A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

House repair caught up in historic review

Written August 23rd, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The hearing concerning 136 Main St. N.E. is scheduled for Sept. 4.

An Albany couple working to fix up their house in an old part of town have been stopped, at least temporarily, because of city regulations that discourage vinyl windows and favor siding made of wood.

Steve and Mary Alley bought the house at 136 Main St. N.E. in the 1980s. For years they rented it out. Now they have been fixing up the place inside and out. A retired contractor, Steve started to take down the deteriorted siding on the south side, intending to replace it with an engineered wood product called TruWood.

Somebody from the city saw this work going on and and told him to stop. The city also noticed that some of the original wood-framed windows had been replaced with vinyl windows. That, too, is verboten without the city’s OK.

The trouble is that 136 N.E Main, while outside Albany’s historic districts, is listed on the city’s inventory of historic properties. As such, Albany’s development code requires that any outside changes be reviewed and the use of substitute materials be approved. Applicants must show that the existing material is so deteriorated that it can’t be repaired, and material matching the original is cost-prohibitive.

For the Alleys’ house on Main, the Albany Landmarks Advisory Commission has scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, in the council chambers at City Hall. The commission is supposed to conduct two “historic reviews of substitute material,” one for the windows and the other for the siding on the south wall.

The house, across Water Avenue from the new Edgewater Village housing development, is on one of my regular bike routes through town. On a ride Thursday, I stopped and chatted with Mary Alley. She told me the vinyl windows had been put in before she and her husband bought the place. If the city insists on wood windows instead, she supposed they would try to replace them, maybe at the rate of one per year.

The city’s inventory of historic properties says this is the “Baltimore House,” built around 1875 in the rural Gothic revival style. But Mrs. Alley says only a small part of the structure is original. There have been at least two additions, enlarging the place to its current 1,842 square feet.

The house features a coat of handsome new paint. “Painting  is exempted from historic review,” city planner Laura LaRoque reminded me, “so this portion of the project was able to move forward prior to the decision on the requested use of substitute materials.”

What happens next depends on what Landmarks decides. (hh)

Mary Alley on the steps of the “Baltimore House” on Thursday afternoon.


The house as seen from the south. The siding awaits the Landmarks decision.

9 responses to “House repair caught up in historic review”

  1. Rolland says:

    So for those who own old homes and outside the historic districts how does one find out if their home is on the city inventory as a historic property?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The inventory is on the city website. Search for “historic inventory” on cityofalbany.net. Properties are listed by address number. But one owner recently discovered that his downtown building was omitted from the online list but shown as listed in the ordinance that enacted this program some 30 or 40 years ago.

  2. Lundy says:

    Homes in the historic districts get some kind of property tax break, right? Do homes such as the Alleys’ receive those breaks as well?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      No one gets that break — a freeze on the property’s taxable value for up to 15 years in order to encourage rehabilitation without raising the tax bill — unless they seek it. County tax records show no indication that this program was applied here.

  3. J. Jacobson says:

    The entire concept is utter rubbish. If the hysterical historians are so damned concerned, let them find the cash to meet their rear view vision. Vinyl windows are fine.

  4. Jim Engel says:

    Comrades! The City has spoken & you shall obey! This Landmark group needs to be run outta town along with any other City “official” that makes demands on property owners. Pooey on this historical nonsense. I’d say if the city wants it, the city pays for it. BUT..that would involve tax dollars so I’ll leave it at No Regulations!! Far too much regulatory power in the hands of City officials.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      I would agree with Writer, with one exception. Our Local Pols claim they dislike being ordered about by “outside forces.” They even protest aloud: Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a Mayoral chastisement of government overreach for your consideration:


      It would seem that City Moms and Pops disdain these governmental over-reaches, unless the grasping levers of power are in their hands. Hence, we have Historical Commissions and Tree Commissions and Commissions about nearly everything, each of them appointed by the same Moms and Pops who gripe about Tina Kotek. Tina Kotek never told these homeowners that vinyl windows are verboten.

  5. centrist says:

    Help me understand.
    The owners are tagged for vinyl windows installed 30ish years ago by a prior owner. They should get a pass on that issue.
    The siding —
    I worked at a plant with 60 year old equipment. When certain parts finally wore out, we found “functionally equivalent, currently available”.
    If the modern stuff is consistent with the style, let it be


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