Northeast Portland

How many agencies does it take to move a piece of history?

How many agencies does it take to move a piece of history? »Play Video
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PORTLAND, Ore. - City officials are stepping up to solve a problem with moving a historic house, but it looks like it's going to cost the couple who own the home a big chunk of money.

Before we get to that, here's the back story:

Kim and Roy Fox have been working for months to save the Edwin Rayworth house in North Portland from destruction.  The home is believed to have been built in 1890 by Edwin Rayworth, a painter.

The house went through a series of owners before ending up in foreclosure in 2010. A local developer then bought it and made plans to tear it down and replace it with two homes. But once the neighborhood association heard about those plans, they started a campaign to save the house.

"That's when we heard about it," said Kim Fox. "We were at a party and someone mentioned it and we arranged to take a look. It was clear we had to do something. We knew the house was worth saving."

Fox and her husband - she works part-time and he is retired - are not strangers to renovation projects. And the developer set a fairly low bar for them.

"He offered the house for $1," Fox said. "He didn't care what happened to the house as long as someone got it off the property."

Fox and her husband hopped on the deal and started looking for an empty lot. They found one in Northeast Portland that seemed like a good fit so they started getting the necessary permits, and hired a surveyor and an architect.

Their biggest obstacle, they soon discovered, was coming up with a route to move the home. There were power lines and trees to consider. The couple ended up hiring Emmert International for the move and everything was falling into place, until just a few days before the move. At the 11th hour, the city revoked the permit and called a halt to the project.

What was the problem? The permit was issued without a sign-off from the Department of Urban Forestry, which raised a red flag about the trees along the route.

"Had this been done a few weeks earlier, then we probably would have been able to consult more and advise on better routes that would not have impacted so many trees so significantly," said Jennifer Cairo with the Department of Urban Forestry.

We asked the Portland Bureau of Transportation why the Department of Urban Forestry did not know about the project until really late in the game.

"That's something we're still investigating," said spokesman Kurt Krueger. "We made some changes in our process a few years ago."

Now, folks from numerous agencies are involved in determining the best way to move the house with the least amount of impact. And that will come with a steep price tag, which will be footed by the couple trying to save the house.

Still, Roy Fox is cautiously optimistic about how this will all go, even though everything is still up in the air and he doesn't know exactly how much the city's slip-up is going to cost him and his wife.

"We've got a ways to go on this route yet," he said. "There are challenges, but people are really working out how to solve them."


We learned about this story through a news tip. If you have a story for KATU, send us an email at newstips@katu.com. Your emails go straight to our newsroom.