellar beneath the kitchen, and another porch was added at the SW corner of the new addition. Haan sold it in March 1920 to Theresa Beanhen, unmarried. Beanhen sold it in August 1935 to J.M. and Elsie Nye Person, real estate agents. Washington Federal Savings & Loan foreclosed their many holdings in May 1940. The bank sold it to Rosa Hardebeck, a widow, in Sept. 1942, who sold it to Ray and Corinne Burns in April 1943 for $3150. The Burns sold it to Louis & Anna Strohmeyer three months later, who sold it to Franklin & Minnie Lewis in June 1944.

They sold it in Sept. 1944 to Harry and Myrtle Wilson. No changes in outline had been made to the house between the 1912 and 1939 Sanborn maps. The Wilsons were responsible for the last major renovations: they removed the bay window, excavated and cemented the basement (signing their names in the concrete in January 1945), and lowered the ceilings to 8' which created a small unfinished attic under the main N/S gable. 2.25" wide tongue-and-groove hemlock flooring was installed over the original 3.5" wide fir; and a 20'x20' addition was put west of the circa 1909 addition on the corner of the house to give it the current rectangular 30'x50' dimensions. They also gave the facade a Tudor-like arch and brick steps. Subsequent purchasers: Lester & Nettie Johnson Bunker, July 1950; Nettie Johnson (after divorcing Lester) Sept. 1951; Jasper Nigro Aug. 1957; Omar & Madeleine Bose Aug. 1964 (who replaced the windows on the east and west gables with aluminum sliders--but the original shiplap siding was still in place); A.W. & Catherine Peters June 1969; Kenneth & Beverly Kelson June 1971; Marcas Simantel & James Fisher January 1973. Daniel & Sharon Frantz bought it in May 1975 and added a massive fireplace filling the entire west wall of the west gable with river rock while a second chimney was built behind it. The T-111 siding was already in place when they bought it. They also framed in the basement beneath the living room, putting a little rock on the wall there. Dan was a brick mason, and he also put bricks on the outer kitchen wall. They sold to Gale & John Barcroft, real estate agents, October 1979; and Sean & Erin Ellis July 2002 (who removed the brick half-facade). Carol Sibley bought it in August 2003.

The major remodelings in the 1940s, 1960s and 1970s gave the house an indistinct look that does not clearly fit into either the 1880s or 1940s. Integrating with neither period, it is considered a non-contributing resource in the district.