This Old House

I’m a fan of the Alameda Old House History blog. Doug Decker does a great job of detailing the history of buildings in Portland’s Alameda neighborhood. He recently invited people to post pictures of favorite old houses, so I thought I’d post mine here and link back over to his blog post.

this old house

This is the house I lived in until I was 7. At that time, it was a slightly ramshackle Victorian house over in Portland’s Brooklyn neighborhood. Based on a house history by Barbara Grimala in the late 1980s or early 1990s after the family sold the house, here’s what I know. This Queen Anne Vernacular style house was built for Napoleon Bonaparte Pendleton in 1892. He lived there until he passed away in 1920. At the time of his death, he was living there with his wife Hattie, and Americus V. Pendleton’s widow Sara (love these names).

My grandmother and her husband purchased the house in 1943. During the time my family lived there, it was set up as a two family house, with separate living quarters upstairs and downstairs, with a kitchen and bath on each level. I’m guessing it was already divided when my grandmother bought it. My extended family lived there. My grandparents lived downstairs, and my aunt and uncle and cousin lived in what was most likely the front parlor downstairs, next to the winding staircase.

On the staircase, there were casement windows at each of the landings; the lower landing’s windows were small and at the perfect level for little girls pretending to be princesses. You can see the windows under and next to the porch roof. The upper landing window was taller. Each of these windows had squares of colored glass surrounding the main clear glass in the center of the window. Upstairs, the living room/dining room (pocket doors between!) belonged to my parents, my brother and sister and me. Across the hall was my bachelor uncle. My other uncle, aunt and cousin had the room at the end of the hall. That’s a lot of people! After my baby sister arrived, my parents bought the other house that I grew up in.

The picture above is from the early 1990’s, when I was home visiting from New York. I had always dreamed of owning this house and renovating it, but it was not meant to be. The house was sold after my uncle (the last family member to live there) passed away, and a subsequent owner did the renovation. It was gorgeous from the outside, with all the meticulous trimwork. The current tenant let me in to look around, and I was a little sad to note that all the original cedar bullseye moldings and doors had been painted white. (My current old Portland house, circa 1921, has pale walls and mahogany trim, as you can see in my previous post’s Christmas stocking mantel picture. We added the mantel and fireplace surround to match the rest of the trim in the house.)

I was in the neighborhood last year, and swung by to see the old house. I don’t know what happened, but the grande dame is looking tired.

old house

A lot of the shingles are missing, the porch railings and balusters are rotting, the stone wall has fallen, and one of the windows upstairs at the back (bedroom, I think) is boarded over. Poor old house. But I have a lot of happy memories of growing up there, and going to my grandparents’ home for weekly dinners after moving out. And this is where my favorite aunt first taught me to knit! I learned more properly from her when I was 14, but this is where it all started. (This is the downstairs parlor auntie, Aunt Rose. Click her name for that story.)

Thanks to Doug Decker at Alameda Old House History for the thought-provoking, memory-eliciting prompt!

Do you have a favorite old house, or an old house story? Please share!

(Notes: The first picture is a scan of a photo I took in the 1990’s, before digital photography. The second picture is digital, so you can zoom in and see more detail.)

13 responses to “This Old House

  1. Thanks for sharing Michelle! This is a beauty.

    • Thanks for reading, Doug! I hope the house gets some TLC again, someday. I googled Napoleon Bonaparte Pendleton, and found a book that listed his genealogy. His brother was Americus Vespucius, as I suspected he might be. (Named for Amerigo Vespucci, for whom the Americas were named.) Grand names!


  2. I love both of thse houses – they have been on my admiration list for a long time. It is wonderful to know a little bit of the history of them. I used to drive past them on my way to work each day and certainly have appreciated the updates to the first one. Interesting to note how your entire family was able to share the house. Today that probably would not happen — part of my family is in Europe and part in Texas. People are so spread out! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Betty, they’re both the same house. It’s over by the Aladdin Theater, across Milwaukie Avenue. It currently needs some TLC. As far as the whole family living there, it was a great home base! My dad and uncles and aunt grew up there, and moved away from there as time went on. My parents had moved out before, to a little house in SE Portland, but moved back when they outgrew it with more kids. They kept the little house as a rental. My aunt moved to Michigan with her husband going to med school. And my upstairs uncle’s family moved to a house 10 blocks from my parents’ next house. My bachelor uncle across the hall was the last family member to be living there, but he moved downstairs!


  3. Such an interesting house. Hopefully, someone will buy it and bring it back to the glory it deserves.

  4. I loved the story and easily visualized the whole scene with relatives tumbling out of every corner. thanks…now if the house is getting run down again, might it be on the market again soon?

    • Looks like it last sold in 2003. I think they’re just going to let it rot. Zooming in on the windows, it looks like it’s crammed full of junk. So sad. There’s a house near me now, where the roof has had a couple tarps on it for years. The porch ceiling is falling down, too. It used to be a very nice house. Poor old houses; they just need some TLC.


  5. What a great story! And I love the house! Old houses are just wonderful. I grew up in quite boring ranch style homes, and always dreamed of having one of those old beauties. So much work to fix up, though. Our house is little, and the renovations have been expensive. I can just imagine what two floors and lots of woodwork would be. I wanted to scream when you said they painted the woodwork. Horrifying. We found a similar thing in ours though. Under the carpet was lovely fir floors. We were going to try to get them refinished. However, some previous owner had covered them with linoleum, secured to the floor with a nasty black adhesive that we tried everything to remove. It couldn’t even be sanded off as it stuck in the sander, and had stained the flooring too deeply to get out. The ironic thing is that the linoleum pattern was… wait for it… wood grain. Sigh. We installed Pergo over it all.

    • I just have to continue the painted woodwork theme ( and maybe you won’t feel so bad about your floor). My friend, Diana, spent almost two years getting years of paint off the woodwork in her old house. If you walked in the door during that time, her husband would brag about her work and give you a tour.They lived in that hosue for 25 years and just sold it to retire. When the realtor came to list the house the first thing she said was “of course, we’ll need to paint tthe woodwork before we can show it.”

    • When we redid our living room and dining room, the original oak floor was only 3/8 inch thick, not repairable, so we installed a new wood floor right over the top of it. The back half of the downstairs is still waiting for new hardwoods…but it’s still presentable, so not on the priority list.


  6. I live down the street from this house, I drive by almost every day.. I often wondered about this fading beauty and now I know. I keep hoping someone will restore it as there are so many renovations/gentrifications going on around Portland right now. Maybe someone needs to know about this house and maybe they will the current owners an offer they can’t refuse

    • Oh, I’m glad someone else is looking at her too! She was so lovely, once, and could be again. I wonder if the 90s remodel wasn’t done well, or if all that decay is due to some other issue? :sigh: