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S.B. Starrett House

FHFG Historic Property Recognition

1890

Written by: Skip Buhler

The S.B. Starrett House is a modest farm house in the late 19th-century Vernacular style.

The Starrett House is a bit of a mystery, in terms of its exact date of construction. According to the Washington County (Oregon) website, it was built in 1890, in what is known as the “Cherokee Strip.” Taking its name from the infamous strip of land in Oklahoma, Forest Grove’s “Cherokee Strip” lies between the Clarke historic district, and the Painters Woods/South Park district, running East to West, and is roughly 80 feet wide.

The Starrett House lot is attached to, and legally located south of, Block 37, Lot 1. (see map). Early regional surveys gave the house a circa date, but over time the circa was dropped for some reason. The House is a modest farm house in the late 19th-century Vernacular style, which is closely related stylistically to the other houses built in the Cherokee Strip, as opposed to the South Park homes, which are typically more modern, and date from 1900-1920. This suggests it was here before Starrett, adding to the mystery.

Background

The land was first allotted to Harvey Clarke’s daughter Mariah, but as she never developed it, it found its way into W.H.H. Myers’ possession, who in turn sold the lot to John E. Showers in June 1890 (the estimated building date). In that year, John E. Showers and his wife Emily lived somewhere else in Forest Grove at the time, and they never seem to have lived in what’s known as the Starrett House.

In April 1902, The Showers sold the lot (with any and all property thereon) for $200 to Stephen B. Starrett, a home builder and recent arrival to the Grove, who had just arrived from Silverton, Oregon, with his brother Ferdinand, a noted architect, and their respective families. The two brothers served in the Union army during the war years in Pennsylvania (where they were born, in the town of Warren), and Stephen fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. Once the war concluded, the Starrett Brothers followed each other west. Stephen and Ferdinand worked as a team of sorts, going back to their early adult years in Tecumseh, Nebraska. Ferdinand would draw up the architectural plans for buildings, and Stephen and his son Porter C. would build them. A few buildings constructed by the brothers survive in Silverton, but many more were likely razed in the name of progress.

Once in Forest Grove, Stephen became deeply involved in city politics, and was a passionate spokesman for prohibition. Both he and son Porter served on the City Council for many terms. The carpentry shop that Stephen and Porter shared sat on 19th Avenue, just east of Main St., where food carts are currently doing business. Some of the buildings credited to the Starrett construction team include the Congregational Church (burned in 1919), the Odd Fellows Hall, The Methodist Church, the Lavina Watt house, and the Forest Grove National Bank building. Stephen also owned an apple orchard off Martin Road, near the current Oregon Roses nursery. He was at work in early January 1914 completing the Littler Pharmacy space in the National Bank building the day of his paralytic stroke, from which he never regained consciousness.

After Stephen passed away, at the age of 74, Porter and his wife Lora continued to live in the Starrett House, where they raised their son Clyde (born in the house in 1911). Porter seems to have met Lora in his younger days, as Lora also came from Tecumseh. Lora was socially active, and wrote music and songs, some of which were copywritten and published. At the time of Stephen’s death, the Starrett House property was appraised at $2000. Porter continued the contracting business, as well as serving on the City Council, and was a prominent member of the Masonic Order. He had served as a captain in the Spanish-American war, fighting in the Philippines. Porter is credited with the construction of the new Masonic Temple on Main Street, and he is also credited with getting a military unit established in Forest Grove. Porter, Lora and Clyde moved to San Mateo around 1935.

At some point (ca.1931), the Starrett property was transferred to Porter’s sister Harriet Starrett Robison, who lived in the Hardeman, Oregon, and she likely rented out the house. One oddity in the line of transfer is that Harriet appears to deed the property to Ola Ward of Lexington, Oregon, on August 15, 1931, for $10, though the transfer from Ward to the next owner is missing. Eventually she sold the house to Carl O. Rasmussen (this deed also is dated August 15, 1931), who only owned the house for a short time, and Carl and wife Jessie appear to have lived elsewhere in the Grove.

In the 1940 Census, Ben and Vera Germiquet are shown renting the house. A few years later, they’re shown as living on Gales Way, where they were located through the 1960s.
Around 1942, Raymond and Roberta (Eslinger) Hodges are shown living in the house with the three children, Mary, Betty and Lyle. Roberta was a housewife, and Ray worked in a number of professions, including as a butcher in his Aunt’s market on Baseline Road, and as a gas station attendant at the Texaco (where Diversity Café is today), before going to work for Haney Truck line. He was one of Haney’s most dependable truckers, and was recalled fondly by Cal Clayton, a manager at Haney’s, who worked beside him for years. The Hodges’ daughter Betty taught school, before serving a lifelong career in the military, retiring with a rank of Colonel. Betty Pomeroy continues to work tirelessly for Washington County veterans. The Hodges are shown living in the home around 1942 (the address is cited on Ray’s WW2 military registration), but they officially bought the home from the Rasmussens on July 29, 1943. They appear to have owned the home until the early 1980s.

 

Later owners

  • Allan P. and Jackie L. WILLIAMS. From 1985 to 1994.
  • Michael C. and Cynthia J. FAGAN. 1994 to 2002.
  • Frank M and Koyu K. TUCKER, 2002 to 2006.
  • Doyle and Amber BUHLER, 2006 to present.

Notable Improvements

  • The Tuckers made renovations and some additions to the structure, including a second story bedroom and restroom to the southern side.
  • The Buhlers added a solar-powered outbuilding in the backyard.

Highlights

Historic Recognition

FHFG recognized this property as a significant historic property in December 2020.  A plaque was presented to current home owners Doyle and Amber Buhler.

 

Other Recognized Properties

Plaquing Day

This house was recognized as a significant historic resource by Friends of Historic Forest Grove in December 2020.

Click here to get more information about our Historic Property Recognition Program

About Skip Buhler

I have been interested in Forest Grove's history since moving here ca. 2007 (it was probably 2006, but as I spend most of the time in the nineteenth century, I'm not exactly sure when I arrived). Since then, I have been actively researching the people and places that make this region such a great place. I first got involved with FHFG in 2011 or so, and have served as Board Secretary for many years starting in 2012. I'm an independent art historian, and also have a vinyl record store in town, where my interests in art and history converge.