Thousands spent, months of planning may not save historic house

Thousands spent, months of planning may not save historic house

Kim Fox sees what’s going on as nothing short of murder.

“For months we have been working to make this happen and now, at the 11th hour, just as we are about to make this dream come true, it’s being yanked out from under us. It’s horrible what they are doing.”

Fox and her husband have been working since February to save the historic Edwin Rayworth House from destruction.

The home, on Albina, is believed to have been built in 1890 by Edwin Rayworth, a painter. It went through a series of owners before ending up in foreclosure in 2010.

A local developer bought it and made plans to tear it down and replace it with two homes.

The neighborhood association heard about it and started a campaign to save it.

“That’s when we heard about it,” says 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’s retired – are not strangers to renovation projects.

“When we moved here in 1980, we bought a house that had been built in 1884,” she says. “It was a condemned property in much worse shape. We walked around this one and kept saying, ‘It’s going to be so much easier.’”

The developer set a fairly low bar for them.

“He offered the house for $1,” she says. “He didn’t care what happened to the house as long as someone got it off the property.”

So Fox and her husband started looking for an empty lot.

“Given how attached the neighborhood association was to it, we looked really hard for something in the area,” Fox says. “We just couldn’t find anything.”

Finally, they found something in Northeast Portland.

“We went to work figuring out how we were going to get it there,” she says.

They started with one moving company, worked at getting the necessary permits. They hired a surveyor, an architect.

“We also started planning what the house would be like,” she says. “So much of the house was in just great shape. The original glass in the windows, the original floors, the original moldings.

“The only thing that had really been changed was the upstairs and we went to figuring out how to get it back.”

The biggest obstacle was coming up with a route for the house to take.

“We had to work with the utilities and the city to try and find a route,” she says. “We needed to make sure wires could be moved and limit the number of trees that would be affected.”

It was such a complicated process that they ended up ditching the first moving company.

“They just couldn’t come up with a way to move the house that wasn’t prohibitively expensive,” she says. “We knew it wouldn’t be cheap but there was a point where it was just too much.”

They hired Emmert International whose Pat Brady found a way to do it that seemed reasonable.

“He helped with everything,” she says. “He found a route. He walked the route and made sure it was going to work.”

By Wednesday, everything seemed to be ready for a move this weekend. The route was set. All the permits were in place. Everything had been filled out. The city and the utilities had signed off. A comment period had come and gone without objection.

By Thursday morning, the house was lifted off of its foundation and readied for the move.

Then everything fell apart.

Thursday afternoon, Brady from Emmert got a call from the city’s transportation bureau saying their permit had been rescinded.

“It seemed that someone in the forestry department was concerned they didn’t have enough time to evaluate the route and felt that too many trees going to be affected,” Fox says.

“What I don’t understand is why they waited so long. They have had the information. They approved the permits. And now at the 11th hour they are killing the project.”

Fox says the developer has been very patient with them, granting them extension after extension as they went through all the necessary permits and processes to get permission to move the house.

“I don’t know that he’s going to give us any more time,” she says. “Monday’s really the day. And if we don’t get it moved over the weekend, I am afraid it will be demolished.”

What has Fox particularly concerned is the possibility is that the city is going to make them come up with yet another route.

“Right now everyone is on board except for the one person,” she says. “If we can’t get it done now I just fear it will never happen. I am worried the clock has run out.”

Fox says it’s more than just the financial loss – though that will be substantial; she estimates they have spent between $60,000 and $75,000 on the project – it’s an emotional one.

“It’s a real shame that Portland doesn’t do more to preserve the old housing stock,” she says. “So much of it is in really good shape. It’s stuff that gives so many neighborhoods their character.

“To lose this house now, at the last minute, is like having a family member shot in front of you. The city did it and it didn’t have to happen.”