A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What’ll happen with this old house?

Written March 9th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

There’s talk of “rehabilitation” of this historic house at Fourth and Maple in Albany.

I took photos of 732 S.W. Fourth Ave. in December, thinking what happens to this vacant house might illustrate Albany issues such as historic preservation and code enforcement.

The address is in the Monteith Historic District. A city inventory of historic places says the house was built in the 1880s in the Western Farmhouse style and is “contributing” to the district. (County tax records have the construction year as 1891.) The property also has a garage the inventory describes as an “associated building.”

The Albany Landmarks Advisory Commission, which must approve exterior alterations on historic buildings, has struggled in two recent cases with whether associated garages are “historic” and therefore need a permit to be demolished before they can be replaced with new garages.

In the most recent case the commission last week approved, by a vote of 4-3 following a discussion of an hour and a half, the replacement of a small garage with a two-story garage and accessory dwelling at 828 S.W. Calapooia St.  Bill Ryals, the panel’s chair, says the historic status, if any, of associated garages needs to be clarified in Albany codes. There are lots of those, he says, and owners may want to replace many of them with accessory dwellings.

The property on Fourth Avenue has been vacant for some time and is posted against trespassing. It is one of the houses listed in a report the city council will get on Wednesday about efforts by Code Enforcement Officer Kris Schendel and others to clean up derelict properties.

The city had the place cleaned of junk and overgrown bushes in 2017. But the vegetation grew back, and the garage attracted squatters, the council report says, so the city assessed “daily fines” and moved to foreclose. The city says Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, bought the property at a sheriff’s action on Jan. 11. Presumably Fannie Mae took the property back, because it was the owner in December too, though somehow an outfit called Reverse Mortgage Solutions of Houston was involved too.

In any case, the city report says Fannie Mae contacted Schendel “regarding rehabilitation and sale of the house.”

Anyone wanting to fix up the place will have to go through the Landmarks Commission. Who knows when that will take place. Whenever it is, perhaps the uncertainty about “associated” garages will have been cleared up. But that may take a long time, the way public processes now work. And all the while the old house at 732 Fourth will sit there, awaiting its fate. (hh)

Signs were posted on the porch and front door on Dec. 27, 2018.

The garage is listed as an “associated building” at the “historic contributing” house. Is it historic too?

11 responses to “What’ll happen with this old house?”

  1. Nathan Eshelman says:

    Didn’t you also report on another property on 4th street that a local farmer was fixing up. How is that project coming.

  2. S. Whittle says:

    Nothing screams out, “historically significant” like that garage.

  3. J. Hanschlatter says:

    The tilted, rotting porch simply reeks of historical significance. The 1950s-looking garage only adds to the ambiance.

  4. John says:

    We live close to this house and it has been a thorn in our neighborhoods side for a decade. I was at the November auction and I turned out to be the only one interested in it. The powers that be, decided to cancel the auction. At the time, I was told by the city attorney that the back taxes and penalties were into six figures and anyone purchasing the home would be responsible for that. Not a great incentive for a investor. I would love to see something done to improve this house and so many others in Albany that are in similar condition.

  5. Albany YIMBY says:

    European cities thrived because throughout history they were not afraid of discarding buildings that were not relevant, nor useful.

    Like Italo Calvino wrote in Invisible Cities:

    “In Maurilia, the traveler is invited to visit the city and, at the same time, to examine some old postcards that show it as it used to be: the same identical square with a hen in the place of the bus station, a bandstand in the place of the overpass, two young ladies with white parasols in the place of the munitions factory. If the traveler does not wish to disappoint the inhabitants, he must praise the postcard city and prefer it to the present one, though he must be careful to contain his regret at the changes within definite limits: admitting that the magnificence and prosperity of the metropolis Maurilia, when compared to the old, provincial Maurilia, cannot compensate for a certain lost grace, which, however, can be appreciated only now in the old postcards, whereas before, when that provincial Maurilia was before one’s eyes, one saw absolutely nothing graceful and would see it even less today, if Maurilia had remained unchanged; and in any case the metropolis has the added attraction that, through what it has become, one can look back with nostalgia at what it was.”

    • L. LaRosseau says:

      Calvono’s observations make common sense – sorely lacking these days.

      Buildings grow sacred as society grows more stultified. At the current pace it won’t be long before Walmart will be forced to petition some preservation board in order to change the store’s historical appearance. The Mayor/Council iron grip tightens.

      • centrist says:

        And there are the functionless “windows” at WINCO that were a required scope addition for approval

      • Rich Kellum says:

        “Politicians, Whores and buildings get respectable when they get old”
        (from Chinatown) John Houston

    • thomas cordier says:

      Great point. Museums with pics provide a look back. The idea that certain parts of town or certain properties need to be preserved as museum pieces in-place is a terrible waste of taxpayer monies.
      Special interest groups get benefits for their own properties paid for by others’

  6. Leroy says:

    Good job HH on the accuracy of your investigation.
    This was my mother in laws house, she did a reverse mortgage. They wanted her out after she was paid off and here it sits. The reverse Morgage people did nothing to encourage her to pay it back they got exorbitant insurance so they would get that as income. We thought they would flip it when we moved her out. The Reverse Mortgage folks are eating this one.


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